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Today on Episode #5 of The Sage Executive Podcast, join our host Fernando Corona and his guest, Steve Bederman, as they talk about connecting with the people you lead and being clear on your vision. Steve Bederman is the President of NobelBiz, a leading innovator in the Contact Center Technology Industry that provides different solutions and services globally. Steve shares his insight into what it means to influence as a leader and how a single core value approach helps you get to your goals quickly!
We Work With Humans
To drive the idea, let’s take a look at a story that Steve told during the podcast. Many years ago, he had a boss that was not very good with people. Because he wanted to improve on that weakness, this man read self-help books on becoming a better manager and leader. One day, as he was walking outside the office, he saw some of his employees. The now “equipped” boss walked up to one of them and asked, “Hey, how are you doing?” The employees were surprised! Is this the same guy we’re working for? Now, the person who was asked started to answer, but his boss just elegantly passed right by him and talked to the next person! Steve said that his boss might have only read the first part of the book, and forgot to go to the next section! As a leader, you must recognize that you’re working with humans, not with robots. Your employees are not a checkbox exercise, engage and connect yourself with them!
Finding Your Vision
You have to get clear on your vision and go from there. What do you want to do? From there, you can build a strategy that you could use to chase after that vision. Other people might not like the approach of having a single value system, a single vision, a single core value, and a single strategy, but it’s effective! You bring your management, they begin to implement and tools needed, and that’s it! It’s a very clear approach of getting somewhere that you might not have had clarity on, but because you figured it out, and built around that vision, you’re bound to get to your destination quickly.
Now, does it have to be the same vision forever? Absolutely not! As times change, our businesses, and we ourselves change. Our needs and goals would inevitably change, as well. It’s our job as leaders to see when this shift will be made. Try to see what’s in store for you in the next 12 to 24 months, and see if your vision still makes sense.
About Steve Bederman:
Analytical, highly adaptable transformative leader with extensive experience in strategic planning, organizational development, innovative resolutions and problem solving.
- Stabilizing and rebuilding organizations with the opportunity to grow exponentially within their markets
- Implementing coherent financial strategies for independence, cash growth, EBITDA, and accretive valuation
- Adept technical product assurance matching development to resource, to market, and to necessary outcome
- Collaborative team development through measurable process organization
Management and Executive Team development to assure repeatable and sustainable implementation.
He is well regarded as a renaissance businessman globally. He has worked with Ministers and Presidents of Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Pakistan, Uruguay, the Palestinian Authority, and The World Trade Center donating tech licenses to ‘plant the seeds of middle class’ in developing regions. He founded Commerce For Change; designed as a vehicle for contributing to developing global regions.
He has been, for many years, the Chairman of the Board for the Foundation for Independent Living; a residential community of high functioning learning disabled.
He is the author of an Amazon Best Selling series of 'corporate thriller’ novels including; The CEO, Executive Execution, Business As Usual, and Connections.
Outline of the Episode:
- What does Steve Bederman do?
- The reason why you get angry when you get a phone call.
- Being able to influence, build, and coach a team.
- Putting a personal touch on your leadership. Recognize that you deal with humans!
- The change in client acquisition. Not much has changed since Alexander Graham Bell!
- The value of sticking to the model and brand.
- Should you reveal too little? Visibility is very important!
- Finding what your vision is and working around it. How long will those visions work?
- Entrepreneurs that have grown to where they are because they are willing to step out of their comfort zone.
- Knowing your wins and understanding the effort that the people are doing. You need to express appreciation and gratitude to every single person in your company.
Connect with The Sage Executive Podcast!
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How Executives Lead from Behind Transcription
Fernando Corona: Hey, everyone, thanks for joining us on the Sage Executive Podcast. My name is Fernando Corona, and with this we have a special guest that I'm excited to present to you guys. So, without further ado, would you mind just quickly mentioning who you are? What is it that you guys do?
Steve Bederman: Well, I'm Steve Bederman. Thanks for having me. I am the CEO and president of NobelBiz, and we are a call center specific carrier and a manufacturer of software for contact center. So, phone systems, all the reasons why when you get a phone call, you're angry. It's us. We're the people that that make the machinery behind.
Fernando Corona: And so, right now, what are call centers? I guess, what's their struggle of current call centers that don't have your guys’ service or product?
Steve Bederman: Well, really, critical time with the pandemic. Most people, I think you may be too, are at home. I'm at home, you can see, we're all working from home. So, to be able to do that properly, a contact center who's connecting with third parties all over the world, need to be able to have the technology that allows them to continue their business with the same visibility anywhere in the world. And without our technology, you're pretty, well, stuck. There isn't much you can do. I suppose you can use zoom, but if you're making millions of calls a day, you need a much more organized path to do it.
Fernando Corona: That makes sense. Now, in your experience of building out your team, what would you say is the best part of building and being a leader?
Steve Bederman: Oh my gosh, it's building a team. It's being able to influence a team. You know, I've been in management for 40 years and probably 20 of them. I've gotten better at being a leader and recognizing the difference. It's taken quite a long time to understand what the role is in my position. And the role is really, to be able to coach, mentor, and build people so that they can really, at the end of it all, be better than they were for touching you. And that's personally my goal is to have that influence with people.
Fernando Corona: So, when you're initially bringing them on... you hear people say, "business is business and personal is personal, you try not to mix the two." What do you kind of say with that? Can you be a leader and not touch on the personal? What's your take?
Steve Bederman: I would tell you that it's not so much a skill as who you are as a person and really live within honesty. Live within the reality. So, we're at work to work, you know, we're talking to people about work, but we're also talking to people. And people have a whole dynamic that goes on that gets them into that seat in that moment at that time. And you need to be available to them and you need to be natural with them and not force them. I can tell you our story. Many years ago, I had a boss of a business that was not very good with people. And he was reading self-help books on how to be a better manager and a leader. And one day, he was walking between two buildings, and he walked out just to one of the people working for him. And he walked up and he goes, "Hey, how are you doing?" And they stopped and they were surprised. He said, they started to answer and he started walking past them and went to the next person. And I realized that my gosh, he read the first part of that that book, but he forgot the second part. [inaudible]
Fernando Corona: Nice. Yeah. So, then it sounds like you would say, hey, it's okay to be human and put something personal in there because they're not machines are not robots.
Steve Bederman: Right. At the same time, I think it's important that people recognize what our roles are and why we're there. For an example, for me, my job is to always be in management mode, and that requires me to recognize, though that I might be hitting somebody off skew, and they may not be in that mode in that moment. And I have to pause and not be so forceful, that I forget that there's a human being there, too.
Fernando Corona: Yep, exactly. So, in all of this, how long have you been building the company that you started, by the way right now, how long?
Steve Bederman: NobelBiz is not a company I started. It has been here for 22 years. We're an international organization. We actually have five different businesses within our suite of businesses and a very strong company. I'd been here, managing the operations for the last couple years. I've been managing similar operations or founding them within the same industry in the same vertical since 1998. So, you know, quite a quite a lot.
Fernando Corona: Yeah. And I'm curious, there's a lot of different noise or strategies out there for client acquisition since 1998. If you've been hustling and bustling, how have the strategies changed and how have you had to adapt? What have you found to be working now for you guys?
Steve Bederman: Well, I think in our particular industry it's an it's a slower moving industry so contact center has been here for way before automation was here, just you know from Alexander Graham Bell, probably. So, he started calling people unwanted.
Fernando Corona: "Stop cold calling me!"
Steve Bederman: Yeah, that's right. Yeah. He called the first guy, in fact. [Inaudible] But in my own case, I began to build and manufacture a contact center call calling system, called a predictive dialer, back in '98. And as we began to grow, even in the early 2000s, we started to see organizations consolidate. So, you could not only see contact centers consolidating, but you saw the manufacturers like us consolidating too. And it felt to us that it was much harder in a mature industry to get starting to get momentum, [inaudible] by organic just doing it ourselves. So, we entered into an acquisition approach. And we [inaudible] within the first three years, and through the course of that business, and that was called TechStars software, which was a world leader inevitably and what it did, we ended up acquiring five different competitors. That model that we use continues today within the industry. So, over the last 18 years, this... actually you're seeing it the same way, and in fact, NobelBiz when I first walked in, one of the first things I did was we acquired a competitor. And in fact, in the same approach and dynamic that I have done it over the years.
Fernando Corona: Okay, I mean, that's a strategy right there. Right? growth and acquisition. Yeah, that's a big one.
Steve Bederman: Well, you know, I think you have to decide who you are. And if you want to be boutique and specific to a certain portion of an industry or a segment. That's a model and that model has different rules. And those rules don't typically use us acquisition. They can, but not necessarily. Whereas in the case of us, where we are a world leader in what we do, and we're trying really to embrace everyone within the market space, acquisition is required. You have to have sales you have acquisition and you have other influencers that help your growth.
Fernando Corona: Got it. That's solid. Now how does that work when you now have to acquire clients for all of them, where they already have their own systems in place? So, you're just bringing them in more for you to support them, but you let them run their operations as they have been because obviously-
Steve Bederman: Not always. I will tell you this, I've learned not to do that. Because I think I had that perspective, early stage in acquisitions. Over time, you start to realize that "Hey, look, we have a model. We have a reason for this acquisition. It may be technology; it may be market share. It may be taking out competition. It can be various reasons, but whatever the reason is, that's not the reason that somebody sold us that company. So, they have their own model, and their model worked them all the way into me acquiring them. We're at the point of that acquisition, our model has to be the leading edge. And if we're clear, and we're thinking we do those growth moments, specifically for reason in a tightly managed approach, then definitely, we're bringing them into our circle. That being said, there are times you keep them as standalone organizations. There's value in that to be able to take over and maybe in different markets.
Fernando Corona: Yeah, and they might have already a brand name that they can continue leveraging. There are other reasons.
Steve Bederman: Yeah, there's a value to the brand and you don't want to throw that out. So, it isn't acquiring... Again, do the overlap management and then get rid of them. But you have to decide how do I integrate that company and make that decision before you ever do the acquisition? So, there are no questions left over by the time you have them.
Fernando Corona: Do you share that strategy with the top-level execs, when you do acquire them? Or is that a strategy you keep to yourself before you acquire them? How does that work?
Steve Bederman: Really good question, because there's different schools of thought. One is you want to get the deal done. And so, you reveal very little, and I have found that counterproductive to reality. So, for me, I'm going in, I'm going to acquire you and I'm going to tell you exactly why, Fernando. This is what my drivers are. Tell me about your drivers. Let's see if they connect. If they connect, great and then, we say it. It's just like how you manage people, we're talking about management leadership, be straightforward. Honesty should be the leading edge and visibility so that when they walk in, you didn't acquire a problem... because even in the best situations where all eyes are open, and usually you're buying founder-based companies, what inevitably happens is there's going to be some grip. That company is going to say, "I didn't really know what I was getting into with this." So, the more you can expose that early, it's better, because although you might get a deal done simpler without revealing that, what are you taking on? You're only taking on problems for everyone. So yeah, visibility, and I think that's the best.
Fernando Corona: I think that's for sure. That's honorable. If you're having that transparency, which I think is respectable.
Steve Bederman: Well, you have to say, "look, this is not going to be easy for you." I know you get to meet certain goals you have. There's going to be a dynamic that's going to be really uncomfortable for you. And let's tell you what it's like. Let's even share with you some other acquisitions we've done talked about, so they know who we really are. Because you know what got is here isn't all spine.
Fernando Corona: That's right. That's right. Okay. And so now we're going to go into an opportunity where you've already dropped a good amount of value. And I know you're here joking about it before, like, "I don't know what I'm going to be able to share." But this is an opportunity for you to really share with other execs out there. What kind of advice would you give to them? And so, I'll leave that to you.
Steve Bederman: Well, you know, as a leader of a company, or the management of the company, you have to understand what those differences are, and often what happens is people get into my seat through working hard being entrepreneurial, it grows and grows and my gosh, they look around, they have a few hundred employees or they have a lot of clients. And all of a sudden, that same person is not working. And they look around and say "Now what am I supposed to do?" Well the job that I'm sitting in is really the job of saying, "My job is to find what is our vision?" So, get clear on your vision, assign a strategy to that vision, know what the tactics are to meet that strategy, and then use your management to implement that. But you have to have a single value system, a single vision, a single core value, and a single strategy. And it's not an option for anybody. But at that point that I from my seat have those pieces in place, at least the wireframe for it. At that point, you bring your management in, and at that point, your management begins to implement and build the tools that you need to do it. It's a very clear approach. I would tell you that a lot of people building up. and not planning to be in this seat, and finding themselves here don't know that they make it very complicated. But it's very, very, almost singular in nature.
Fernando Corona: Yeah, but how do you know how far to go with your strategy? Is your strategy at the end of the year, or is it three years? Not even that, at what point do you declare an exit strategy? Or like, "Hey, we don't we don't want to grow any more than this." I don't know. I guess I have more questions.
Steve Bederman: So that's iterative. Fernando, I think that there's really only so far you can you can see into the future and be pressured. So, you really want to take the area that you feel you can control because remember management is control. Know everything you can all the time, and then use that information to control what you can control. And if I can control within the next 24 months, then I'm going to plan for that 24 months, and I'm going to match that plan or against the vision that we have for the company. And then that plan is specifically tied into the strategy. And the strategy is really built there for one reason, simply to implement that plan. And so that plan will take you to steps. But if you're saying, like the old Soviet Union, "I'm going to build five-year plans, five-year plans, and five-year plans." You may be where there is no more Soviet Union today. I think you'll find it too far in the future, be reasonable about planning to the level you can control.
Fernando Corona: Hmm, yeah. And I'm sure that's practice. Because anybody who's like... you start going one way, and then I wonder if things probably pivot and you change and something happens like right now, right? Yeah. And it's like, you got to be able to-
Steve Bederman: But that's the exciting piece. And it can happen, not just with an entrepreneurial company, it can happen with major corporations like NobelBiz, it can happen on any level, that same dynamic and that's really the thing that lights people's fire, is to do that.
Fernando Corona: Well, Steve, what other leaders that you know you're claiming, are capable of seeing this vision and strategy that you would like to acknowledge, that could share some of their value or some of their experiences their wisdom onto others. Who would you kind of recommend hopping on to the podcast?
Steve Bederman: Well, the podcast specifically, I think of certain... mostly people that have started as entrepreneurs, and that have grown into their position through the different variables that they have been hit with, and then reacted in a really strong and successful fashion. I can think of one in particular that just popped into my mind when you talked her name was Christa Heibel. And Christa, she's just incredible. I have others that I could bring to you. I think that you would find that she in particular, is strong. She visits lots of businesses. I have another person Rebecca, it's interesting. I know, it sounds like I'm only picking women in history. There are great men too. But in the moment, I'm thinking of the most-
Fernando Corona: That's totally cool!
Steve Bederman: I'm thinking of the most dynamic people, but Rebecca Johnson has built a company called Numeracle, very strong. What I find exciting to me are people are functionally very sound, but willing to step out of their comfort zone and take their enthusiasm and do something with it. So, it's really taken your enthusiasm, and use your functionality to make it work. So, a lot of people have great ideas. Not a lot of people know how to implement those ideas. So, the ones I recommend, like a Rebecca, like a Christa, are the people that know how to match those two together.
Fernando Corona: No. Yeah, thank you for that. I'll be sure to reach out to them now.
Steve Bederman: I'll get you their contact info.
Fernando Corona: Thank you. The last piece, and this is kind of a fun question for you. You know, you have your team that's all remote and you guys are global. So, what are some ways that you celebrate, either by yourself and family, or with the whole team?
Steve Bederman: Yippee! No. I'm kidding.
Fernando Corona: [laughs]
Steve Bederman: You have to know your wins. We actually celebrate on many levels. And I love that part. Because honestly, every week, probably every day, if each of us in our management roles, see what people are doing, the effort they're putting, there are a lot of celebrations. They're not just a major, "look at what we are as a company," it's "look what we are as a person." One of the things we do is we bring in ways to engage with people to show our celebration of them. So as an example, three days a week we do desktop yoga. So, we'll have video sessions where everybody comes and sits for 15 minutes, just 15 minutes sessions with yoga where we're celebrating them. And we have monthly meetings of our worldwide staff all together, on Zoom together.
Fernando Corona: On gallery view....
Steve Bederman: Yeah, and everybody talking about it. And everybody recognizing that the celebration, it's not really founded in this award. I think that's a bit contrived. I think it's founded in, "Hey, Fernando. Thanks, man. You're really doing a great job, and your 400 peers here." You know?
Fernando Corona: Yeah, I totally think appreciation goes a long way. From your experience, with the different employees that you have, especially as you're building a team, how I want to say this... how are you ensuring that the ones that you may not be inter-facing with consistently, the certain levels below where you are, how do you ensure that they're receiving the same level of appreciation? Or how do you have a pulse multiple level down?
Steve Bederman: Well, it's really about how do you train management? So how I manage needs to be how you manage and how you manage to the next level needs to be similar. Obviously, with who we are as people ourselves, in terms of the touch points that are required with people all the time. So, you have to pick the right people, you have to train the right management, you have to hire correctly but mostly you have to recognize that every single person in the company is equal. Equal in that they're valid and valuable they are to the organization. Why would you have somebody if they weren't? Why would I need that seat if I didn't need that seat? And if I need that seat, how do I know that seat has any greater or less value than some other seats? Kind of like how Challenger fell out of the sky and it was just an O-ring. That O-ring was pretty darn valuable right?
Fernando Corona: Wait, what story were you talking about there?
Steve Bederman: The Challenger you know, the shuttle blew out of the sky and....
Fernando Corona: Oh, yeah.
Steve Bederman: And it was destroyed because of a simple O-ring. And that O-ring. You might have overlooked it you might have said how important is that compared to this whole rocket sitting out there but people are the same and if you don't take the time with everyone in terms of culture, connectivity, and in interest, then you just shouldn't be in management.
Fernando Corona: This is all this is all been super valuable. Steve. We're closing up now, for others that want to get a hold of you, want to get a hold and learn more of your company, where do you recommend, they go?
Steve Bederman: Well, they go to NobleBiz N O B L E B I Z.com. You can always reach me at steve.bederman, B E D E R M A N@noblebiz.com, and LinkedIn and every other way you'll find us out there constantly.
Fernando Corona: Yeah, I'll drop your LinkedIn and everything in the show notes so people can get connected there. Thanks, everybody for tuning in again to the Sage Executive Podcast and you can see more episodes on flyingvgroup.com/podcasts, ending with an S and we'll catch you guys next time.
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