Why Employees Mentally Check Out

Hosted By Lauren Conaway

InnovateHER KC

See All Episodes With Lauren Conaway

Andreas Widmer

Today's Guest: Andreas Widmer

Director - The Catholic University of America

Washington, DC

Ep. #945 - Why Employees Mentally Check Out

In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, Lauren Conaway and Andreas Widmer uncover why employees mentally check out. Our guest is the Director of the Arthur and Carlyse Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship at The Catholic University of America. They also share their insights on personal empowerment and how organizations can create a positive culture to form great teams.

Covered In This Episode

Do you know why employees mentally check out? Is it due to a high-stress level? Or does company culture have to do with it?

Lauren picks Andreas’s brain about the answer to these questions. They also talk about poverty and how empowering students to build unique businesses can help alleviate it. On top of it, they also discuss the ins and outs of creating a great company culture to enable better teams.

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  • Andreas Widmer and his backstory (02:08)
  • On Andreas’ first exit and new business ventures (05:42)
  • Being a polyglot who speaks 5 languages (09:05)
  • Transforming societies with the availability and access of the internet (10:52)
  • Shifting the focus on alleviating poverty (12:41)
  • The critical issue of poverty (14:00)
  • Shifting the focus on alleviating poverty to entrepreneurship (15:38)
  • The power of one-on-one connections (18:42)
  • Being a change mover in the education system (20:10)
  • On empowering students to build unique businesses (22:52)
  • Thoughts on the current entrepreneurship landscape (25:42)
  • Why is good company culture valuable today? (28:18)
  • The miracle of building teams (30:50)
  • Will investing in people bring an even greater ROI? (33:57)
  • On relationship-building and creating brand advocates (39:36)
  • All about Andreas’ book—The Art of Principled Entrepreneurship: Creating Enduring Value (42:53)
  • How to keep your team satisfied and feeling fulfilled (45:32)

Key Quotes

We were, on the one hand, very idealistic. I don’t mean this in a negative sense. I actually mean it in a positive sense that we felt that the internet was finally something that everybody counted as equal. Everybody had equal access so that everybody could get an IP address.

– Andreas Widmer

Poverty is solvable, and then I become so passionate about it. I’m just as passionate as I was about the internet or speech recognition.

– Andreas Widmer

The organization has a responsibility to its people. To create a culture of any number of things, psychological safety, but not at the expense of the person. These are cultures that we need to set.

– Lauren Conaway

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Rough Transcript

Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!

Lauren Conaway 00:01
And we are back. Thank you for joining us for yet another episode of the Startup Hustle podcast. I’m your host, Lauren Conaway, founder and CEO of InnovateHER KC. And today’s episode of Startup Hustle is sponsored by Full Scale. We love Full Scale so much around here. They are the changemakers. They’re the folks that keep us running. They definitely keep me on my toes. As far as delivering great Startup Hustle content, they do amazing work. But really, what they do is they help you—you entrepreneur, you founder—they help make it easier for you to build technical products. Hiring software developers is really, really difficult. And Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably. They have a platform that will help you manage the team. Everything that they do is designed to make the process of building technology easier for you and your company. And that’s what we love around here: making entrepreneurs’ lives easier. So definitely visit FullScale.io to learn more. Now, I think y’all know, if you’ve listened to any of my episodes at all, that I love talking about people. All of the different topics that I kind of focus on in my episodes all come back to people. And so, I’m really excited about today’s guest. We have with us today Andreas Widmer and is the director at the Arthur and Carlyse Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship. That actually gave me a terror moment trying to get that all out. So I will probably be referring to it as the COC center from here on out. But, Andreas, I’m just thrilled to have you. And I’m really excited to talk about what we’re going to be talking about, which is employees and how to keep your employees engaged. And you’re an expert in that. So welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here.

Andreas Widmer 01:52
Thank you, Lauren. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Lauren Conaway 01:55
Absolutely. Well, let’s get cracking. You know, I really want to hear it. Tell us about your journey. Talk to us about who you are and what you’re all about.

Andreas Widmer 02:04
Yes, I love that. So I’m from Switzerland. I was born in a small village in Europe and Switzerland in the mountains. And yeah, I sort of grew up in a center. I want to say it’s a classic entrepreneurship and entrepreneur CV because I didn’t fit in. I couldn’t. So I struggled through the beginning of school to figure out how I learned and everything. To find me. To find out who I am. I eventually did. I went through a whole career in the military a bit. I was actually a bodyguard for a while, which was an interesting thing to do. That’s delightfully random. And that was out there. And then I came to America. And I came to school here. And when I went to school up in Boston, Massachusetts. I met some friends who were in the 80s who said, hey, we figured this thing out. The way they said it, we poured a TCP IP into the PC, which didn’t mean anything to me. In layman’s terms, they were one of the companies that brought the internet to the PC. And that was, of course, a huge thing. And they liked me not because of my computer knowledge because I wasn’t really up on that. But I speak like five languages. And so they said, look, we get all these customers calling and help us out. And so I actually joined them as a non-paid participant because they didn’t have money at the time and so on. They say, well, you just, you know, be a part of us, we’ll give you a piece of the company and this and that. And that company was called FTP software. And we went. It was a wild, wonderful ride. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. We call it fun at that pace. And we went public in 1993. And by then, I had run internationally. I created a subsidiary for anything outside of the United States. And that’s what I ran, moved over to Europe. And it was a rocket ship. I’m telling you, it wasn’t a rocket that, you know, the whole explosion of the internet at that point. The startup guy became a bit too corporate to me. And I left, and I had other friends. It was actually a couple, Jim and Janet, and they told me they figured out how to do continuous speech recognition. A company called Dragon Systems and I joined them to bring that company, you know, to bring out that technology. To join the team that brought Dragon Naturally Speaking to the market, which is today, we know with. Siri is a Dragon.

Lauren Conaway 04:49
Sure that in my closet, I actually have a box with Dragon software in it. That’s because, yes, it’s just text recognition. I was using it for digitation. Yeah, exactly.

Andreas Widmer 05:01
That’s what it is.

Lauren Conaway 05:03
Yeah. Well, oh, sorry, go ahead.

Andreas Widmer 05:07
That was a riot. And again, that was when I experienced that rocket ship ride up and being involved in building that company. And then eventually we sold that company. Some, I don’t want to go into the details. Some things went wrong. And so when I saw sort of the, a little bit the dangers of that game where the people we sold it to ended up being fraudulent. And there was a big scandal and all that a bit like Enron, right, but you’re a bystander, you see just this happening. Yeah. And then. And then I sort of reconsidered, I went into a web content management company called Price, and I helped there a bit. And then, I went into strategic management. I joined monitor group, the consulting company, and I spun out one of their companies, which was focused on emerging business strategies in uncertain environments. We actually applied it to emerging markets. And I got very much involved in how to fight poverty through business. And then eventually, I left that, and I started philanthropy to actually become very enamored with this idea of enterprise solutions to poverty, how you solve poverty with business, it’s actually the only way to solve poverty. So I created the seventh fund, where we are like a bench. We were like a venture capital company, a philanthropic venture capital company that invested in solutions to poverty through the private sector. Wow. And when that was that, I was approached to help start a business school. And I just, you know, for all these years, I complained about what’s wrong with the business. And with teaching business, especially as an entrepreneur.

Lauren Conaway 06:48
He was like, hey, come and do that thing that you’ve been criticizing,

Andreas Widmer 06:53
I was like, yo, when you called on the carpet, you can’t say you can’t complain. And then you say, No, yeah, somebody says, Come on, help the solution. And so I helped start this bush school of business here in Washington, DC. And that was, that’s 10 years ago. Now we are nine years old. And in it, I created this entrepreneurship center called the siopa. Center, those very dear friends of mine are in Carly’s, and sort of gave the funding for that. And yeah, that’s what I’m doing today.

Lauren Conaway 07:25
Yeah. Well, what a ride, and I’m gonna take us a step back. I’ve mentioned this before on the show. But kind of the way that I operate, you know, we, I asked the initial question, and then I write down things that I think are interesting, and one of the most frustrating types of guests that I get on the show, and it’s frustrating in a beautiful, wonderful sort of way, or those that, you know, you’ve been you were talking Andreas, and the whole time, I was just like scribbling notes, like, you could probably, our listeners can’t see it, but like, they’re like five different conversational paths that I want to take right now. And what’s beautiful about this whole process is once you pick one, then it becomes like another road that you can take and another path that you can veer off of. So I’m going to ask a question, knowing that I will probably not be able to circle back and ask some of the other questions I want to ask. But I’m gonna dive back in. And the first question is actually kind of a silly question. I’m just curious, but you said that you speak five languages, being from Switzerland. I’m gonna say German, French, and English. But what else? What else? Did you get it? Italian?

Andreas Widmer 08:37
Oh, you know, the Swift language we, we like to say the Swiss German is actually separate.

Lauren Conaway 08:42
It’s an alum. What is it? Allomantic language. So yeah, very basic.

Andreas Widmer 08:48
Dutch, it’s more like Dutch than it is German. But okay. But I usually don’t really count. But um, I love that language.

Lauren Conaway 08:58
Yeah, well, I, you know, here in the States, we are not very well known globally for our commitment to language. And so anytime I meet somebody who speaks up, I’m just like, Oh, tell me about that.

Andreas Widmer 09:13
What will you achieve, because when I grew up, you had to speak several languages? So it’s like, yeah if that’s your environment, it’s not something you do. It just happens, you know?

Lauren Conaway 09:23
Well, so actually, here, here’s one of the questions that I find interesting about language, and then we’ll move on to the next thing, but what language do you think in?

Andreas Widmer 09:32
So I think in English, but when it’s very personal, I speak in my mother tongue, Swiss German.

Lauren Conaway 09:40
Okay. Interesting. I love that so much. Well, thank you for sharing that. Now the question that I really, really, really want to ask is that it was just fun for me. So you where you are a pioneer, you are on the leading edge the king of the charge of the internet which I cannot think to have anything in recent history that has transformed society as much as internet, access to you know, having information at your command it has, it has changed the way we do business, it has changed the way we live, it has changed. It’s changed everything. Talk to us a little bit about that. What was it like to kind of be, I guess, an early adopter and really not even just an early adopter? Were you an early leader?

Andreas Widmer 10:29
It was. We started FTP, imagine we were all 20. Some years, I was 23 years old at the time. And, and the guy who led it was like 29, maybe 30, but probably not. And, we were on the one hand, very idealistic. And I don’t mean this in a negative sense, I actually mean it in a positive sense that we felt that the internet was finally something that everybody counted as equal. Yeah, everybody has equal access, that everybody can get an IP address. And it doesn’t matter who your mom or dad is.

Lauren Conaway 11:08
It doesn’t matter where you have to apply to.

Andreas Widmer 11:13
What you see is what you get, and you can basically give it a go and, and, you know, the internet, to some extent, actually did deliver that. And so I’m very proud of that, but with every invention, then their concept of the dangers and the temptations of limiting, you know, bandwidth for some people, and so on. And there’s, of course, that’s the human struggle, and that’s just a given. But I think that freedom in that sense, is more easily achieved today than it was before the internet.

Lauren Conaway 11:43
Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s just downright fascinating, my friend. So you’re a tech leader, you are, you’re a thought leader, and an influencer in this very, very, very pivotal, very important, you know, thing that gets invented, but then you put your focus, you change your focus to poverty, what inspired that.

Andreas Widmer 12:09
So I came, I don’t want to say that I came to America with nothing, because I came with my, you know, with what my family gave me, my culture, my learning my, you know, my background. And, but I came without money. And I, in a sense of, in the real sense, live with the American dream. And I find that that is an opportunity that I would want to share with anybody else. If I could wish one thing on you, I would wish that you live the American Dream, which is to identify as fully flourishing as a human person, which comes along with material benefits as well, but they can flourish in your challenge and everything. And that fascinated me, and I started to research a bit. When I have time to say, what makes that happen, what is so different here, but I couldn’t do this at home. And I can do it here. And apparently other people want to come here and do this. And I started to look at this, the whole idea of how is money created? I mean, if poverty is, on the one hand, an issue of poverty and issue of money, it’s actually not the key issue. Money is not the key issue and poverty, then we have to understand, well, how do you make money, you know, we say we make money. And it sounds sort of like a cliche, but it’s very true that we make money. Namely, when you innovate something, you create value, and we measure value with money, right? And therefore, money is not a money supply is not a piece of it, that you have to split in 100 ways. And if there’s two other people, you split into other ways that you actually make money that the economy is a pizza factory. And so the only way that it works to be a pizza factory is if we create more value, which means if we do more business with each other. And so I became so passionate about this, and also feel that today, it’s so much easier to start companies that I really started to get on that bandwagon when I saw that. It’s like that nugget of code. Poverty is actually solvable. material poverty is solvable. And then I became so passionate about it just as passionate as I was about the internet or about speech recognition became as passionate about solving poverty.

Lauren Conaway 14:20
Yeah, well, in what I find, I find a lot of things interesting about your journey. But one of the things that I find interesting is that you then took a step and one of the things that we talk about within the entrepreneurial ecosystem is the potential for entrepreneurship. It can be a game changer for so many entrepreneurship starting a business it the data shows time and time again that it is one of the most powerful and most efficient ways for an individual to significantly grow their personal wealth and personal wealth then becomes generational wealth, and then affects the people who come after And so you’ve you focused on poverty, but then in your next venture, you have start you you’ve tapped entrepreneurship as this great opportunity. Right? Talk to us a little bit about that decision?

Andreas Widmer 15:15
There’s a strong connection you see, entrepreneurship is the oil is the grease of social mobility? Yeah, definitely. What happened in the US is that every immigrant group that comes in is, is first and unfortunately, sometimes for a long time, boycotted or discriminated against, and you have other other social groups that for whatever reason are discriminated against an entrepreneurship is the way out, right, you can actually start to say, look, if you don’t want to employ me, I’ll employ myself, and then I compete with you. As long as we have the free market, this actually works. And it creates social mobility based on excellence. And what I’m what I saw in poverty. So first, I saw it in business or by myself in my own life, then I got into poverty. Or I’d rather say I want to focus on prosperity, rather than prop poverty, focus on what you’re trying to achieve. Then I got into the prosperity stuff. And then I’m saying what’s really needed is I need to go back and teach individuals. Yeah, because, you know, I know you’re, you’re a great mentor and a fan of mentorship, and you mentor a lot of people. And to me, teaching is nothing but mentorship. Yeah. And so I wanted to focus again, on individuals. If I can scale it, I will, but most importantly, I want to focus on students and actually show them and convince them of the power to have, that they’re the protagonist of their lives, not the subject.

Lauren Conaway 16:44
Well, and so when we, when we talk about scalability and things like that, we don’t often talk about that one on one connection. But I would say that I mean, I have to tell you, so we always do pre show prep. Before this whole thing starts. And I kind of take guests through, this is what we’re going to do, this is what the process looks like. And Andreas, you were fun to do that with, I can always tell when a good episode is coming. Because the person that I’m talking to is open and ready to kind of play with me a little bit. And you were very, very much doing that. And so clearly, you’re a personable guy you eat, and I can see that you have a desire and a talent for creating those connections, I just gotta see it in our pre show prep. But talk to us about the power of that one to one connection, because I think that often, we think about solutions that can impact the greatest number of people. But sometimes the solution that affects one person can create that ripple effect. And so I love what you’re doing, and I love your attitude toward your work. But I’d love to hear a little bit more about the thinking behind it.

Andreas Widmer 18:03
So the individual human person is the most important ingredient in the entire system and the entire economy. Yet the way we educate our society, our people, yeah, is through the school system in the school system is a bit designed to it’s a mass production kind of environment.

Lauren Conaway 18:21
It’s designed, again, to educate the largest number of people as quickly and efficiently as possible and push them through this system that we have created.

Andreas Widmer 18:37
See, in the past, this, this is sort of our school system is the old German like Bismarck system. And that was meant to create factory workers or factory offices or whatever.

Lauren Conaway 18:49
Farmers, we had an agrarian and then an industrial society.

Andreas Widmer 18:54
And they needed to convey information. And that school system worked very well when we had to convey information today, thanks to the Internet and other things. We don’t need to convey information, you can Google anything. What we need to convey today is creativity. Right? And this school system actually beats the creativity out of people over 18 years, like you wouldn’t believe because I’m dealing with this every day, right? Yeah, that everybody’s just trying to fit in and not make the wave and never think different than anybody else and so on. And everything is on decision. Like you the biggest obstacle is people that are looking for approval that somebody says yes, you can do this, we have this, you know, the sage on the stage thing with the with the teachers or the teacher stands up front, and then you don’t do anything unless the teacher says you should do it. And then if you only do it the way the teacher says to do it, right, and that is of course not the foundation of the future of our economy. Right future of the economy needs to be that you take initiative and you learn to discern what’s going on, what talents you have and how you can apply what your child wants to add value. And the biggest obstacle is that most people need to be given the permission to do this. I know it sounds silly, or a minute. But the biggest thing I do at my school is to give the students the permission to be themselves. Once they do this, in a way, they don’t need me anymore, because the human genius is so great, that once they’re free for the adult. Yeah.

Lauren Conaway 20:25
So I had mentioned before we hopped on the call that I was actually running, I think I was like two minutes late because I was doing a mentorship thing. But it was actually an experiential education event that is designed to do exactly what you’re talking about, like, we have to differentiate ourselves from the robots and from the calculators. And the way that we do that is by producing creative problem solvers, which is what entrepreneurship is all about entrepreneurs at their most fundamental base, are people who look at a challenge and solve a problem, right? And so I again, like I just, I love what you’re doing. I get really excited, like, I’m like, Oh, I have a guest where there’s a lot of commonality and synergy. And I’m feeling that you undress my friend. Go ahead. I’m sorry.

Andreas Widmer 21:20
The way I’m trying to, it’s a little I don’t want, you know, controversial in a small sense, it’s not a big deal. But it’s a little controversial what I do in this university, because I’m often told, Well, what you do is not not really academic. And I’m not even finding that because it’s probably not. I’m not, I don’t have a PhD or anything. I’m not an academic, I’m a practical, clinical professor. So, but what I do, and you know how I said, I criticize Business School. And because what I’m saying is Business School is the only school where you learn something without ever doing it. Would you ever go to a doctor who has never worked on a patient before? We do this all the time in business. So I take the first, but when you come into business school, I’m the first teacher you get. And I say, Well, you’re in business school is like learning to swim, we’re not going to do this on dry land. Well, everybody gets in a swimming pool, we’re going to learn to swim. Meaning today is the first day if you own a business, because today you start a business. And they’re all going well, what and this see this has been looking for the railing to say that well what do I hold on to. And as you hold on to your talent, your interest and your uniqueness, you will be a geek. And then that’s the starting point. Students who couldn’t find it within two weeks, they find a business they find a business idea and opportunity. And off we go. Yeah.

Lauren Conaway 22:45
I think one of the most important things to note about is that along with that business, I feel as though your students they’re also paying, they’re also picking up empowerment. And they’re picking up transferable skills. I mean, the fact is another thing that we talk about is entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, it is very, very hard. And we’re going to talk a little bit more about that after the jump. But, you know, first things first, recognizing that entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone doesn’t mean that there aren’t transferable skills hidden in there that will serve you well, in life, whether that is in innovation mindset, whether that is creativity, resourcefulness, you know, even even the business building process, you know, problem validation, ideation, all of these things are things that you can take to other more institutionalized verticals and industries, you can apply them there. And when we see that application, I think that’s where we see the intersection of progress. And in potential, right, you know, the potential for the individual who was driving the entrepreneurial process, who has kind of assimilated and integrated some of these skills that they get to practice as they’re building a business. So that is, it’s a lot to think about. Really quickly, I do want to remind our friends of something else that it is good to think about. But definitely think about Full Scale. They have an amazing team to work with. I love the Full Scale team so much, and I know that you will as well. Full Scale knows that finding expert software developers is really hard, but they will tell you and I will tell you that with Full Scale, it doesn’t have to be when you visit FullScale.io You can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs and then see what available developers, testers, and leaders are ready to join your team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. Now, Andreas, we’re going to come to the crux of the issue. Are you ready to go on a journey with me? I’m with you. So I want to talk to you. We’ve talked, we’ve touched on we haven’t really talked about it but we’ve touched a little bit on culture. You know you have surrounded yourself with entrepreneurs There’s like, even throughout your career, you know, and entrepreneurship is really, really hard, right? I mean, you talk to students and you talk to people all day who struggle, I do the same. And so one of the things that I want to talk to you about is mental, I guess, mental health or mental health as it pertains to, to employees in teams. So talk to us a little bit about that, because I think right now we’re kind of on, we’re in this time of deep sea change globally, we’ve, you know, we’ve, we’re still going through a global pandemic, and probably a couple of them, you know, hi, monkeypox. What’s up? Um, you know, I’m just very curious. What have you seen? Or what does the landscape look like,

Andreas Widmer 25:48
it’s a bit of a, it’s actually a good development, what’s happening right now, because it forces you know, the market always reacts to crisis and so on. It’s adaptable, our system is highly adaptable, and it will adapt. The focus was so much on the customers in the past so much on the investors in the past and very little about the workforce and the team, the team inside the company, it’s about time that it becomes about the team as well, because this is really a tripod that we need to satisfy. And I think the workforce has gotten the short end of the stick, and that includes the CEO and everything because of our, our attitude about money and about the firm has just been off in our, our entire culture only focuses on the outcome of work, not on the work itself. And that makes you even if you’re the entrepreneur itself, it makes you feel used in a way a cog in a system means to an end. Because whether it’s Friedman, or its CSR, both of these theories only look at the outcome of work profit at the end the product at the end, but what about you in the company every day, what you’re doing? What about the meaning there, you know, and so that leads to burnout, depression, checking up, now we have two thirds, Gallup just came up with the new numbers, two thirds of the of the US workforce is checked out. And I think it’s now 16, or 18%, are actively disengaged, meaning they’re trying to hurt the company that they’re working at. Oh, I’m sorry, before we jump to the conclusion that these are bad people, these are not bad people. These are people who feel so mistreated, that they end up reacting, you know that way. And it all comes back to our theory of work and how we approach it, and how we turn that into the culture of our company.

Lauren Conaway 27:40
It’s interesting, because there’s the saying out there, and I agree with it with a caveat. But there’s a saying out there that people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers. But I would take that saying just a little bit further. And I would say that people don’t leave those managers, either they leave bad organizations or bad cultures, because your culture and your organization allows that bad manager to flourish, and allows that bad role to thrive. And so the organization has a responsibility to its people to create a culture of any number of things, psychological safety, you know, production, but not at the expense of the person, you know, like these are, these are cultures that we need to set. If you were in a perfect world, if you could design any kind of workplace culture, what are some of the things that you would prioritize for the teams working within this culture?

Andreas Widmer 28:42
I would let me break it into two sections, I would start earlier. Okay, most of us entrepreneurs, and it happened to me that when you start a company, you actually are so focused on the product, or the service, you’re gonna do that you actually ignored a culture that I would say today, if you’re listening to this, and you’re an entrepreneur, you’re not building a product, you’re building an organization that creates a product and hopefully more than one, if you only focus on that one product to ship, you may as a byproduct, create a culture that will never have another good product. So okay, you might get away with one good product, but it’s not a culture that creates enduring value. Right? So as much as we need to have our product plan, we need to have our culture plant so I would start with culture much earlier. And in culture, the issue is that we need people to be satisfied with what they’re doing. And the way this works is that we need to be it’s almost like you could say firing on all cylinders. Everybody has talents and non talents. Happiness, human happiness comes from the fact when we become excellent. And we make a huge mistake when we so I always introduce talent and non talent in my companies. And I focus on saying I want to know what your talents are. And I’ll tell you what my talents are. And then we create teams, where everybody around the surface, not about the job description, it’s about talent matching, so that you have a talent where I have a non talent and I and the next person has, has a non talent when I have the talent. And so we create this full circle, and we have a team, where at the end, all the non talents are covered with talents, then you have, then the team becomes more than the sum of its parts, right. And that’s when you get, that’s when you start to fly the miracle of the economy, right, the miracle of teams. And I would focus on that and in how you introduce this language, how you reveal what you celebrate, and how you celebrate the people’s talents rather than scolding. I, for example, my non talents are accounting and minutiae, and numbers like that, like just detail numbers, yeah. And I don’t invest in myself, go into learning more accounting, invest in me more with the division, with the empathy with the marketing with the sales, that’s what I do. And you get so much more return on investment, if you let me thrive and what I’m good at and mitigate what I’m not good at. Right now, there’s a cultural thing in a company, that when you have your review process, or whatever, that you focus on helping me flourish, and celebrate my success. And when we’re doing this, people feel validated, they feel like they’re growing, flourishing, and they love their job, everybody loves to be good at it. Right? Achieving mastery. And will, were sorely neglecting this today.

Lauren Conaway 31:34
Yeah, I don’t think there’s anybody out there, at least not anybody I know, that doesn’t look at their career, their job, their role, as, as an opportunity to, to feel that joy and that pride and that that investment really like it, that’s what it is, I am invested in my team and in what we do. So that’s, I mean, that’s a very powerful thing. Now, I want to ask you, you know, in pursuit of creating this very, very strong culture, and for our listeners at home, who might not have some of those tactical strategies, how do you help your team figure out what they’re good at?

Andreas Widmer 32:13
The way I’m helping them, like, I have a little team here. And what I’m doing is how to have people do a little bit of everything, especially when they come into the company. I’m very suspicious of job descriptions in that way. I have positions where I hire somebody, and I say, come in here and go around and see where you can add value. And so they go to this meeting, that meeting, they tag along with me, they tag along with somebody else, and then they find their place. People might listen to this and think, well, that’s a waste of resources or money. But it isn’t, because I’m telling you, this person is going to find a place to have an impact that will surprise you. Because both see the issues with their eyes with the new set of eyes. And when they find this, they’re so motivated to do this, that that’s how i That’s how I like to hire.

Lauren Conaway 33:03
Well, and you said something that I want to, I want to kind of pick out a little bit because I think that you, you’ve said profound things throughout this whole recording. But I don’t know if you realize how profound something that you said was. So you talked about wasting resources, and wasting money. And I think that both you and I I’m going to speak for you just a little bit here. But I think both you and I would like to kind of flip that understanding on its head. Because if you invest in your people and help them figure out what they’re good at, and empower them to be a meaningful part of your organization in your team, you’re not wasting resources and money at all, because your your employees will stay longer, they will value your product more they will so they’ll they might sell more, they might develop it better, or like whatever that is, your I would imagine if you put pen to paper and really figured it out, you would be saving significant amounts of amounts of money and resources.

Andreas Widmer 34:02
Lauren, you just touched on one of the key insights of business, and that is, business is always about investing in a sense. Yeah, if we need to recognize that the only investment with infinite return is the human person. So we think we’re so smart to invest in some technology and something. But look, look, this can be proven 100 times over scientifically and asking your company but investing in a person and into their talents to flourish is that it gives you infinite return because it keeps giving.

Lauren Conaway 34:37
Right? Well, because even when we talk about building culture, again, one of the things that we talk about is often you have to have leaders within a cultural movement. Like if you are working to try to change a culture or establish a culture, you have to do it early. You have to do it often or someone else will establish your culture for you and it probably won’t be a good one. So you have to be really, really intentional about it. But you also have to find people who are willing to go on that journey with you, and model that behavior as you continue to build the team. And so you know, you start with the founder, and they have their ideas on culture, and then you fold in additional people, but you create this unified movement, or you have the opportunity, you can create this unified movement, where you’re, you’re second in commands, and then you know, the people that they hire, you create almost an army of cultural ambassadors and advocates, people who understand not only this is what we build, but this is how we build it. And this is what we value in building it.

Andreas Widmer 35:41
You know, I just wrote this book called The Art of Principle Entrepreneurship. And the art is in a double entendre, its art, as in, it’s an art, but it’s but I actually write about this friend of mine art CO. CO, that we mentioned earlier. Yeah. An arts yoka, built the second largest wine company in the world, from basically nothing, he’s an amazing man, he, I have this privilege to spend the last two years of his life interviewing him, he passed away last October, last December 18. He sort of shared with me this is his last insight, like turning around and saying here, the insights of my life. And one of the things he showed me is, I asked him, so art, you know, I’m a sales guy. So art, how, what about sales and so on? And he says, you know, what, I, when I started to do this, I said, like, No, we’re not going to give sales incentives. Because I, you know, he’s all about long term value creation is what he that’s his right, he wants, he wants the company due to access for a long time and be the valuable creator for a long time. So I said, Well, art, it’s just not possible. Because the whole sales profession thrives on commission and incentives. And he says, Well, I don’t play that game. And I say, Well, you will lose the best salesperson, because you’re not giving them a sales incentive. And he would say, That’s where you’re wrong, I lose the person who is most interested in only that money on that value scale. But the person who’s interested in the long term value creation, I’m giving them such a stake in my company, and in the long term they make as much money as the other guy does, in the long term. And I’m signaling my value to the point to the people who don’t agree with me and don’t have the same value. I repost them, they go away, I stated so strongly, that they go away on their own. And I’m telling you I was able to go into his company, and I know, people in sales, and this guy has this company for 40 years, and they don’t have sales incentives. And this is like in retail.

Lauren Conaway 37:43
Like that, that is extremely rare. You know, I That’s amazing. You need to kind of, again, this disruptive tactic, because if you know, other other sales companies, isn’t it, it could be wine, it could be socks, it doesn’t matter. But if you look at that model, and say, Hey, this is six, this is successful, this is working this this revenue, or I’m sorry, this reward and compensation structure, it’s working for our people, you know, and so by, again, by modeling behavior that you want to see, you create great positive change, or you have the potential to create great, great positive change turns into culture, right?

Andreas Widmer 38:19
And, you know, the danger with culture is that you’re going to say you have a value, but you’re not going to do it. Right. And so what’s beautiful with art is always that he only says a few things. But when he said it, he went all the way. Yeah. When he came to the company, there were no such, he would say, sales incentives, to make the salesperson push a product onto somebody that might not need it. But that doesn’t make me a good customer. I’d rather work on the other hand, on the other side of the pole, rather than push marketing, and create happy customers, because they keep coming back.

Lauren Conaway 38:56
That relationship building and that’s when you see, that’s when you see brand advocates, that’s when you see people come out of the woodwork to actually do your work for you. You know, if you treat your customers with respect, and you allow them agency and you give them good information, all of a sudden, you’ve created a relationship with your consumers, that these people, they’ll go out into the world and say, hey, you know, I bought socks from this company, and they treated me right. And they’re good quality socks, and they’re amazing.

Andreas Widmer 39:25
Buying, they feel like you’re used, nobody wants to use. And that’s yeah, that has a huge consequence. He also internally for example, another thing that I remember that you can do instead of I just tried it today, and I’m telling you, it’s really hard, really hard. We just had a meeting today to talk about a new project idea. And the thing is, if you if you have a meeting and there’s like all kinds of almost my whole team was on this meeting, and you go into this meeting, we talk you know, everything is already written up and everybody looked at it and then you’re walking in as the boss you’re walking in And then basically everybody waits and sees what you’re going to say. Right? And then if once you say that, basically the discussion is over, but what he would do is he would, he would take the ranking youngest person, meaning the person who has been there the least amount of time, and say, Tell us what you think. And then the second youngest, tell us what you think. And he would speak last. I tried it again today. And I’m telling you, it takes a lot of self control, because some of what they say is going to be right, some wrong, but if you sift through it, they speak gold. Because they see your eye they see your company with very clear, clear eyes clearer than your own.

Lauren Conaway 40:36
I honestly think that that is a fantastic exercise, I actually do that myself, because it’s very difficult to explain what I do with innovation because we do a lot of different things. And we try things and things kind of change. So it’s always fascinating to me, when people introduce me to someone else, I very rarely explain what innovator does, because I want to listen to the person who’s introducing me, I want to hear what they have to say, what do you think we do, because it doesn’t matter what I think we do, it matters, what our audience and our customers and our members think we do. That’s all that matters. And if something needs to change, or if I need to adjust, because what they think we do and what I think we do doesn’t match, then there’s a lot of learning in there. And there’s a lot of opportunity there. It’s really quite fascinating.

Andreas Widmer 41:29
how well your onboarding works, if the newest person tells you something completely different than what you’re actually.

Lauren Conaway 41:37
So like, for instance, with an innovator, like one of the things that I always listened for. So art, to me, are two foundational ethics, the thing, how I make decisions, the lens through AI, through which I view everything that we do as an organization, are low barriers to entry, and inclusion. Those are where I live and die by those as the leader of this organization. So when someone introduces an innovator and says, Hey, you know, they do this, but they don’t mention those two things. That’s a failing, and I need to fix it. And I need to address it and make sure that we’re putting the right messaging out there. So I would actually invite any of our listeners who are kind of who are listening to us right now, like if you are struggling with that, ask the people around you, what do you think we do? Explain it to me, you know, and figure out where those holes are and where those discrepancies are? Now, Andreas, I do want to ask you a very tactical question. And then I’m going to ask you a more philosophical question. But my tactical question is, you mentioned that you wrote a book, The Art of Principles of Entrepreneurship that came out in April. I think you have another book as well, the Pope and the CEO. Is that correct? Yeah. Any other books? Hiding in there that we need to look for?

Andreas Widmer 42:46
Yeah, yeah. It’s a bit of a pain. It’s a pain to write everything. It produces itself. I don’t know whether there’s another one.

Lauren Conaway 42:55
All right, well, where can we find your books? I need to know.

Andreas Widmer 42:58
It’s, of course, on Amazon. But you can also find me if you do co-centers. And Widmer, then you find me easily on the internet, but both books are on Amazon easily available.

Lauren Conaway 43:11
Okay. So definitely keep your eyes out. Give it an order. Actually, just go out and order from the website.

Andreas Widmer 43:19
Lauren, I have a website called Andrea stash whitmer.com. And there are some first chapters for free for anybody who wants to download.

Lauren Conaway 43:29
Well, we’ll go ahead, and we’ll put that link in the show notes. But it’s Andreas-Widmer, is that correct? All right. Yeah. So definitely check out the Pope and the CEO and the art of principled entrepreneurship. Now, here’s our philosophical question. On the eighth, we are in the midst of here in the States anyway, for our international listeners. Here in the United States, we’re experiencing this thing called the quote-unquote, great resignation. The great resignation basically means exactly what Andreas was talking about. People are disengaged at work. They are leaving their places of business in droves. They are finding that they are able to greatly increase their compensation if they go somewhere else rather than staying where they’re at. You know, there are all of these reasons people are, are moving companies. And it’s really interesting because, for it, this is the first moment in time when we have kind of started to prioritize that employee that team experience over profit, you know, people over profit. And so my question to you is, for our listeners at home, what is the one key takeaway or the one thing that you wish all business owners knew when it comes to creating teams that will attract and retain talent? Will you keep your team satisfied and feeling fulfilled?

Andreas Widmer 44:58
Goes back to this idea of Talents. Start with the job descriptions. Start with the talent description. Talent and non-talents match them together. So that all the teams form naturally have people who cover each other’s non-talents with their own talents. And if you move away from saying, here’s what I need you to do, and say, here’s what I need you to achieve, and form a group to go achieve it. You tap human ingenuity and human genius, and it will far exceed your expectations.

Lauren Conaway 45:33
Amazing. Well, I have one final question for you, my friend, and it is a silly, stupid, dumb human question. Are you ready? I actually really want to know, if you were, if you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpower to be? Fly? Oh, okay. Is there anything, in particular, you would fly?

Andreas Widmer 45:59
I would love to fly. I love flying. I love being in airplanes. I love to fly.

Lauren Conaway 46:03
Yeah. Would you go anywhere specific? Or would you just kind of fly all around the world?

Andreas Widmer 46:08
I would love to. I love the mountains. So I would love to fly around the mountain sometimes. Just before I sleep, I catch myself floating. Does that ever happen to you? Yeah. I love that feeling. And I would just fly around over the mountains and see things in the Alps. I would love it.

Lauren Conaway 46:26
I know that I love that too. But something else that we have in common. Well, Andreas, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to chat with us friends. We’ve been talking to Andreas Widmer, director at the Arthur and Carlyse Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship. It’s been a wonderful friend. Thank you so much for sharing your time and expertise.

Andreas Widmer 46:46
Thank you, Lauren. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. I really appreciate it.

Lauren Conaway 46:50
Absolutely. I mean, honestly, I feel like this could be a three-parter. We still have so many questions that I want to ask. In the meantime, though, friends definitely want to invite you to take it. Keep an eye out for today’s episode sponsor. The episode sponsor is Full Scale. If you need to hire software engineers, testers, or leaders, Full Scale can help. They have the people on the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts when you visit FullScale.io. All you have to do is answer a few questions. It’s super easy. And then you let the platform match you with fully vetted, highly experienced engineers, testers, leaders, whatever you need at Full Scale. They specialize in building long-term teams that work only for you to learn more when you visit FullScale.io. And friends definitely want to invite you to keep an eye out for you if you haven’t already kept an eye out for our top startup episodes at Startup Hustle. We love going to different cities around the world. And talking to founders and entrepreneurs and creating these lists of amazing companies doing innovative, disruptive things. So definitely keep an eye out for those. We’ve got one coming up. We’ll be recording it soon for St. Louis, my hometown. I’m super excited. But we’ve done Miami, we’ve done Kansas City, we’ve done. Oh, I don’t know, Phoenix, you know, we’ve been all over. So keep an eye out for top startup episodes on startup hustle.com. Friends, we greatly appreciate the fact that you come back and you listen to us week after week. We love telling founder stories. We want to hear from you what stories you want us to tell. Don’t hesitate to let us know but definitely keep coming back. We will catch you on the flip side.