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Reboot Podcast #31 - Why Being Real Matters- with Evgeny Shadchnev


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So many entrepreneurs seek to model their leadership after the high-profile, successful giants of business. Should I be leader more like Steve Jobs? How can I be more like Jeff Bezos? How can I be more like Travis from Uber? These are not only questions without answers, they are the wrong questions. The real question is, “Who the fuck are you?” You’re not Steve Jobs. You’re not Jeff Bezos. You’re you. What does the leader within you look like?

In today’s conversation, Jerry is joined by Evgeny, Co-founder and CEO of Makers Academy. Ev wrestles with the question of whether it’s possible to scale an organization built around trust, or does success require a leader who governs by fear? Together they discover a more beautiful, more fundamental question --“Who is Evgeny?” In that answer they may find a path to personal alignment and more effective leadership.

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Reboot Podcast #31 - Why Being Real Matters- with Evgeny Shadchnev

  1. 1. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 1 of 19 “So, if you think about it, to me trust is not – it’s not something that we actively create. Trust is a byproduct of being radically honest through radical self-enquiry and then being brave.” Welcome to the Reboot podcast. “Authenticity is the alignment of the head, mouth, heart and feet: thinking, saying, feeling and doing the same thing consistently. This builds trust and followers love leaders they can trust.” – Lance Secretan. So many entrepreneurs seek to model their leadership after the high-profile, successful giants. Should I be a leader like Steve Jobs? How can I be more like Jeff Bezos? What should I be doing right now to be like Travis from Uber? These are not only questions without answers, they are the wrong questions. The real question is, “Who the fuck are you? You are not Steve Jobs and you are not Jeff Bezos; you are you. And what does the leader within you look like?” In today’s conversation, Jerry is joined by Evgeny Shadchev, co-founder and CEO of Makers Academy. Ev wrestles with the question of whether it’s possible to scale an organization built around trust, or does success require a leader who governs by fear? Together they discover a more beautiful, a more fundamental question: who is Evgeny? In that answer, they may find a personal path to alignment and more effective leadership. ** A quick reminder, as always, you can head over to where you can find the full show notes from this conversation with Evgeny, including key quotes, links to Makers Academy and Evgeny on Twitter, as well as the transcript from the conversation. I’d also encourage you to stay tuned to the end of this conversation, where we have a full, eight-minute discussion from one of our Reboot peers members, Bobby Brannigan. It’s a great story that you don’t want to miss; but now, a word from Ali about our bootcamps. “My name is Semira Rahemtulla and I’m a co-founder of Innerspace. I would say it was really enlightening; it was really, really enjoyable and I learnt a lot. ” “Albert Lee, founder of All Tomorrows. It really changed my life.” “My name is [Inaudible 0:02:56]. It was a really amazing experience.” “My name is Mat Ellis and I am the CEO and founder of Cloudabilty. This thing, if you are ready for it, it can really change your life and your career, and as a CEO, you owe it to your stakeholders, to your staff, to your investors and to your customers to be a better CEO, to take a step, get these four days, and I guarantee, you will come out of it a better CEO.” Join us for our upcoming co-founder bootcamp March 2nd through the 6th. Applications are due by January 31st. Learn more about this and our other 2016 bootcamp offerings, including our CEO bootcamp in Italy at **
  2. 2. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 2 of 19 Jerry Colonna: Hey Evgeny, how are you? It’s good to see you again. Evgeny Shadchev: Hello Jerry; yes, I’m fine, thank you and it’s amazing to see you. How are you? Jerry: I am really well, thank you; thank you for asking. It’s a beautiful day here in Boulder and I’m planted and grounded and I feel really good. Hey, before we get started too far, why don’t you just take a moment and introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about the company and I guess, even how we first met? Evgeny: Sure. My name is Evgeny and I am a co-founder of Makers Academy, a coding bootcamp in London. We help complete beginners become professional software developers and get an awesome job and we know we are doing a good job when our students, our alumni describe their Makers Academy experience as life- changing. We first met, I think, yes in February this year, when I went to the CEO bootcamp in Colorado. I came across one of your videos on YouTube pretty much by accident, I think someone tweeted it, it was your talk at the Pioneer Festival in Wien, and I really, really enjoyed it. I felt like I could connect to you, strangely, on YouTube. And so I Googled your name, I watched a few more videos, I found a website and then I learnt that you are running bootcamps for CEOs and I decided to apply. I went there and it was a great experience. I’m so happy I went to that CEO bootcamp in February. Jerry: Thank you for that and thank you for coming, you really made a difference at the camp because I remember you showing up with such presence and authenticity and you know, I remember too, from that first experience that that was the week where there was an opposition leader in Russia who had been killed. Evgeny: Yeah. Jerry: And I remember you feeling – because obviously you were not born in the UK; I think you were born in Russia and emigrated to the UK – Evgeny: To London, yes. Jerry: – and you were feeling that – the pain of that. Evgeny: Yes, you are absolutely right; I think it was the second to last day of the bootcamp; I got a text from my wife, who told me that one of the leading opposition figures in Russia was shot right next to Kremlin, which was on one hand, it wasn’t completely unexpected, on the other hand I remember I was really, really sad that it happened because there is virtually no opposition in Russia anyway, and the very, very few people who do stand up against the regime, they have to face the consequences and they are often risking their lives.
  3. 3. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 3 of 19 Jerry: So, you know, I think it’s always worth noting that you know, we all operate in a larger context; we operate in a world and there is violence and there is all that and I just wanted to take a moment and acknowledge that that is true, and sort of out there. Evgeny: Thank you, Jerry. Jerry: Sure. So, you know, when we talked on email, you talked about some ideas about what you wanted to talk about today and why don’t you take us through a little bit of that? What is on your mind? Something about trust? Evgeny: Yes, that’s correct. Trust has been on my mind a lot recently; let’s say throughout the year. I have been running – I founded the company three years ago and I must first thank you; I don’t really have too much experience and I am learning as I go, like all first-time CEOs do, and one of the questions that has been on my mind is why are so many companies seem to be built on fear? Like the process is there – the process that we normally expect to see in companies, like the power hierarchy is, so people firing others on the spot, the process is designed specifically to prevent abuse. It feels like many companies operate on the assumption that their own employees can’t be fully trusted, and this somehow didn’t feel right to me. So, I guess, for the last year or so, my team and I have been exploring the question of what if it is possible to lead or to build a company in a different way? Why a young company, a startup, when they are just a couple of founders and no one else, is behaving according to very different rules. There is a lot of trust, there is a lot of alignment, a lot of stuff is getting done and then as companies grow, they somehow become – or rather, they become more fearful or so it seems, and we’ve been trying to understand it and change it, and some things work amazingly well. Some of my successes of the last couple of years can be attributed to just trusting people more and at the same time, I’ve got more questions than answers: is it really possible, maybe what I am trying to do is completely crazy and maybe there is a reason why the world, or let’s say, high-performing companies operate in a certain way. So, all these questions related to trust have been on my mind a lot. Jerry: So, the question you are really grappling with is, let me see if I’ve got it and mirror it back to make sure I understand it, one of the things you noticed is that amongst your co-founders and that first team, there was a high degree of trust – Evgeny: Extremely high. Jerry: – and the fear or the concern is that as the company grows and as it becomes more successful, that there’s going to be a loss of that trust, and your question is in a sense, is it inevitable that as a company grows, is that loss possible? And it would be particularly painful for you, I imagine, because one of the things that you noticed and I think you made reference to this to me and other consequences is that you found that when you lead into being more trusting yourself, and as a
  4. 4. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 4 of 19 result we are more trustworthy, but there is a correlation being able to be trusted by others and therefore trusting others, that the company performance was better. Evgeny: In some respects, yes, it’s not a silver bullet by any means, or it’s not the only solution, but some really good things that happen can be attributed to trust; people working in situations where they really, really trusted each other. Jerry: So, that’s really helpful to distinguish. Tell me a story of when that has worked out well for you in the last few months. Evgeny: So, in the last few months, I think – let me tell you a conversation I had with my investor. We are a venture-backed company and we got the board and he is on the board, and our relationship had been slowly improving over the last year, but it’s still wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. And at some point, we sat down and we had a very frank and open conversation about trust or level of trust that was very – I think fairly difficult for both of us, but at the same time, it was extremely helpful because by looking back I think it was a turning point in our relationship. I can’t put a number in it, but in my subjective experience, our relationship became significantly better because we just started trusting each other much, much more and as a result our board meetings became more productive and less tense, and overall it changed for the better I think for both of us. Jerry: Let me bring your attention to something; rather than answering your question directly, I want to take you through what I think you already know to be true. So, using that as a jumping off point, what was the first thing that you had to do to start that process? Do you recall? Evgeny: You mean thinking about the trust or the specific conversation? Jerry: So, if I remember correctly, what you said was, you’ve had this relation with this investor for a while, it wasn’t – it did not exhibit a lot of trust – Evgeny: Mm-hmm. Jerry: – and then you made a decision. Evgeny: Mm-hmm. Jerry: What did you decide to do? Evgeny: To be more open with my feelings and my perception of this situation. Jerry: Even though you didn’t feel that you couldn’t trust them, not entirely. Evgeny: Not entirely, but at the same time, it still felt like the right thing to do. Was it – it was a difficult conversation, but I think it was a good one.
  5. 5. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 5 of 19 Jerry: Yeah, so one of the core components of those difficult conversations and you’ve seen me do this talk before, what I often referred to it as being fierce, not ferocious, being direct is someone has to go first. Evgeny: Yeah. Jerry: And so I think you did that with a few little micro-steps; the first was, you cut through the self-delusion, which was – a self-dilution of state would be to blame him for everything. Evgeny: Oh, that would be self-delusion then. If anything, a [Inaudible 0:15:04] was mine. Jerry: Right. So, the first thing you had to do was be honest and direct and fierce with yourself, which is painful because – Evgeny: Yeah. Jerry: Tell me, you just smiled and nodded – Evgeny: Mm-hmm, I did. Jerry: – because you had to acknowledge that you are not innocent. Evgeny: I’m not. Jerry: Right and then you had to be brave. So, first was a kind of honest, acknowledgement and the second step was a bravery, and the bravery was in naming the situation and putting words to it because again, most people won’t acknowledge their own complicitness in creating difficult relationships. Evgeny: Yeah. Jerry: And the second thing is most people are not brave enough to name it and to speak it and to approach it because he could have just said, “Screw you; I’m not going to talk to you about this.” Evgeny: Easily, yes. Jerry: And he didn’t. So, if you think about it, to me trust is not – it’s not something that we actively create. Trust is a byproduct of being radically honest through radical self-enquiry and then being brave. Evgeny: Yes.
  6. 6. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 6 of 19 Jerry: Those are the necessary agreements and then if you establish it – and in a sense you begin to trust your own self. Wait a minute, I got this, I can do this, I can have this conversation; it’s scary, it’s difficult and then you – Evgeny: But ultimately it’s the right thing to do. Jerry: Well, I think that the pain of it, well, tell me about ‘ultimately it’s the right thing to do.’ How did you it was the right thing to do? Evgeny: I mean, what’s the alternative there? Jerry: Beautiful. Evgeny: I mean, I remember at the bootcamp, you asked us a question, “What needs to be said that is not being said?” Jerry: Yeah. Evgeny: This question stayed in my mind. I have come back to it again and again, when I go through different challenges and yes, so I was thinking, okay, what am I not saying, and then I realized the actual there are quite a few things that I am not saying and it will probably be best if I bring it to the surface. Jerry: Yeah, that question is part of three questions that I have taught myself to ask; what am I not saying that needs to be said? What am I saying that is not being heard? What’s being said that I am not hearing? Three questions. Evgeny: Yes, three great questions. Jerry: The first question was actually taught to me by my therapist, in response to repeated and persistent migraines. I would have these migraines and finally she would cut through it and say, “Well, what are you not saying that needs to be said?” And when I started training myself to say things that even though it’s scary, even though it’s difficult, the migraines started to abate. Evgeny: And Jerry, I so understand you because I felt the same; I realized that at some point I realized that trust is closely related to stress. In fact, one of the reasons I went to your bootcamp is because I guess I was looking for more talks to figure out how to be less stressed. When I came to Colorado, I was not in my best shape mentally and then I realized that actually asking this question and optimizing for trust, completely trying to be more open, more vulnerable, more authentic and trying to trust other people in the world in general more, leads to a less stressful life because it enables high conversations, it enables transparency, it enables – it lets me be myself. It allows me to share – that you share and you hear when it happens. It lets me to receive and deliver a negative feedback when there is an implicit trust that no one is going to retaliate, but instead we are just going to
  7. 7. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 7 of 19 discuss this problem. And these things, they really make my life slightly less stressful, which I guess, as an entrepreneur, I really appreciate. Jerry: Well, I appreciate your naming it that way. I want point out – as I often talk about, we have this famous formula we use in Reboot, which is Practical skills + Radical self-enquiry + Shared experience = Enhanced leadership and greater resiliency. You just were speaking to the greater resiliency piece; I am going to make an argument too that everything that you just described as a consequence of that commitment to being clear, being fierce, result in you being a more effective leader. Evgeny: I would like to hope so. Jerry: You would like to hope so. Every attribute that we talked about, transparent, clear, consistent, trustworthy, trusting, are all attributes of strong, effective leadership and we know that because of the way people respond to that. They don’t necessarily jump up and do whatever you tell them to do, but – when you have the audacity to be yourself and create conditions in which you allowed to be yourself, you inadvertently create the conditions for other people to be themselves. Evgeny: Can I give you an example of exactly what you are describing? Jerry: Tell me. Evgeny: A couple of weeks ago, we had a team meeting at our company, all hands meeting, and one person in the team said that – I’m quoting him, “I’m terrified that we’ll get significantly more students.” To me, that was both scary and wonderful at the same time. It was scary because, oh my God, someone – most of the team are trying to grow the company and get more students and somebody is terrified of this process. But at the same time, I realize how beautiful this moment is because this person was comfortable sharing this feeling knowing that instead of calling him crazy, the team would respond, “Oh wow, why do you feel this way? What can we do about this? what is happening?” And come into this situation with an open heart and then we started discussing it and I think we got much closer to the solution. But thinking back at the situation, I’m still grateful to him for saying that because otherwise if I were the team, if I were not aware of this problem, then part of the team would try to get more students, part of the team would try to, let’s say review this effort and everyone would be left wondering, “Oh my God, what is going on?” Whereas, the situation was brought to the surface and they discussed it very, very openly.
  8. 8. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 8 of 19 Jerry: Yeah, I think it’s a brilliant example of the way authentic, trusting, trustworthy leadership creates the conditions for more effective manifestation of the operational goals. So, here you were, there was something magical that got created in that team where this colleague could speak to the politically incorrect fear that they had. The counter-intuitive fear is, “Oh my God, what if we actually are successful?” No, the truth is, and coaches know this a lot of time, all over the place – Evgeny: Mm-hmm. Jerry: – many, many people are just as afraid of success as they are of failure – Evgeny: Yeah. Jerry: – because of all sorts of complicated reasons, and when we create the conditions within an organization we can’t name that fear, you are absolutely right, it gets driven underground and it become an unconscious sabotaging force within the organization. Whereas, by surfacing it, you did two things; the example shows two things: one, the benefit of surfacing it is that you can speak to the product design process, you can speak to the UI process, you can speak to the user- engagement process acknowledging that there is this feeling. The second thing and the more important thing, you noticed how the rest of the team responded; they rallied to that person and so there is something very special that occurred just because somebody said something really clear and direct. That was beautiful. So, what we have done is we have just sort of named some of the important components to it. I want to go back to your core question; okay, we are going to do a little coaching on this, so the core question is, in effect, how do I maintain this, isn’t it? Evgeny: Mm-hmm. Jerry: So, what’s your fear? Evgeny: My fear is that it’s going to scale; my fear is that it worked beautifully well when there are two founders, it still works really well with a very small [Inaudible 0:25:29] team, but as we grow from two to five to ten to twenty people and then more, how can we maintain it? How can we [Crosstalk] Jerry: What makes you think you can’t? Evgeny: Because trust is built over time and face to face – face to face for a conversation, for sharing experiences, and if companies grow as – as the team becomes bigger, it becomes literally impossible to maintain a very close, deep connection with everyone.
  9. 9. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 9 of 19 Jerry: Okay, so what you are asking in a sense is, how do the values and vision of an organization get maintained when you can no longer rely on the personal transmission from co-founder or founder to the next level? Evgeny: Yeah, mm-hmm. Jerry: Because really – again, I think trust as a byproduct of something else. It’s the byproduct of the values that you have and one of the values that you are starting to identify and really name is the value is to be authentic. The value is to be real. Evgeny: Yes. Jerry: The value is to lean into things that you are afraid off as well as things that you are happy about. The value is to speak directly and clearly or in Jerry’s parlance, speak fiercely even though it’s scary and the consequence of that is trust. If that is the case, then, the task becomes how does a CEO who – one of their prime responsibilities is to embody the values, how does that – how do you maintain that as the team grows? Evgeny: It’s a challenge. Jerry: Because there is an implicit fear here and the implicit fear, and you named it earlier before, is that when you look at larger companies that are more successful financially than yours, what do you presume to be true about their trust within their organization? Evgeny: I presume that the level of trust is lower. I see processes specifically designed in order to work in situations of low trust, for example, big companies mainly, if you have two co-founders, there are no things such as budgets and then as the team grows, somehow the team is to decide, okay, how much money goes in which direction, where the limits are and somehow it feels like the larger the company has become, the harder it is to trust irrespective of the person to just use their best judgment to do what is right, and it is scary because it is exactly what I am trying to do. One of the things I am telling my team almost every week is that I want them to do what they believe is right and what is in the best interest of the team and the company. Jerry: Okay, so I think what – my advice would be to not necessarily focus on the output as much as the levers that create the conditions that you are looking for in the first place. So, for example, you can say, “Look at how trusting we are, we don’t have this budgetary process where the two co-founders are looking over each other.” Okay, that is not the reason you trust each other. It’s not the lack of process – Evgeny: That’s a consequence, yes.
  10. 10. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 10 of 19 Jerry: That’s a consequence; and so the real reason you trust each other is you are real with each other. Now, if you create conditions where all of the senior leadership start to embody the same values where they start to embody the value for example, of going first, the way you did with your investor, you will eventually need processes, you’ll need expense reports, you’ll need tracking mechanisms and planning mechanisms for sure, but you’ll not need them because you don’t trust each other. You’ll need them just for clarity sake. The real challenge is, how do you personally hold on to the ability to continue to be real and authentic, modeling for the rest of the team, that style of leadership even as the company succeeds? Evgeny: [Exhales deeply] Jerry: Yeah, hold on to that one. Evgeny: Okay. Jerry: So, notice that one of the things that we are ending up with, who else in the company, aside from that employee is afraid of getting more students? Evgeny: I think at least one or maybe two more people. Jerry: How about you? Evgeny: To some extent, yes. The thing is – and I’m going back to trust – we are – when we accept our students – we only accept them if we believe that we can help them become great junior software developers. They trust us to do that and we don’t take it lightly. Accepting more students, or attracting more students is one thing, but actual delivering on the promise is another thing. So there is – and yes, I know it’s scary including for myself to think, “Okay, if we get 500 more students overnight studying in January, will be still be able to deliver on our promise as well as we’ve been doing it last year?” Jerry: So who else in the company is afraid of the company succeeding? Evgeny: Well – Jerry: I wish they could see your face right now. Evgeny: Well, I guess everyone to some extent, because – Jerry: Yeah, I worry about you. Evgeny: And me too, because it’s – I really care about the quality of what we do, and I do acknowledge this year we get more students and we still need to deliver this great service.
  11. 11. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 11 of 19 Jerry: So, this is my point Evgeny, the question is, how do we hold on to our values so that we remain the trusting and trustworthy environment that we are as we grow? But really what it feels to me is that there is a deeper fear which is, what is going to happen to this company if we continue to succeed? Evgeny: There is, yeah. Jerry: So, what are you afraid of as the company potentially succeeds? Evgeny: I’m afraid of promising to lot of these students something that we will fail to deliver – Jerry: And what if you do that? What if the company – yeah, go ahead. Evgeny: I’ll feel bad; I’ll feel really horrible. Jerry: And why should you feel horrible? There are plenty of big companies that over- promise and under-deliver. Evgeny: And that is exactly I am – why I am building a new company instead of working for one of those big companies. For me, it’s – for me and for us as a company, it is really important to deliver on the promise. Our work that [Inaudible 0:33:51] our students sign a contract. Jerry: That’s beautiful. What happens if you don’t deliver on the promise? Name it. Evgeny: I guess I’ll be really disappointed if not plainly ashamed of failing to deliver. Jerry: So, the implicit in the potential growth isn’t just the fact that the company is not going to be as trusting as it is now, but that you may find yourself over-promising and under-delivering; not delivering on the trust that students have placed in you. Evgeny: Yes, and this is real scary. Jerry: Why is it so scary Evgeny? Evgeny: I’m not quite sure; it’s – I don’t know – but I do know that if I promise something and then fail to deliver, emotionally I will be in a frigid dark place. Jerry: Yeah, I know you will. Why? Why will you think poorly of yourself? Evgeny: Because I like to think of myself as a reliable person who delivers on what I promised.
  12. 12. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 12 of 19 Jerry: Oh, that’s the kind of leader you’d like to be. That’s the kind of adult you’d like to be. That’s the kind of man you’d like to be. Evgeny: Yes. Jerry: I’m not pointing it out to say that there is something wrong here, but I’m connecting it to a deeper, existential and emotional hold that you have. Okay, now this is going to sound like a very strange [Inaudible 0:35:41]; tell me again, why you left Russia. Evgeny: I left Russia because I felt like I didn’t fit in the society? Jerry: What was it about the society that you did not fit in with? Evgeny: The values. Jerry: What values? Evgeny: I felt like I couldn’t be myself and just being authentic, just saying what I think and being myself and trusting the society at large was difficult. Jerry: So, I imagine that you lived in a society where people said one thing and did something else? Evgeny: Yes. It happens. Jerry: And that is an awful place to live. Evgeny: It was, yes. Jerry: And so, if we think about it for a moment, the fear, perhaps, the fear is that if you find yourself successful in terms of the numerical number of students, but not successful in delivering and maintaining the same level of quality, and not being a trusting and trustworthy company, that you’ll have fallen into being that kind person back in Russia. Evgeny: Yes, I think we are getting somewhere Jerry. Jerry: This is why it’s so important to you. It was so important to you that you uprooted yourself and moved to a completely different country. This is existentially vital for you to live in an authentic way. That is what is at stake here. Evgeny: It was – yes, I guess authenticity played a big role; when I moved to London over nine years ago, it was – I guess it was an attempt to find a new place that would be – where I would be more authentic, more myself, and where I could find other people who would allow themselves to be more authentic. Even relatively simple
  13. 13. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 13 of 19 things, for example, Russia is not the friendliest place for homosexual people, and even though I am not homosexual, I am afraid – my friends are, and it was fairly difficult to live in a situation when I had to say one thing at one context and other thing in another context. I just wanted to be in a society where everyone could be themselves whoever they are, and yes, I guess trust and maybe not having to pretend that you are someone else was a big part of it. Jerry: So, the inquiry was around how do I maintain trust in an environment and yet, where we have landed is Jerry, I’m worried that the exterior of me isn’t going to match the interior of me as we grow and that the interior – the exterior of the company doesn’t match the interior of the company, because the consequence of when the interior and exterior are in alignment is trust. Evgeny: Yes. Jerry: The output is trust. So, the fear is that you’ll be in a place again perhaps where you say one thing in one situation and another thing in another situation. Evgeny: And when it happens, I find myself in a real difficult place emotionally. Jerry: Our mutual friend, Parker Palmer, we know through his writing often says that his depression was always linked to when the interior and the exterior were cross ones with each other. Evgeny: Oh yes. Jerry: Yeah, you know that feeling. Evgeny: Yes, I know that feeling. Jerry: So, what we are talking about, even though we are talking in a sort of theoretical way about trust, what we are really talking about is authenticity; is this deep and profound desire to be Evgeny all the time [Crosstalk] and not in conflict; so what do you think of that? Evgeny: It certainly sounds right. I – it strikes a chord. Jerry: So, if that is true, then let’s get to your question and your core question is, how do I maintain trust, a trustworthy and a trusting environment as the company grows? Evgeny: Mm-hmm. Jerry: When I look outside and I look at all these other companies, they don’t seem to be trusting; Evgeny: Mm-hmm.
  14. 14. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 14 of 19 Jerry: Why did I just emphasize that? “When I look outside” there is the answer my friend. Stop looking outside. Evgeny: Look at myself? Jerry: Amen. If you really maintain the trusting environment that you’ve built, stay connected with that inner core of yourself and in effect, what I am suggesting you do is stay vigilant not about keeping the trust, but stay vigilant about being authentic. Evgeny: Yes. I am trying to do my best and it, at times, is difficult, but it’s important. Jerry: Yes, and what makes it difficult? Name those things. Evgeny: Fear. It always blows down to fear. Whenever I feel like there is a lack of trust, it is always accompanied by fear; like what is going to happy if I am myself? What is going to happen if I just say what I think or yeah, just things as they are or share my feelings and share my vulnerability. Jerry: What was the name of the employee who said that they were terrified that they might get new students? Evgeny: Will. Jerry: All right, can you be as brave as Will? Evgeny: I’d like to be. Jerry: Yeah. I’m going to give this company, Makers Academy, a new mantra and it’ll make Will really happy. Evgeny: Okay. Jerry: Be brave as Will. Be as brave as Will. Evgeny: Thank you, Jerry. Jerry: You see what I am saying? And in that sense, even though you are the CEO, you are holding the values, you are holding the vision, in that moment, when we say ‘Be as brave as Will,’ even though he was terrified, he was terrified to tell you that he was terrified, but he overcame that. In that moment, he was leading. Evgeny: Yeah.
  15. 15. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 15 of 19 Jerry: The way you are going to scale this is hold yourself first to the mission where the inner and the outer map and then hold each other accountable to the same thing. And have that conversation; co-hold that within the organization. Everyone can hold on to that as a value. If you set your sights on the target of being real and authentic, you will, by default, create a trusting environment even as you scale. Evgeny: I will try to do my best, but Jerry, I know, it is scary. Jerry: It is scary. Evgeny: Yes. Jerry: I think you did something most people would be too afraid to do and that is you even spoke to an investor about that. Evgeny: Well, it wasn’t easy, but as I said, it felt like it was the right thing to do and – Jerry: So hold on to that; hold on to ‘the right thing to do’. How did you know? Where did you feel the right thing – is it in your head? Evgeny: In my body, I just became more relaxed – Jerry: You feel it in your body; when you connect with “the right thing to do” it lives in the body. I often think of my stomach, it’s like that gut feeling, “I hate this, I have to do this thing I don’t want to do, but I know it’s the right thing to do because my stomach is telling me it’s the right thing to do.” Evgeny: Yeah. Jerry: And if I can trust my stomach, trust my gut instinct, it’s an expression of being authentic and true. And then all of a sudden, the relationship shifts. Not everybody will respond and meet you the way that investor did. Not everybody will respond and meet you the way Will did, but most people. Evgeny: And also why – and on this note, what I find is that not just most people, but more people than I expect. And what I guess, one of the lessons I guess, I learnt here is that people in general tend to behave the way you expect them to behave. If I hear that others are – that everyone else – basically most people are – all people are basically trustworthy and reliable human beings and behave accordingly, then they tend to return the favor. Whereas, if I start the relationship by trying to protect myself and minimize the damage that hasn’t happened yet, then it’s more likely that others will behave in a way that I expect them to behave. So, I did have a few situations when I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is not going to end well” and I’m trying to trust this person, but they are probably going to just retaliate and do something bad and you know, more often than not, it doesn’t happen. When I trust people, I get more trust back than I expected.
  16. 16. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 16 of 19 Jerry: You just said it. You said basically a fundamental Buddhist teaching. When I trust people, I get more trust back than I expected. Absolutely right. Well, I want to thank you, this was a wonderful conversation and I appreciate the trust that you placed in me in being brave enough to come on – brave as Will to come on this show and to talk about this. I’m so admiring of your tenacity and your desire to grow as a leader. It’s really admirable and it’s a delight and it’s a pleasure every time I encounter you. So, thank you. Evgeny: Thank you, Jerry; and it’s been a pleasure talking to you, as always. ** A Reboot peer group is a hand-selected group of entrepreneurs and leaders who meet in supported, Reboot coach-facilitated sessions twice a month. So, what are these groups really like? We asked a peer group member, Bobby Brannigan, to share his experience with Reboot facilitator, Andy Crissinger. Andy: I felt we could start with you introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about your company. Bobby: Sure, thanks Andy, thanks for having me. My name is Bobby Brannigan, I’m co- founder and CEO at Mercato. Mercato is an online marketplace to match consumers with their favorite specialty food shops, but focuses on building software that makes it easy for 100,000+ specialty food shops in the United States to sell online and facilitate local and national delivery. My last company was Valore Books, which is an online marketplace for college textbooks, where we connected millions of college students with book stores and whole sellers and publishers nation-wide, and I started that business out of my dorm room. I grew it for 13 years, we never raised any money, and as you can imagine, I learnt a lot of hard lessons along the way, and I ended up exiting Valore about a year ago and I took a lot of time reflecting on what went right, what went wrong. And one of the things I realized was that I spent less than 1% of my time on things that really impacted the company positively and my mission for my new business is to dial that number out by surrounding myself with great people and being more thoughtful than ever. Andy: Tell us a bit more about what are the challenges you are facing in your role as a founder? Bobby: Sure, you know, one of the biggest challenges that I face as an entrepreneur has been, you know, navigating the waters of solving hard problems while under extreme stress. You know, that’s been even harder when I was a first-time entrepreneur, because you don’t really have the experience, you don’t really know what to expect, and you start a business, you have high hopes, you have big vision, but as with solving any hard problems, there are things that you just can’t
  17. 17. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 17 of 19 possibly predict or know and you know, the answers are not publically available. So, you try to get the best advice that you can, but sometimes there’s no one there to help so you just have to go with your best logic. For me, I faced loss with [Inaudible 0:50:11] at Valore and the most intense stress that I endured was when I got sued by the four largest publishers in the country for eight million dollars. That was at a time when we had been in business for about four years, we were 500,000 dollars in debt, and you know, that came from the home equity line of my parents’ house, 250 grand in credit card debt and you know, also some money I borrowed from some scary people in Brooklyn. Nonetheless, failure was not an option and at that point, you know, when you are in that kind of situation you really don’t have anybody to turn to. In my particular scenario, I didn’t want to scare my employees away, let alone letting them know that we had a tense situation going on and I didn’t want to pass the stress on to my family because I didn’t want them to get scared that they could possibly lose the house. I also didn’t want to share anything with friends from home because who knows what can get back to the scary people. So that would not have been very good. So, what I ended up doing is, I internalized the stress and I fought publishers for about 12 months until one day when I was driving from work, I ended up blacking out and I woke up on the side of the road. That was a really scary moment that I had, you know, where it was tons of stress and you are doing with a team, but it’s hard to think under clouded vision. In that scenario, although we ended up settling with the publishers for a modest amount and we convinced our insurance company to pay for it and we got away from that one, but it was pretty stressful for us. Andy: Bobby, I’ve heard you tell that story before and it never ceases to amaze me how much stress you were under and how intense that time was for you. So, it sounds to me like you’ve really learned how not to do things, how not to manage stress, and I’m curious what it has been like this time around, with a group of peers that you can trust to bring that stress and those really hard problems to. Bobby: Yeah, it’s been pretty amazing so far; I mean, I wish I would have had the group back then when I underwent all that stress, but right now it’s great to have that group available going forward because you know, you can’t be open and honest with everyone about your business because you don’t want to scare people away, you don’t want to get people nervous because that is going to upset their ability to do what they have to do, and at the same time, there are not a lot of people that can actually relate to these situations. So, having a group you can turn to is extremely beneficial and it allows you, you know, not only to spend more time thinking about these issues and help you solve them, but hearing yourself explain them out loud and getting people to question, you know, different routes that you might think about taking and that kind of stuff is invaluable. So it’s been really good so far. Andy: You know, one of the unique aspects of our peer groups is that we have this ground rule of no fixing or saving; and I wonder if you would share a little bit about what it’s been like to be grouped with other smart, driven entrepreneurs
  18. 18. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 18 of 19 who are used to being problem solvers. What’s it like being in a group where you are holding back that urge to fix each other and instead leaving with inquiry, open and honest questions and listening? Bobby: Well, you know, it’s been a little bit hard, especially in the beginning to not try to fix, because as an entrepreneur, it’s like we are just fixing stuff all day, you are just looking for problems to fix. So, it’s a natural instinct that you want to fix a problem, but what’s really helped me going through the process is the positive outcomes that I had from people not trying to fix me. As we went through just these detailed conversations and you know, really deep into problems, what I found is that I formed the best conclusions and the best outcomes when I come to it myself. It’s kind of strange, I don’t know why the brain works that way, but you know, when I hear myself say something out loud, it’s very different than when somebody gives you some prescription and they say, “You really need to do X.” And it’s happened to me several times with the peer group so far that had resulted in massively positive outcomes for me. You know, one scenario in particular is that you start your business and you are under tons of stress, and there’s lots of unknowns and what I had to call them all these unknowns, I like to call them ‘dark alleys’ and lots of entrepreneurs are scared to walk down the dark alleys. They are scared to walk down the unknown, to see what the unknown is, so they deny it, and it haunts them and eventually that is one of the reasons why they potentially didn’t succeed, because they didn’t really pursue what was there, or potentially could be a big problem for them. So, I made it you know, a strong focus of mine to focus on going down those dark alleys frequently and in doing that, it can get, you know, pretty scary. I mean you go down them, and it’s unknown and you don’t know what you are going to come back with. So, you know, having a group to support you along the way has been great because without that, your self-doubt can kind of cripple you a bit, and if you really don’t listen to it then you might just take on less new ways because you’ve hit your threshold. Andy: Bobby, has anything surprised you about your time in your peer group? Bobby: Yeah, I think the thing that has surprised me most about being in a peer groups is just a value in hearing yourself answer these questions and how valuable it is to have the answers come out of your own mouth instead of people prescribing stuff to you. Andy: What’s it been like to know you have your group there and that you are not alone? Bobby: You know, it’s been really great; I guess you know, mostly because I feel I can take on more stress and more risk and I’ve been able to solve problems best, and also be more mindful on how to build a great organization because when I built my first company, it was really all about executing tasks and that is doing this and doing that, and just getting shit done. With my new company, I am just really focused on building a great organization and like Jerry always says, “Building a
  19. 19. Reboot031_Being_Real_Matters Page 19 of 19 machine that builds a machine” and you know, it’s been great to have that group to really think in a much deeper sense with people that share the same challenge and they really trying to grow and really get out of that comfort zone just as I am. That’s been really excellent for me. ** So, who do you turn to? What if you had a community of peers who were committed to supporting you and solving your greatest challenges, a group you knew you could always count on? There is great power in knowing you are not alone. Learn more about Reboot’s peer groups and apply at ** That’s it for our conversation today. You know, a lot was covered in this episode from links, to books, to quotes, to images; so we went ahead and compiled all that, and put it on our site at If you’d like to be a guest on the show, you can find out about that on our site as well. I’m really grateful that you took the time to listen. If you enjoyed the show and you want to get all the latest episodes as we release them, head over to iTunes and subscribe and while you’re there, it would be great if you could leave us a review letting us know how the show affected you. So, thank you again for listening, and I really look forward to future conversations together. [Singing] “How long till my soul gets it right? Did any human being ever reach that kind of light? I call on the resting soul of Galileo, King of night-vision, King of insight.” [End of audio 0:59:08] [End of transcript]