Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with
helps you in your leadership.
Name: Gary Pudles
Title: President & CEO
Gary A. Pudles is a “serial entrepreneur” who focuses on helping business people and organizations have more fun in business by executing better and being more profitable. He is actively realizing this goal by teaching and supporting entrepreneurship at many levels and by owning and operating multiple technology and service businesses that help other companies run better. He is the Founder and CEO of AnswerNet, and the co-founder of TextGen, SA Billing, Splendtastic and Subout.com. He is a winner of the SmartCEO Best Run Companies award and the prestigious "Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year" for business service providers and has led AnswerNet to the 21st spot on the Inc. 500.
Pudles welcomes the opportunity to share his expertise with other entrepreneurs. Pudles' philosophy is that every business, seminar, class or consultation in which he is involved must be with the intent of helping companies run their businesses more efficiently and profitably, but in the way they want to, not by forcing them into a predetermined template; but by replicating proven processes and adding that custom twist unique to their needs. He teaches Entrepreneurship at the University Of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School Of Business and is a regular participant in Startup Camp and the Intl' Startup Festival. Previously Pudles participated as a CEO mentor at Wharton's Educational Design Studio http://www.e-designstudio.com/ and a judge for the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition.
AnswerNet and Splendtastic are examples of this philosophy in action. Both are horizontal in structure with a broad application to the needs of virtually any business or industry. The software applications and call center programs they provide are designed to solve real business problems for businesses that are lacking in IT or contact center people and infrastructure, or that would prefer to outsource these services to – often seamlessly integrating with the internal structures of the client.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
My biggest challenge as a leader has been picking the right people for the right jobs. Many of the biggest challenges we've faced during our 24+ years were caused because I didn't have the right person in the right place at the right time
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I first became a leader in 1989 when the President of one of my law clients, Muzak in Washington, asked me to come and be his number 2. I went from being a junior attorney in a law firm to the number 2 in a 50+ year old company.
Within 3 months the President became ill and I was pushed into the top leadership role but with a mentor who was very understanding and patient.
After we sold that company, I had a couple of jobs which didn't make me happy so I decided to find a company to buy on my own. I then sat down and made a list of all the things I liked in a business and all I didn't like and went on the internet to find an existing business to buy.
In 1998 I purchased 1/2 of a telephone answering service business with 20 people and the rest is history
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Up at 7. Coffee and Email until 930. Exercise/telephone calls (aka Walk and Talk) 930-1015. Shower and travel to office 1015-11. Meetings and emails until 6/7. Music practice or shows 1-2 times per week. Otherwise family time/TV/stuff around the house/etc. til 11. Sleep 12-7
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Be inquisitive and think beyond the information you get from others. One of the traits I rely on the most is that I ask questions and I work through responses that "feel" good but don't answer my questions or give me actionable help. For example, when an employee tells me they are working on something, I ask for specific details of scope and a specific date of delivery. And when someone tells me they have found a solution to something, I ask them to explain the solution in language even a CEO can understand. This helps me learn more about the subject while making sure I am not being given platitudes (or being patted on the head)
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Mastering the Rockefeller habits by Verne Harnish. This is where I learned the process I used to create our core values and it contains the one page business plan which helps me synthesize information in an understandable framework. The ability to simplify the complex and explain it to people is also something that makes me a good leader because I don't talk down to people I help bring them up
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
My best piece of advice is happiness is not underrated. If you are unhappy with something change it. In terms of business, my advice is act quickly whenever possible. Quick decision making can get you to opportunities that others will miss.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
The most meaningful story demonstrates the joy of running an organization where people can succeed. Early in the company's history I met a woman providing customer service in one of my offices. This job entails speaking to clients and programming their account on our answering service system. One day I was in that office and after listening to her naturally upsell a client because she knew it would help the client be more profitable I suggested she should go into sales. She looked at me and scowled....I ain't no salesperson. Over the next few days I convinced her to give it a try and today, almost 23 years later she is our VP of Sales and Marketing. We have many stories like this throughout the company. Stories of people who have grown from agent to leader