I had the pleasure of interviewing Yuri Kruman, CEO of MasterTheTalk.com, a corporate Employee Experience Strategist, Author, Speaker, Forbes Contributor and Forbes Coaches Council Member and startup PR/Media advisor.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
After an unusual trajectory as a Russian immigrant who grew up in Kentucky, I’ve had 5 careers in neuroscience, law, finance and tech and consulting. Throughout all my career transitions and in helping hundreds of Fortune 500 executives through their own, I learned many of the best (and worst) practices for attracting, retaining and developing employees in companies of every size and mission. With this experience under my belt, I started MasterTheTalk.com to help unhappy employees activate and own their personal and professional development to find their dream jobs and start successful side businesses. With time, my practice has grown into helping companies pro-actively engage and correctly incentivize their best talent to stay by optimizing their employee experience.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
In building my coaching and consulting practice over the last few years, I’ve come across many unusual “characters” asking to work with me, including over-starched Fortune 500 execs and eccentric startup CEOs, travel agents and defense contractors, even sex therapists and fundamentalist Christians, with everything in between. Not all were great fits for working with me, but their life stories are truly priceless. Also, for some strange reason, an unusual proportion of my clients have had one of just two names, out of hundreds of clients. The Law of Attraction is a funny thing sometimes.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes our work at Master The Talk so powerful is that it brings together a wide breadth of experience in every major industry with a large data set of what makes top talent happy and engaged at work, together with cross-industry strategic insights and actual experience building and turning around businesses large and small. Our approach to talent development is Human First, Resource Second.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Yes, I’m writing a book due out in early 2019 from Business Expert Press, “What Millennials Really Want from Work and Life.” In addition to speaking and writing a great deal on Employee Experience and HR Transformation, I’m also training startup and corporate execs in optimizing their PR strategy and customer experience.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
See your employees as humans first and resources, second. Aside from the basics like a competitive salary and benefits that leave them feeling safe and well, give regular feedback and listen to each of them and always prioritize helping them become the best version of themselves personally and professionally. This pays off great dividends in the quality of work, engagement and how long they stay with you, which greatly helps the bottom line of your business. At the same time, choose whom you hire very carefully and treat each one like family once they’re with you. Then, get out of their way and let them to make you look good.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I’ve been fortunate to have incredible coaches and mentors along the way of building my business, which is how I’ve been able to see success relatively quickly, despite a number of setbacks and big mistakes. But all true success starts at home. My wife has been the foundation in supporting me and our family through the cash flow roller coaster, dealing with one of our kids needing treatment for a life-threatening illness, as well as being my confidante and no-BS business advisor throughout. Whom you marry is the most important business decision for life.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Throughout my work, writing, speaking and everything I do, my first priority is to help people to become the best version of themselves through coaching, consulting and helping them find their life mission, how to pursue it and monetize it. My goal is always to leave each person I meet in some way better and more empowered than before.
Can you share the top five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line?
a. Diverse talent means you have help reaching new markets and customer bases you may not otherwise have. For example, hiring your first Latin American woman means you have instant insights into the Latin American market and know better how to create branding and messaging for Latinas.
b. A great employee experience includes personal and professional development through regular interaction with others that look, sound, think and solve problems differently than the majority demographic. This translates into new and unexpected approaches to solving problems, working smarter, a work dynamic that cuts through conscious and unconscious bias to help people become the best versions of themselves. This creates a virtuous cycle that brings more diverse talent to work for the company, which brandishes the company’s reputation as industry leader, which trickles down into pricing, profitability and ability to attract top diverse talent. These are the most important factors for pleasing shareholders and for keeping the lifeblood of the company — its talent — fresh, happy and relevant.
c. Employee experience feeds into customer experience and vice versa. When you have diverse talent in your company, you are in a great place to create a great customer experience for customers that look, sound and think differently than the majority customer demographic. In our age of instant outrage over bias and lack of diversity, customer experience must be relevant and up to date for diverse customer bases, not just the main demographic. This is a form of pro-active risk mitigation.
d. Increased diversity is a no-brainer — and an absolute must — for pro-active good PR and marketing, in lieu of crisis management (see United and Uber in 2017). This is even more imperative for multi-national companies with customers and employees around the world, but in any case, a company must keep up with the zeitgeist and even better, to be at its cutting edge, not its trailing indicator.
e. As Einstein once said, “ No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Many of the problems for large corporations relate to their inability to think, act and solve problems differently from the way things have been done in the past. In order to move past this paralysis, companies must hire people from different professional and personal backgrounds in order to find new, higher-level solutions to renew, innovate and create new lines of revenue, save costs, increase profitability and otherwise move the company toward the leading edge and away from being a trailing indicator. The timeline for companies to increase their consciousness is ever shorter as the speed of innovation accelerates thanks to AI, automation and the destruction of old business models by tech startups (think Blockbuster and the taxi cab industry).
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? “
If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” — Nora Roberts
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
James Altucher or Laszlo Bock. Although I’ve never met James, his writing has saved me at the lowest points in my life. I owe him a debt of thanks. As for Laszlo, the work he’s done at Google and Humu is at the cutting edge of the employee experience work that I’m doing. And he just seems like a great guy with a super interesting immigrant story like my own.