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Meet The Disruptors: Setti Coscarella Of TAAT Global On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Setti Coscarella.

From Big Tobacco to Big Disruptor, Setti Coscarella is moving the goal post on his former peers. As the recently appointed CEO of TAAT Global, a publicly traded zero tobacco and zero nicotine cigarette company, he has been laser-focused on educating consumers on a product that is not just superior in quality, but a pioneer in a category that did not exist until now. Setti’s bold approach and expansive resume as lead strategist with Philip Morris International, speaks to his industry notoriety as the insider needed to tip the scale.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My backstory is simple, learn as much as you can, which I did — I earned a BSc in Math and Physics from the University of Toronto and my MBA from the Schulich School of Business. My plan from there was to then grow up, get a job, and turn into one of these businessmen in suits that I used to pass on the streets when I was a little boy. Now as CEO of TAAT Global, I am able to live that truth and pass on this lesson to my children.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Everyone loves using the word disruptor nowadays, but for me, it is less about being a disruptor and more about the evolution that is necessary in this business, or business of any kind, to meet the demands of the current marketplace. If that makes me a disruptor, then so be it.

Everything I’ve always done is focused on my belief in that moment. I’m driven by a challenge and challenge almost always includes change. Our ability to adapt to change is what defines us as a modern society. Some brands do it sooner and better, some brands are happy to be second or third, I personally prefer first.

So, to answer your question, no I don’t view myself as a disruptor, but the vision for TAAT certainly is. We are trying to disrupt the legacy tobacco business with TAAT, a zero-nicotine and zero-tobacco cigarette that provides the same user experience as the traditional cigarette but created to culminate a new wave of alternative products that actually work for smokers. With over 1 billion smokers in the world, the big-tobacco industry generates over a trillion dollars a year globally, profiting on its customers falling into the void of addiction.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It’s funny when you’re young, you think you know everything. Fresh out of school with my masters, I knew more than anyone else. Until one day in a meeting, with much smarter people than me at the time, I was told to just be silent and just to listen and learn. Of course, none of that happened. I interjected with some earth-shattering data I read somewhere thinking I would impress them all with this tidbit of new information up my sleeve. Turns out, one of the very important people in that meeting was the author of that data. It was a quite humbling experience. In hindsight, it was very funny, but very much a mortifying experience.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My parents for sure, they always pushed me to do my absolute best and instilled a rigid work ethic in me to get things done to the best of my ability. Also, they taught me that if I don’t know how to do something, then spend the time to learn and don’t be afraid to ask for help. This wisdom has given me a breadth of knowledge and interest in a variety of different subjects with experience I can leverage in many different facets of business.

I like surrounding myself with successful businesspeople. There is a lot of learning that comes from absorbing the stories of the deals that went wrong or listening to the different ways people digest failures. In my mind, progress comes from refining errors. You don’t learn anything from always doing things right, that is just plain luck.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I believe in the free market and that Darwinism exists in the context of business. The best ideas may get funding, but the best execution will win the day. Disruption has been happening since the dawn of time. There is always a better way to do things and it is through the ingenuity of the human condition that we progress as a society. It can be scary at times, but just like time, we must always move forward, whether we like it or not.

A little trivia, Alexander Graham-Bell is credited as the creator of the telephone, but a little-known fact is that Elisha Gray and Antonio Meucci invented the first version of the modern-day telephone, called the ‘talking telegraph’. However, Alexander Graham-Bell knew the process that was required for his invention to succeed which included receiving the first patent awarded for his invention, and obviously had better PR.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

I will never forget the wise words of my high school math teacher — I was struggling a bit and his advice was to, “do every question in the book … twice.” That way there would be nothing he could ask me that I didn’t know. So, I did. I got an A and I carried that with me for the rest of my life. Put in the time, do the work, challenge yourself and you will achieve anything you want.

About a few years ago, I attended a seminar that changed my outlook on communication in the workplace forever. The speaker advised, “Don’t just hear what somebody is telling you, but listen. Authenticity is infinite in this world while Imposters have a finite finish line.” If you sit back and listen to not just their words, but your instincts and inner voice, it is amazing the clarity it can provide.

I also always admired the Lion speech Christopher Walken gives in his 2002 film, Poolhall Junkies. Walken says, “It’s too late to be nervous.” And that resonated with me, especially now as a CEO. You must prepare and you must be ready for anything because anything that is predictable, never takes flight.

A wise woman once told me, never go to sleep angry. She was right. And I married her. Every day is a new day.

Lastly, a professor in my master’s program used to tell us, “Success is not measured by just dollars or figures; the most successful people in the world are those that have impacted mankind for the better.”

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I’m not a fortune teller, but next for me is watching TAAT take the lead in the industry.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

My favourite book is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I’ve probably read it cover to cover hundreds of times and continue to. The 1937 book is a publishing of Hill’s hundreds of case studies he performed on self-made millionaires. There is great power in devoting time and resources to understanding the people around you, whether from a corporate standpoint or at home.

I also often watch skilled orators speak, both from a content standpoint but also to learn from how they are able to command an audience and communicate their message in an easy yet impactful way… for example, Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Zig Ziglar, even comedians like Ryan Reynolds preach that delivery and timing are key in purposeful communication.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I am most motivated when someone tells me I can’t do something. I once heard a quote by Theodore Roosevelt in my undergrad that rings in the back of my head whenever I begin to succumb to criticism, “Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.”

I’ve been told that I wouldn’t get my MBA, wouldn’t become an investment banker, wouldn’t work in Private Equity, wouldn’t become a CEO of a publicly traded company…. And I have achieved all of that by believing in the big picture. Don’t let others’ insecurities or shortcomings affect your life or your willpower to become a force for change. All that matters is what you believe you can do. Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t… you are right. Choice is yours and it is all about mindset.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

The world is much bigger than a company, a consumer product, or a political movement. The world is a living breathing entity of billions of people that will surely outlast me, you, and everyone we know. For me, it would be providing opportunities for those with great ideas. There is a global inequity to access opportunity. Some of the best ideas that have yet to be revealed are waiting in some child’s mind who may not have the means to go to a fancy college or build a prototype. That’s the kind of opportunity I’m talking about.

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn: @SettiCoscarella

Facebook: @TAATGlobal

Instagram: @TAATGlobal

Official TAAT Website: https://TryTAAT.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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