“Get Professional Help” 5 Leadership Lessons With Author Lior Arussy

“Get professional help — Entrepreneurs tend to do everything, trying to save money of course. I did the same, including reviewing legal contracts. When a Fortune 500 company decided to abruptly cancel our contract and take our IP for themselves, exploiting a loophole in the contract I approved, it was a painful lesson.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lior Arussy, CEO of Strativity Group and the author of the upcoming book Next Is Now (Simon and Schuster May 2018). Called “a triple threat of transformation” by co-founder and founding editor of Fast Company William Taylor, Arussy is a unique, critical, global voice helping people worldwide achieve ultimate success. He has spent his career in executive positions at companies like Hewlett-Packard prior to founding design and transformation firm Strativity Group. With an understanding that traditional change management is not working, Arussy has worked with many of the world’s top brands including Mercedes-Benz, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Thomson Reuters, HSBC, E.ON, FedEx, SAP, University of Pennsylvania, and Johnson & Johnson, among many others, to recognize that the key to truly driving change for success is in putting employees at the center of transformation efforts. Follow Lior @LiorStrativity

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory?”

Following an MBA program, I started my career in sales and marketing with startup companies in Israel. I lived a year in London and another year in Milan and eventually arrived in the Silicon Valley. I held an executive position at HP in the software division where we were promoting eBanking solutions for the first time to banks in the mid-90’s. From there, I continued to NICE in the customer experience software business for contact centers. I had an “aha” moment when a client, who had purchased our solution and failed to improve their customer experience, told me “even a fool with a tool is still a fool.” That statement stuck with me. I realized that we need to mobilize people to drive change; technology is not going to do it alone. That was the beginning, the idea which led me to establish Strativity.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

As part of a consulting project, we were planning a series of training programs for employees. Upon my advice, the CEO arranged those sessions in an outside location as opposed to the HQ offices. When I was about to begin the session, one of the employees raised his hand and said, “Would you just give us our packages and let us go home please?”

I was stunned — they were all thought they were getting fired! We were there to train them on customer experience, but they feared for their jobs. That was odd.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

A CEO of a company once asked me, “Why did you stick by us? We have been such a difficult client, we were all sure you would quit.” My reply was, “Look around you. Are you proud of what we’ve achieved?” “Yes,” he responded.

“I guess I just believed in you more than you were willing to believe in yourself,” I replied.

I think this is what makes us special. We are not just in the consulting deliverables business. We believe in our clients and are willing to weather the storm with them to see the rainbow on the other side. Like good Sherpas, we are there to help them achieve exceptional performance.

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? Can you share a story?

When I started the business, I was terrified. I had 4 children in private school and a mortgage, not the best way to get started. I believed in my idea, but you never know what can happen. A friend of mine said something that stuck with me. He said, “Up until now have you been successful in what you do. What makes you think you will start failing now?” It was a bit of a wake-up call. We all go into anxiety-infused moments (sometimes longer than moments) and we need the wake-up call to get back out there and give it another shot.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

My new book, Next Is Now, is my latest project. I am excited by the premise of helping people stop fearing change and, instead, start thriving through change. It is time to stop the “change victimhood” we often feel and develop change resilience. Change resilience empowers us to live by our core cause and purpose. If I can create some hope among those fearing change, it would be very rewarding.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Our work is centered on helping employees find purpose in their everyday work by viewing it through the lenses of the impact they make on their customers. We have worked with over one million employees to date. If each of them makes the choice to treat one customer a day a bit nicer and if they deliver an exceptional experience, the result will be awesome. This is a grassroots effort to spread goodness.

Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

Healing a Fractured World by Jonathan Sacks made a big impact on me. What I love about the book is not only the recognition that the world is not perfect and it is up to us to do our best to make it better but also, and more importantly, the power of the individual. We often see those TED talks about people who changed the lives of millions with a program or discovery. That can be daunting and even demoralizing. How can I, a call center agent, truck driver, or social services worker, do the same? It feels like our power is minimized in the presence of those giants. His book helped me recognized the power of each one of us. At the moment of truth, in front of our “customer,” we are the power. It is up to us to choose to activate it.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Failure is an option — I thought I had a brilliant business plan, and I executed it in the first year with all the money I had. I failed in a spectacular way. It was a colossal failure. I couldn’t get out of bed after it happened. But I did. And since then, I’ve learned to fail and get up. It is part of the game.
  2. Get professional help — Entrepreneurs tend to do everything, trying to save money of course. I did the same, including reviewing legal contracts. When a Fortune 500 company decided to abruptly cancel our contract and take our IP for themselves, exploiting a loophole in the contract I approved, it was a painful lesson.
  3. Establish celebration rituals — Running a business is a never-ending marathon. You always wait for the next success to rest a bit. It is a moving target. Establish celebration rituals and force yourself to stop and smell the roses for few minutes
  4. The worry will never end — Manage it. Those sleepless nights and anxiety-induced states don’t go away. You do have to find ways to manage it. 2009 was a horrible year where 90% of our orders were canceled within 30 days. It was dark. I had to focus on what mattered and compartmentalize the anxiety.
  5. Dedicate time for the next — During our fast growth, we ignored important trends and paid the price of losing relevance to new competitors. You can’t be busy with today. You must schedule time to explore the next and new opportunities and technologies that are evolving.

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 see this. :-)

This is a tease, but I am willing to go along. Richard Branson. If there is a person who has always amazed me by his creative resilience and ability to reinvent industries, it is Richard Branson. I would love to have a private breakfast and ask him, among other questions, about his courage to dress up in a wedding dress just to promote a new business.