Ben Chodor Transcript

Clint Betts

Ben, thank you so much for joining us on the show. I'm so excited to talk to you. Can you tell us a little bit, before we get going here just about Call Review, how you got to be the CEO of Call Review and your journey that led us to talking to each other today?

Ben Chodor

It's a great question, Clint. First of all, I’ve been following your show and organization. Great work and I really appreciate you having me on the show. So I guess as they say in the radio business, first time, long time. I am familiar with what you do and it is a pleasure to be on the show.

I'm kind of new in the role as the CEO of Call Review. I joined the organization about 90 days ago. A great organization, probably one of the two largest in the entire space in call tracking in the auto industry. And just to give you an idea of what it means, it's like listen, every call that comes into an auto dealership, every call that goes out doesn't matter if it is to buy a new car, buy a used car, or go to service. It's important when someone contacts you that you're in the best position to close their business and Call Review has been doing it for a long time.

As I mentioned, we're one of the two largest in the space. I think we have the best technology. We've moved to AI over the last year or so. So our accuracy of collecting all the information on the calls, making sentiment, and giving really valuable information back to the dealership, back to the salespeople to help them close more business is huge.

And the same thing happens in the service industry. Call comes in, you're saying, "I want to schedule an appointment for my oil change." What else can we be offering you? What else can we be helping you with? How can we help guarantee you're going to have a good user experience, a good customer experience, and build customers for life? And our technology is needed. And like I said, we have these incredibly loyal clients in the sales side, in the service side, in the marketing side of it, where's all the data coming and giving it back to them?

The buzzword is AI, but we've been moving to AI over the last two years, before ChatGPT. We used to just call it ML, machine learning. And how do we take that information and create usable insights? And that's the key. And what brought me to the organization is the organization was going through a change and they needed a leader who has done it before. I built companies, sold companies, and worked in the private equity world. We're private equity owned, but also truly focused on employees and customers.

I think my three biggest strengths that I bring to any organization is that I like to disrupt. I like technology. I am all about our people, empowering employees. I at the end of the day want to put really, really good people around me and empower them to make decisions. And that's how you grow an organization and build really good client intimacy.

It's something that not all CEOs really truly understand the importance of how do you build really deep connected relationships with your customers? But it all starts with your employees. I had a COO once teach me. I used to always think as a startup CEO, right? It's all about my customers and payables and receivables and then my technology and number five or six on the list was employees. He taught me, he goes, "No man, you treat your employees really good. You empower your employees, have transparency with your employees. You never have to worry about your customers because they're going to worry about your customers and they're going to take care of it."

And it's something I've taken from that point on in my career. Empower your team, be transparent with them, have radical candor with them, with a focus on we're going to be a really easy company to work for and with. And that is how you build client intimacy and it's how you grow a business.

Clint Betts

I want to go in on that a little bit. Like you mentioned, hey, really into disruption and technology and the ways technology can disrupt and also really into empowering employees, getting the right people around the table, coaching them and helping them through their career.

Interestingly enough, you've mentioned AI. AI may disrupt that, what you just described. Like the whole team aspect, building a team, what is everybody concerned about? They're concerned about AI taking jobs, AI disrupting things that other folks used to do. I wonder how you think about that, how you think about the future of AI? Both the benefits and the downsides to it as it relates to people and then just generally?

Ben Chodor

I think the CEO of Adobe put it the best that I ever heard anyone put it. He said, "Don't look at AI as you're going to lose jobs over it, right? Don't look at AI." And remember, Adobe is all about creative. It helps take away the fear of the blank page. It's not, instead of you creating content and writing content, it just helps you get to that point where you're just stuck. And that is the power of AI. It's better at giving you really good information. It is better about accuracy and if anything it's going to do the tasks that none of us really, really want to do. But it's also going to create a whole new industry of employees in the gig economy or in organizations in the world of communication. So my last company was PR IR and digital media. So what's the next term that's going to be there?

My friend that a company called PRophet termed it communication engineers. And in the world of marketing, it's going to be marketing engineers. People will know how to use AI to create more content, faster content, more customized content. Because just think about if you and I were going to create a podcast and like you're doing here, we're hitting an audience, right? You're focused on CEOs, but everyone who's going to watch it is going to get the same experience. We might walk away differently, but how about if AI can sit there and go, "Man, I'm going to customize this a little bit before Ben, who's in a B2B space as a CEO, he's going to want the content a little bit like this. But Clint, who's in a B2C industry, he's going to want the content a little bit like that." How amazing if AI can help us grade it so I can deliver more customized content to the individual.

I think it's actually going to create jobs. It's going to get rid of some jobs, but it's going to create a whole new set of jobs. That's my belief. And then the other thing is don't put all your eggs in the basket of AI to create everything. It's again, like the CEO of Adobe said, it's about getting rid of the fear of a blank page. It's to help you. It's to augment it. Listen, for PowerPoint, one of the biggest pains in everyone's life is creating PowerPoint decks when they need it. And where do I start from? Companies like beautiful AI, they don't write your content for it, but man, you need images and backgrounds and what are you going to do? What better tool to help me create a more customized, more graphically appealing PowerPoint deck if that's what I want to do.

So it goes down to almost every area, and in our case using Call Review, which is perfect. If I now can get a transcript of an engagement with sentiment and summaries to you in minutes where it used to take half an hour, hours, maybe even days a couple of years ago, how valuable is that for you? And that's what we're talking about. How valuable is it for the customer? How valuable is it for the organization? And that to me is the power of AI. How am I going to use it? But anyone's going to say to me like, "Hey, I don't need a marketing department now because I'm going to use this." You're going to lose. It's not about that.

Clint Betts

Because it's pretty obvious when it's AI, right? When no human has touched it it's pretty obvious that "Hey, they just came up with all the best keywords and hit publish and it was entirely AI that did that." And I don't think that will ever win. Yeah, I don't think that wins.

Ben Chodor

But where it does help, I want to write a proposal and I want to have these nine things into it. "Hey AI, can you help me? What should I write about in these nine things?" And then make it your own words. It's really interesting. I was on the Forbes Communication Council and you get to write articles and I used to write articles and it used to be you write your article, you upload it, they review it and they post it. Just recently they've changed it to when you upload an article, it says, "Did you write this or did you write it with the assistance of AI or did AI write it?" Obviously if you wrote AI wrote it, they're probably not going to publish it. But if you're writing with the assistance of AI, how did it assist you? Did it help me think of some areas that I wasn't thinking about for that article? I think that's brilliant, but it's still got to be your own words.

Clint Betts

Yeah, when it's written as AI, it just doesn't make any sense.

Ben Chodor

No, listen, no one is a hundred percent grammatically correct. No one is a hundred percent saying the exact words and people know if these are not the words you use in your normal life. So on that side, but on the side of business, just having someone who's going to do all these tasks that used to take forever to do or that no one wants to do.

Clint Betts

How do you develop client intimacy? How do you develop those deep connections with your clients? And you've got some big clients, you've got some really interesting clients.

Ben Chodor

We have some huge automotive clients. And in my career, my last company that I ran, we had, I don't know, 40% of the Fortune 500 companies using our technology. And now some of the biggest auto manufacturers in the world and the dealerships are using our technology. It starts with employees. I don't care what anyone says, it's not just about giving them the best price. I mean, you got to give people good pricing. You got to give them really rock solid technology. You have to give them engagement, but your employees have to be invested. If your employees are not invested, then there's no way it's going to go over to customers. Engage with customers doesn't just mean blanket them with emails. Think about customers as individuals. Get on the phone with customers, set up MBRs or QBRs, send them information, engage with them.

You can't build intimacy if it's a transactional only relationship. There's lots of relationships that should be transactional only. But you're not going to build a client intimacy with transactional only. You've got to engage. You got to put in the time. You can’t just do Zoom calls and emails, you gotta get out of your house or your office and you got to go see them and you got to go where they are and become valuable to them.

And it starts with communication. I always go back to your employees, your employees that are front lines, they're the ones having the most interactions with the customers. If they don't believe what your organization is going to do and you don't back them up and empower them, you're never going to have anything more than, for the most part, a transactional relationship with them.

Clint Betts

What does a typical day look like for you? How do you choose to spend your time?

Ben Chodor

All right, so I am sort of crazy and if you ask anyone who knows me, I wake up between 4:30 and 4:45 every morning because I have to work out. So my first thing is wake up, check emails, check base, what'd I miss since I went to bed at 10 o'clock or 11 o'clock at night. I always have to work out. And then my goal is a lot of CEOs feel like I need to leave openings on my calendar so I can read a book. And I mean, there's lots of time for me to read a book and read articles. My goal is to fill up my calendar or have my employees fill up my calendar all day so every employee in my organization knows that my calendar's up-to-date. And if you want to get 15 minutes with me, 30 minutes with me, book it because I want to engage with all my employees.

I set up meetings with the different teams. And again, I'm not a micromanager, I'm an empowerer. I'm here to help. I have that fiduciary responsibility that we have to achieve our numbers, blow away our numbers. We have to grow, all that. I know what my job is, but outside of that, my job is to be a cheerleader, empowerer, helper. I am supposed to help people climb over that mountain or that wall to get to the other side. So I spend my day on one-on-ones with employees. I think that's a huge thing. I find out more when I skip levels. My leadership team is great, but they lie to me in a good way because they know what their job is. And if they need me for every decision, then I don't really need them.

It's a good thing. Just like the private equity firm that brought me in. If I need them for every decision that I'm going to make, then they don't really need me. I'm supposed to be a leader and I'm supposed to be capable of it. But when you go layers down in the organization, that's how you find out what's really going on. When I go to an office, I don't want to spend all the time with the executives. I want to go around and have lunch and engage with the employees, and that's how you build it. So my day is meeting with employees, meeting with customers. I always want to be on customer calls even if I'm not adding anything. I think it helps a lot when customers know, "Hey, I'm the CEO of the company. We have a great team, but I want you to know that I am here for you."

I've always done things like Project Thank You where we send notes to every single customer and on the bottom of it's from me, "If you need me, here's my personal information." It's not that I'm expecting every customer to call me every time there's an issue or something they need, but they need to know that from the top person in the organization to every level in the organization, we're here to support you. And I think it shows something to employees.

So my day is filled with executive meetings, budget meetings, product meetings, lots and lots of customer meetings, but I just want to know how the organization is doing. And I do a lot of check-ins. And we do weekly newsletters to the organization, very regular town halls and lots of engagement. It takes the effort, you have to put it in and it doesn't come easy.

And consistency is key because you can't do it for 30 days and then not do it and then do it again. People know. People want to know you're going to be true behind your words. Trust is earned, right? So they have to learn to trust us. And the only way to do it, especially me now in a new organization, 90 days. Yeah, my old organization that I was there for five years, they knew that, "Yeah, Ben's going to do this all the time. This is who he is." And they could tell new employees when they came into the organization. This organization, the only way to do it is I got to live it and I got to show them and I got to be there for them.

Clint Betts

How do you stay motivated day after day doing that?

Ben Chodor

It's what I'm here for. It's the best part of the entire job in the entire world. Listen, love business, love technology, love disruption. We talked about it. Love going over to P&L, all that stuff. Best part of the job in 30 years from now, when you're lying there, you're never going to sit there and go, "Man, wish I had another board meeting. Wish I had another budget meeting. Wish I was in a product meeting." You're going to sit there and you're going to remember all the personal interactions you had with people along the way. There's this great saying that someone told me once, "You die twice in your life, you die the first time you die and then you die when people don't remember you, they don't think about you and move forward." If I go work with someone in the organization and show them something and then they move to another organization, you always want people to move.

I want people to stay in the organization forever, but if they have opportunities to do something good, I'm the first one to say congratulations. If they could take just one thing, I gave them just one little thing, they might say, “ I didn’t like 99% of what Ben did, but one thing,” and take that forward and pay that forward. That's what gets you excited and motivated.

My three favorite words, and I've said it, every company I've ever run is empathy, humility, and positivity. Because the glass is half full, I'm a realist. But if you as a leader aren't the most positive, it doesn't mean you're not radically candid and you're going to tell them what's not good and what needs to get good. But even radical candor isn't a negative thing. Radical candor is "Hey, here's what we did wrong. Here's what we need to do and this is how we're going to get there."

That's positive to me, that's positive feedback. Even though it might come across as not positive, that's what it's about. So what gets me excited every day is that and goes back to your employees. I have employees that get a check every two weeks and they count on you as a leader. I take that so seriously when I go to bed at night, don't go to bed every night worrying about payables and receivables. We're a good solid company. Don't worry every day about technology. Sometimes I do, but not every day. I go to bed worrying and saying to myself, "Did I do right by my employees and the company today?" And that drives you, or at least it drives me.

Clint Betts

I'm interested in how you create culture and how you define culture, particularly like now you're in this job for the past 90 days. You were at another position at another company for the past five years. What lessons are you taking through your career, other companies you've led, things like that to now establish a culture at this company?

Ben Chodor

Well, you know what? So this one was really good for me in a way because the last company I ran, we were a series. We bought three businesses from NASDAQ who bought six other businesses and combined it. We bought three other businesses along the way, and I'm taking all different cultures and creating a new culture. Sounds harder, but in some ways it's easier because here's who we are now. We are now this company and this is what we're going to do going forward.

This organization been around 13 plus years, had a culture of its own, and I'm coming in saying, "This is what we're going to change." And my first thing is how do I unshackle this team? How do I empower this team? And if you unshackle and you empower and you engage and you say, "We're going to break down silos and we're going to share", and you're consistent with that message, you're going to get the best out of people.

You're going to see people shine because you're giving them a chance to say, "You mean I could share my idea? And there's no fear of any retribution? Nothing negative is going to happen?" The worst that's going to happen is I'm going to go, "Hey, it's a good idea, but we're not going to do it. And here's the reason why." I'm going to give you the who, what and why. I'm going to give you the reason, the rationale, and you move forward. So that's the first step, letting people know that this is a safe place. All we have is the same goal.

Take care of our employees, take care of our customers, and grow our business. It is pretty simple to walk in, grow your revenue, grow your profits, keep your employees happy and motivated, and create an intimacy with customers so they stay with you and grow with you, kind of outside. It's not easy, but on the outside you go, "Wow, if you just follow those things, those four or five things, that's how you're going to build a culture."

And it goes back to consistency. Don't do a newsletter once this week and not another one. Don't do a quarterly town hall this quarter and then miss next quarter. Don't say I'm going to do something. And it goes back to consistency and making it muscle memory so they know this is going to happen. If you tell people you're going to engage with them monthly or quarterly, engage with them. Walk the walk, show them you're willing to do it. That's how you build a culture.

And what I'm most surprised about in 90 days, I've seen the ship in this organization move. Great organization. Listen, it was a great company before I joined, just seeing how people feel like they're shining and working together. You sit back and you go, "Wow, you all had this inside you to begin with, and all I'm doing is allowing you to soar." Best gig in the world as a CEO to be able to sit there and empower people. It's great.

Plus make all the hard decisions, but those are the table stakes, right? No one's going to get into a position running a company if you can't have a fiduciary responsibility, right? Fiscally responsible, innovative, understanding marketing, understanding the industry, learning the industry, in my case. Those are table stakes. The stuff that really makes that as important is how do I get my team to even be better than they are that they didn't even know they could achieve this level? That's exciting and it's consistent.

Clint Betts

I want to touch on empathy and empathetic leadership because you mentioned that as one of your core principles. And I wonder maybe we use an example of this whole work from home, hybrid work, stay at home, everybody back at the office, this whole debate that's happening in the business world right now. Now obviously this company, you've been there for 90 days, but I wonder how you've thought about it at other companies and other roles and even how you're thinking about it here and applying the principle of empathetic leadership to that particular topic. I think that would be really interesting to hear from you.

Ben Chodor

If you knew me like 7, 8, 9 years ago, right? I'd sit there and go, "I like employees in the office." And I don't know if I liked employees in the office because they really needed to be in the office to be successful or I just love being in the office and walking around and seeing a hundred heads and feeling the energy and what you get from it. And when I took over my last company and we rolled up these companies and I went, we had offices in 17 countries and I traveled. I love being in the office because I got to see people and engage with people.

And then the pandemic happened and you had to find a different way to engage with everyone, but you realize they can still achieve great things. And now I take over this organization that since COVID really doesn't have an office. A couple acquisitions, most people are remote or everyone for the most part is remote, a couple of people in one of the offices. So there's nowhere I can go to see them except get on a plane and go see people and engage with them when you're dealing with customers. And I'm finding what this company could really achieve and it's really doing amazing things.

And what we went through during COVID, what you learn is how important their families are, how important their mental health is, how important it is that they have a work-life balance. And there's certain roles that I still think work best in an office. If you can build a BDR team, and for those of you who don't know BDR team, it's like just younger people in an organization that just dial all day to set up appointments. I think they should be in office because they need to see it. I mean not five days a week, but they need to be in the office so they can see others and they can learn and you can teach them. In the world of banking and private equity and hedge funds and VCs, they need to be in offices too because how are you going to learn that business unless you can sit in those meetings? You can't learn that over Zoom and you can't mentor.

The hardest thing to do in the world, and I love to mentor, is you can't mentor over Zoom the same way you can mentor when you're with someone over a cup of coffee or a lunch or in a conference room. So I've become so much more empathetic to working from home. I've come to understand that people could achieve so much. I also have 29-year-old boy girl twins, and so they are millennials. They all started when they graduated from college in an office and now they kind of like a hybrid and they have a better work-life balance. They work just as hard. They're just as engaged. I think the only thing they miss is you don't get that true mentoring that you would get in an office. You don't get that networking element unless you force yourself to get networking. Go to meetups, go to industry events, try to find time with your coworkers or an area and get together.

My advice is you have to go out there and you still press the flesh. You still have to talk to people and coworkers, other people in the industry and learn. But in today's world, I understand. Listen, my wife's joke to me is we've been married 30 years. We met at the University of Maryland in college, and ever since we graduated, since I had my first job, I've lived on a plane. And pre COVID, I was probably on a plane 160, 170 nights a year around that, maybe 150 nights a year. And then COVID happened and I spent two years every single day with my wife and I had dinner with my wife and my adult kids because we're all together, what a blessing, right? For two years. And that what you learn, it's like, "Whoa, this work-life balance thing is really, really important." And you can have both, but I think I got better.

COVID taught me to get better. I can turn off better when I am not at work. Where before there was never an end of work and my personal life, even though a lot of people say working from home is the same concept because you're always available. You can't say, "Hey, I'm on the road or I'm commuting home from the office", but I truly find when I am done before I'm going to do something else and I'm sitting having dinner with my wife, I think I pay better attention and I think I'm more focused now. So there's some good things that came from it as well.

Clint Betts

Given how time intensive your career is and how all-in you have to be given the different roles and stuff you've had, how have you managed being a father, a husband throughout your career? How have you managed this balance? I mean obviously COVID is a different thing, but how have you managed that? That is very difficult.

Ben Chodor

So I've had two rules that I've broken a couple of times. One is I try not to ever fly on a Sunday. Even though I had an office, several offices in Europe and it's overnight to get there. So if you want to spend a week going across Europe, seeing customers and employees, you kind of have to leave on a Sunday night. But my rule is always I don't travel on Sundays and I'm always home on Friday. And I've been like that since I was 25, 26 years old.

There's always exceptions to those rules or I'd bring my family on trips.

I also try to make every one of my son or daughter's school events. I might've not always been present. I remember coaching my son's baseball team, being one of the coaches on my son's baseball team when he was like 11 or 12 in little league and I was that father coaching first base on his Blackberry. I was there. I wasn't paying a hundred percent attention, but at least my son knew I was there. And in hindsight, looking back, I wish I put down the Blackberry and paid more attention, but I was there.

And I think that's one of the things that I've always put in my career. I need to be there. And then when I'm with them and I'm not working, giving them a hundred percent of my time. Everything I do is for my wife and kids, at least I truly believe they are my motivators. I want to be successful because I want to be able to give to my family. I want to work really hard so my kids understand what a work ethic is. And also I came from a family that didn't have a lot of money and my parents weren't encouraging and engaging and I mean they were good parents.

I had food and I had clothes, but that's really the extent of it. And I was like, "No man, we're having a family because I want to be there." I want to be a positive force and I want to empower them and give them opportunities and whatever they want to do. It doesn't matter what they want to do, but I want to be there for them. The one side of Ben is I am this hard driving leader who wants to engage and be everywhere and wants to help his team, but at the end of the day, it's like I would take a bullet for my kids. They're everything.

You're only as happy as your least happy child. And it is the true statement. And watching my kids who are very relatively successful, where they are in their careers now and doing it on their own and being able to sit there and watch that. That's what it's about. That's happiness. Those we talk about what are you going to do in 30 years when you're sitting in having a glass of wine reflecting besides saying, who did I help in my career and how did I empower? What are they saying? Yeah, did I do right for my family? It goes by that Clint, it's the fastest thing. It feels like yesterday my twins were like one year old and now they're grownups. It's important.

Clint Betts

It's crazy how fast time flies. What's it like being tapped by a private equity firm to be a CEO? I mean this is something that I think people who haven't done it would be really interested in hearing what this process is like and what it's like being the CEO of a company owned by a private equity firm.

Ben Chodor

So this is not my first time with private equity. Here's what I love about it. I mean, listen, I've done three types of companies I've done where we got VC funding. VCs have their good and bad parts too. A VC invests money in the company, takes a percentage of it. When you need more money, they're going to potentially invest more and take more of the equity. They say they are making the bet sometimes, "Boil the ocean, do everything, no, be more focused." They want you to operate, but there's a set in their mind of what they want to do. Self-funding, great way to do it, but you're always worrying about payables receivable and am I going to need more money? And how much money do I have in the bank? There's a lot of things.

Private equity is, I know what they expect from me. We have a business, it's not a startup, it's a business. We want you to be fiscally responsible. We want you to grow the business, we want you to empower, we want you to build a good culture. But when you go into a private equity deal, here's the criteria. You're in this for these reasons, achieve these reasons, but they don't change the goalpost all the time. You know where the goal is and you know what you have to do and you know what you as an individual have to do to bring it. And I kind of love it because it fits into my personality and I've done it all. I've done the garage startup, I've done the couple partners funding our own business and growing it and selling it. So I've done all sides of it, kind of like the whole private equity world.

So you know what you're getting into. I mean, they're not investing you like, "Here's money and go start a company and let's see what you do with it." It is like they've invested a lot in an organization. They are trusting you with the keys and you have to say, "I'm going to treat this car" since I'm on the auto side. "I'm going to treat this car. I'm not going to let anything happen to it and I'm going to return the car in better shape than when I got it." And that to me is really what private equity is all about.

Clint Betts

That's incredible. Is there a moment where you failed or didn't quite live up to your own expectations that you look back on now as maybe a defining turning point in your life as a leader, in your life in general? That you look to and like, "Man, that was a turning point in my life."

Ben Chodor

Well, Clint, I know this podcast is 30 plus minutes long. If we had three hours, I could tell you about all my failures along the way. I don't think you could be a good leader if you don't have failures. I think there's two things that sort of shaped me on who I am as an executive. One of them is that I truly believe that in one company that I was running very early on that I was more the most important person in the organization. I was the rainmaker. I had the idea for the technology, I put the team together, I was it. And through a few sets of things that happened, I realized that I'm not. It's okay to ask for help. I didn't think I needed help. I didn't need anyone to mentor me. I didn't need anyone to help me with decisions. I could just do it all.

I was invincible. I was young. And I realized, "Whoa, how much smarter would've been if I asked people who are smarter than me, engaged with smarter people, did not need to be the smartest person in the room?" What I've learned is by not being the smartest person in the room and putting really good people around you makes you the smartest person in the room because you were smart enough to put really smart people around you. People think they have to be the micromanaging leader. I'm really happy that I was under 30 before by the time I realized that's not how you really grow a business.

And then the second thing, which wasn't a failure, but it was a defining moment in my life is when I was 16, 17 and had a part-time job after school in a nut and bolt warehouse. Which is funny, I haven't even thought about this because now I'm in the auto space and they used to sell to auto dealers and service stations.

But when the CEO, the founder of the company, and it was like four of us high school kids who worked in the warehouse putting nuts and bolts in boxes and sending them out. If they had a rush order and they needed to get it done, he'd come back and say, "Hey, can you guys stay another four hours? We have to get this order out by nine o'clock tonight. If you stay" and now remember 16, 17, "we'll bring in pizza and beer for you guys and you'll get paid. But we're bringing in pizza and beer" and being 16, 17-year-old kids we're like, "pizza, beer, and we're going to get paid?" And his name was Sam Gilbert. And we'd go, "Anything you want, Sam." And the one thing I learned is he appreciated us.

Now listen, he probably made a lot of money by that order going out, but in a 16, 17-year-old mind, he wanted to feed us. He was going to give us something that we really couldn't get on our own. And he was going to pay us. And he respected our time. Didn't say you had to do it, appreciate it.

And everywhere I've ever gone through there, I realize everything you're going to ask someone to do, be appreciative of it. Thank you, is a really underused word. It's like, thank you. I mean, I know it's part of your job, but thank you. I mean, you're making us a better company. What's wrong with it? Doesn't make you weak to say thank you. I think it makes you really strong.

And that guy, Sam, after he did it the first couple times, if he asked us to do anything, we'd be like, "Anything for you because you treated me with respect." And the same guy when I went to college and I was having a little trouble in college and he happened to be in Maryland. I grew up in New Jersey, but he was in Maryland for some business thing, he would come to the campus and he took me out to lunch and we'd be able to talk. The first mentor I ever had. And then of course after that, when I graduated from college and got my jobs and started my first business on my own, of course I didn't think I needed a mentor, but I learned that he's made me the leader I am. And I've told him that I wrote a book at the end of 2020 and he was my dedication because I truly am the leader I am because there was someone who saw something in me, empowered me, and trusted me to get something done and thanked me and meant a lot.

Clint Betts

Yeah, it's pretty incredible. The power of beer too is another thing that I took out of that. That's pretty incredible.

Ben Chodor

As a 16, 17-year-old, it's the greatest thing ever. But it's just like, yeah, be appreciative.

Clint Betts

Real quick, I have two more questions for you. One is as you know, as CEOs and leaders, more and more, you're getting asked to or forced to really look at the macroeconomic environment and what's going on. And not just that, but what's going on in the world, the state of the world, it seems like more and more, probably since 2014, 2015, somewhere around in that area, CEOs have become kind of public figures in a way where they're asked to comment on the state of the world that has nothing to do with their business.

And that's great or it's not great. I have no idea. But I wonder what your take is on that aspect of the job now, which must be different than it used to be, and then just your current take on the macroeconomic environment, how it's affecting your company, how you see it, and just the general state of the world and how you stay positive given the state of the world.

Ben Chodor

Don't turn on the news as a way to stay positive with everything that's happening in the world. But in all seriousness, I mean there's a couple ways to look at it. One is the comment you meant about CEOs being a face and giving comments. First of all, I believe every CEO, as a matter of fact, every employee should be a micro influencer if they believe in the company.

So company-wise, business-wise, 10 years ago, CEOs were not always in the front of their businesses. I think you need to be social, you need to talk and tout about your products, your company, your customers, your employees. And it's something that I take a lot of pride in because I need to be the biggest cheerleader of my team.

I've stayed out of talking about anything socially, political or other areas. For me, two reasons. One is I don't know if I really have the credibility to really talk about that. And two, I think everyone is allowed their own opinions and they should be respected for it. And if I give an opinion that's different from the rest of the world, then why? Why am I doing that? That's not what I'm here for. I'm here to run a company, build a good culture, and make the world a little bit better.

Will I message things and talk about things that have to do with mental health? Absolutely big. I'm a big fan of an organization called Bring Change to Mind that basically works with youths in high schools and builds clubs so they have people to talk to, huge believer of, I should use whatever power, real power, fake power, whatever you want to call it, for things like that to bring awareness to that. But not on political views or general economic views of the world. But on the other side of it, when you asked the question what the world's going through economically now and where it's going is for my business.

Listen, when business is good, it's good for a company like mine. When the economy isn't, in some ways it's good for a company like mine because in the auto business, if I can help you sell more cars, engage and build better customer loyalty, it's needed. And when the economy is really great, it's needed because there's so much coming in, how do I cut through? How do I make sure I'm still giving good customer support, good product, good service, everything that goes along with it?

So for me, and since I'm not young, I've lived through it all right? I've lived through the dotcom boom, the dotcom bust, the subprime, I've seen it come, I've seen it go. I was in New York City when 9/11 happened and had to walk home through the Lincoln Tunnel. So I was there. And so I know the world's going to go like this, but it's how are you going to work your way in it and engage it and not put your head in the sand?

And that goes back to having transparency with your employees and having radical candor and engaging, letting them know, "Here's what we're facing in the next quarter or two quarters" and having answered this is how we're going to win. This is how we're going to get to the other side. That's what you turn to your leaders for. And that's where it's not just about being an MBA and understanding Excel and math, and it's about do you understand humans? Do you understand business? Do you understand culture? And what's going to get people through that is really, to me, the best CEOs in the world. Those are the ones, right? The ones who can actually weather those storms and keep on bailing the water out of the boat and keep it going, that is the part that they pay us for. If it was easy, anyone would do it, right?

Clint Betts

Yeah, that's right. Finally, we end every interview the same way with the same question, and that is at we believe the chances one takes is just as important as the chances one gives. I wonder when you hear that, and you've actually kind of touched on a couple of minutes ago, who gave you a chance to get you to where you are today?

Ben Chodor

So it's two. So I mentioned Sam, but he didn't give me a chance. I mean, he paid me six bucks an hour or whatever it was, and he gave me respect. I started a company and then when I was going to take this technology that I was playing with at the time, it was streaming media. And had this great idea, and I had this partner, the Greater New York Hospital Association, and the president of the association was a guy named Lee Perlman, and he believed in me and we started a business together that worked with hospitals all over the country using streaming media in healthcare, and we got investment from Babies R Us and Toys R Us and other organizations. But here I was, a younger person that had an idea of how to use streaming media and he believed in it and put it together.

And I will forever be thankful that someone who did not have to trust this kid from New Jersey who didn't go to Wharton or Harvard, went to the University of Maryland who had an idea and really believed in something, back it and partner with it and help grow it.

I try to do the same thing, I look for people and I want to empower and mentor when I have the opportunity. And yeah, I mean, it's funny, I haven't thought about that, but if he never gave me that chance and believed in something, never worked with banks and VCs and businesses, strategic investors, and I got to sit in all those meetings at a young age and it was like this incredible masters that I was able to get. And yeah, I haven't thanked him. So Lee Perlman, and thank you so much for believing in this kid.

Funny story about it is that business grew, but then it went away. There's a whole other story why it went away, but there was a piece of the technology I wanted that I developed and my deal with them was when we went away, it's like, "I'll give you like 10% of my business if you give us the technology."

It might've been 8%, whatever the percentage of the business was and went, started the next company. Six years later, we sold that company and writing that guy a check or us writing him a check or the organization for a good seven figure check was the greatest thing to me because he believed in me, didn't work out perfectly, left. He allowed me to use some technology. He probably thought you're never going to see anything from it. And then six years later be able to come in and say, "Here's, thank you for believing." So sometimes paying it forward works.

Clint Betts

That's incredible. Ben, thank you so much for taking the time. This has been incredible. I'm sure we'll have you on again and best of luck with everything.

Ben Chodor

Thank you, Clint.

Clint Betts

Thank you so much.

Ben Chodor

Thank you, Clint. This was great. I really appreciate it.

Daily Newsletter

For Leaders

Subscribe to the newsletter read by the world's most influential CEOs.