Our latest guest Betsy Westhafer is an expert in facilitating conversations between organizations and their customers. Her work with The Congruity Group empowers organizations to get aligned with their customers, elevate their conversations, deepen their relationships, and improve their strategies and outcomes. Through transparency and judgement-free feedback sessions, executive teams and customers can learn from one another and grow together. Humans helping humans.
In an inspiring and memorable conversation, Betsy discusses the importance of diverse perspectives in the corporate world and beyond. She reminds us that we can't do everything on our own, and the things we may not want to hear are all opportunities to learn and grow—both for ourselves and our organizations.
Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.
YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human
Alex Cullimore: Hey there, Cristina.
Cristina Amigoni: Hey. What's going on?
Alex Cullimore: We just got off the horn, so to speak, with Betsy Westhaver.
Cristina Amigoni: Yes, off the microphone.
Alex Cullimore: Throw away – These phone languages are suddenly coming out of my – That's where we're at now.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. It's okay. That's where we are. It's a great conversation. Lots of stories. Love what they do and what the herd company does and how they just really focus on building relationships across companies and across boards and executive boards. Because that's really where the magic happens, is people, humans, and humans in the same room seeing each other as humans with some coaching before that so that they enter the room with the right mindset.
Alex Cullimore: And then magically, there's like nearly exponential value. Her stories are incredible. But it's just one of the best applications I have heard to date and gotten to be so close to witness of using like you're saying, human nature is a huge to tremendous business advantage, right? She's written two books about this. One of them is called The Rarest Advantage. It's a perfect example of what we stand to gain when we really back off of all of the defenses that we put up, all the ego that we put into our work, and when we really let it just – It's incredible. We think of so much competition in the workplace. And this is the perfect example of how to make this work cooperatively. I was very inspired. It was wonderful to see her speak at KAMCon. And this was, once again, just very refreshing.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, it definitely was. A Very infinite mindset. And I just really love it’s not just bringing people together in a room and letting them be their autopilot selves. But it's more about like, okay, we're walking into the room with a certain mindset and expectations, which I really hope those executives bring back to their companies and how they work with their teams because it's hugely powerful. It's the, "Okay. You're here to listen for 80% of the time. Not talk," which is very unlike the executive role that most people are used to. And the 20%, when you do talk, it's about clarifying questions and curiosity.
Alex Cullimore: That's a tremendous idea. And just the idea of walking into a meeting with that kind of intention and just having your intention. If you can do that on a day-to-day basis, I mean, there's no limit to what you can do. It's just hard to have that presence of mind. And it's such a great company that she's put together to go create that for a very key moment in time and be able to replicate that over and over again. It's very cool. I hope everybody gets something from it. It's a wonderful conversation.
Cristina Amigoni: It is. It is. I almost want to adopt just that role and apply it to our change management projects and be like, "Okay, we've got this meeting. This is the rule on how we approach the meeting. Now, let's see what comes out of that."
Alex Cullimore: We just need to be able to coach the people who are about to adopt it.
Cristina Amigoni: Listen and enjoy. Definitely worth it.
Alex Cullimore: Betsy Westhaver. Enjoy.
Welcome to Uncover the Human where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives.
Cristina Amigoni: Whether that's with our families, co-workers, or even ourselves.
Alex Cullimore: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.
Cristina Amigoni: This is Cristina Amigoni.
Alex Cullimore: And this is Alex Cullimore. Let’s dive in.
Cristina Amigoni: Let’s dive in.
“Authenticity means freedom.”
“Authenticity means going with your gut.”
“Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.”
“Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.”
“It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.”
“Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.”
“It's transparency, relatability. No frills. No makeup. Just being.”
Alex Cullimore: Welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. We are joined by our guest, Betsy Westhaver. Welcome, Betsy.
Betsy Westhaver: Hey. How are you, Alex? Hi, Cristina. Great to be here.
Cristina Amigoni: Hi. Great to have you.
Alex Cullimore: Great to have you on. We got to meet Betsy at KAMCon a couple of months ago. And we were huge fans of the presentation. But let's give it to you, Betsy. What's your background? What are you doing? What are you up to?
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah, thanks. What I’m doing now, is I am the CEO of The Congruity Group and we do executive-level strategic customer advisory boards. Basically, we work with our client's executive teams to have a systematic way of engaging with the executives of their strategic accounts. We have a whole methodology for how we do that. I love everything about what we do. Most importantly, the impact we're able to make on our clients. But it's an education of a lifetime sitting in the boardrooms hearing these executive-level conversations, developing the relationships, and validating strategies, all those kinds of fun things. That's what I do now.
The path that got me here was a little twisted. But I did a lot of entrepreneurial things just kind of all over the board. I was the stereotypical entrepreneur where I had an idea every 15 minutes and couldn't really maintain my focus. And struggled with that for a number of years. And then, fortunately, landed on this with the help of some colleagues that asked me really good questions. And I’d love to share how that happened.
I had gotten to the point where I had exited the company that I had co-founded and that gave me just a little bit of runway to kind of figure out what I wanted to do next. And I was thinking, "Oh, I have interest in this. I have interest in that. I might be good at that. Here's something that has always intrigued me." Just kind of all over looking at all the options.
And a friend of mine, a former colleague, said, "Stop for a minute, Betsy." She said, "Instead of thinking about what you could do, think about what you have done and where you've made the greatest impact." And I was like, "Oh, without a doubt, customer advisory boards." And I just thought it was such a great question because I had not thought about looking backwards. Nobody teaches you to look backwards. And I was like, "Oh, yeah, customer advisory boards." And she said, "Well, why aren't you doing that?" And I was like, "I hadn't even thought about it." Because I had done this work for another company about 15 years ago.
And so, I took the time that I usually take, which was about 15 minutes, to really think something through. And I decided, yeah, that's where I want to plant my flag. Started working on a new company name, a logo, and a website, and off to the races. And got fortunate that I got a couple of quick wins with some clients. And then it's just grown from there.
It's been about seven years since we started Congruity. And we're located in Dayton, Ohio. And we're growing pretty quickly. And it's getting very exciting. And our team is growing. Our client list is growing. And it's just a really fun place to be right now.
Alex Cullimore: That's incredible. Yeah, just for context's sake, for anybody who doesn't know, what is a customer advisory board, especially from your point of view?
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah. You always hear about these companies that put a lot of money into R&D, put a lot of money into marketing, put a lot of money into product development, product launch. And they go out, and the product or service falls flat. And that's because they did all of that work in a bubble. And they didn't actually engage. And we're not talking about focus groups with the feature function type stuff. We're talking about strategic decisions that help make sure that a product is going to succeed in the marketplace.
What we do is we bring those decision-makers, those market decision-makers, into a room with the company and have them on board the whole journey. And that includes the business model, the operational side of it, the marketing and messaging, and the challenges in the industry. Anything that is going to provide those strategic insights to the host company to help them succeed and grow.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. I remember when you gave your speech at KAMCon, as you were talking about the success of bringing the executives together, and being in the same room, and being on the same page and the constant of that. So, not just once, or the beginning, or the end, or in the middle, or when the account is in jeopardy. But throughout the whole process, how it really reminded me of change management success and change management projects. There's a very clear distinction between when there's constant dialogue with the executive sponsoring the change and when there isn't. It's almost a direct impact on the success of the change.
Betsy Westhaver: Absolutely. And so, having that methodical approach and having somebody that this is – I mean, this is our expertise. This is our day job. It's what we do all day every day. I’ve seen other organizations where they try to manage it internally and they try to squeeze it into their day job. And inevitably, things start falling through the cracks, or priorities take over. And so, then you get this hit-and-miss fits and starts kind of cadence with these meetings, which actually can do more damage to a relationship than if you have somebody that's helping make sure that it happens all the time. Because of that consistency – To your point, Cristina, that consistency is what really, really elevates these conversations and what helps deepen the relationships. Builds the trust. Really creates that opportunity for forward progress basically co-innovating with the customers that you want to spend their money paying for your products and services.
Alex Cullimore: Co-innovating, that's a great word choice. It must be fairly well-facilitated conversations. Because that would be easy to go off the rails if you're not being very careful with it. Do you guys provide a lot of that service to your feeling – I would imagine having that third party would be super helpful.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah. We really advise people not to try to do this themselves. Not to be self-serving. I mean, use us. Use somebody else. But really having that third-party. And there are several reasons for that. One is you are putting your executives in a room with the executives, your strategic accounts. That is a high-risk initiative. Because if it doesn't go well, the damage can be pretty significant. You want to make sure that whoever's doing it knows what they're doing. Preps the executive team going into it. Make sure they're aligned. The Left-hand knows what the right hand is going to do. And say, going into this meeting, that they're well-versed on who else is in the room.
But the other reason is you don't want to have to shut down one of your customers. If you're facilitating it yourself and some guy goes off the rail or girl goes off the rails or goes deep into something that's just relevant to them, it's very awkward if they're your customer to try to shut that down. And so, having a neutral bad cop kind of person in there that knows how to gracefully get that back on track is good.
And then finally, the third reason is just being able to ask questions with no bias and then do the report back with no bias. It's nobody's fault. It's just human nature, that if somebody has skin in the game or has an agenda wanting the conversation to go a certain direction, it's very, very difficult for them not to lead it down a path.
And so, as neutral third-party observers, we're able to facilitate that meeting in a way that's going to get to the actual heart of what's being discussed without the bias injected into it.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, that's an excellent point. The third-party unbiased piece, I find it's very important. Because of that, there are relationships. Then there are relationships that have perspectives and have agendas, their own agendas, trying to form and having your group outside like looking in and be like, "Okay, the success here is the relationship actually working." And so, it's not about who wins and who loses. Or taking one side or the other. It's totally neutral. It's like it's about the process and getting the relationship to succeed.
Betsy Westhaver: Right. And you certainly don't want your customers to have visibility into that internal infighting, or land grab, or ego contest, or any of that. This really helps neutralize that.
Alex Cullimore: Yeah, that makes sense. We've definitely had some experiences with the executive land grabs and the personalities.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah, it happens.
Alex Cullimore: I mean, it sounds awesome. It's just a learning experience. You get to have these conversations across, I assume, many industries. Do you guys have particular verticals you see or anybody who can come to the door?
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah, our methodology works for any industry, any size company. We work pretty much exclusively with enterprise-size companies across several industries. It's funny, we haven't really targeted an industry. But we find that logistics companies are coming to us, which is really exciting in light of everything that's going on with the supply chain and just all the challenges in that particular industry. We are getting into health care a lot more, which I also really embraced because there's a lot going on there. There are so many conversations that need to happen in each of those industries. And then we have online technology companies that we have a client that does online literacy curriculum, which is also it's been fascinating to sit in these meetings and hear what they are going through when schools were shut down and just all of the challenges that are going on in schools.
Right now, the conversations that happen are very serious and have a long-term impact on our kids and just the future. And so, a lot of these conversations that we have been so hot and relevant right now and for the foreseeable future. Like I said, we don't target a particular industry. But the industries that are finding us are really industries that we enjoy participating in.
Cristina Amigoni: That's wonderful.
Alex Cullimore: Well, all those are great examples of ones that would be strong partnerships with their customers, too, in logistics, healthcare, and education.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it doesn't get much more impactful than that.
Cristina Amigoni: Definitely. What have you found some of the challenges and also wins when you bring in humans together in a room? They have an agenda because they come in with the agenda. And they also have a certain personality level. I mean, executives are usually people that go in and they're like, "Okay, let's get to work. Let's get this done. What decisions am I supposed to be making?" And walk out.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah. If we do our job well, we pretty much have them ready to go in and just receive the information. We do a full coaching session, and prep session in advance of each meeting with the executive team of the host company. And so, we talk to them about things like your job is to listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time, which that's an adjustment for an executive.
And then we further that and say that 20% of the time that you're talking, that should come in the form of asking probing and clarifying questions. Because your job is to really dig deep. Find out what they're really saying. And so, we coach them also, like, you're not here to find a solution. You're not here to do anything. You're not there to process what's going on, what you're hearing. It’s just gathering, gather, gather, gather the information. And then when you get back to the office, you can decide what to start doing with what you heard. We really coach them to just listen and ask really good questions. That's really all they have to remember.
We also tell them, when they're responding, not to say things like, "Yeah, we tried that already. It didn't work." Or "Oh, yeah, that's definitely something we'll do." You don't want to make any promises that you're going to do anything. You don't want to negate what somebody's having to say. You don't even want to say things like, "Oh, good point." Because if you say that to one board member and not to another one, it might make that other one feel like, "Oh, I guess my point wasn't good," and it will tend to shut people down if they're not getting the same kind of feedback.
We just coach them to say things like, "We'll take that under advisement." Or "Thank you for sharing that point." Or something very neutral rather than any kind of validating type statement when they hear what the customers are saying.
Generally speaking, we don't have a lot of challenges with the executives, because we do a lot of work upfront to make sure – And by virtue of making the investment in us in taking these customers to a nice location, being out of the office for two or three days, it's a huge overall investment for them in terms of time and resources. Generally speaking, if their mindset is to do an initiative like this, generally speaking, they are open-minded to the feedback and want to listen and want to hear what they have to say. It's really not too challenging with the executives that we work with.
Cristina Amigoni: Those are some great examples.
Alex Cullimore: Those are all excellent.
Betsy Westhaver: I'm sorry?
Cristina Amigoni: Oh, go ahead. Excellent examples of how to be in the room without going to default mode. And the preparation time, I’m sure it's very valuable because the default mode is so the day-to-day for the executive levels. And hopefully, they take some of the skills that they learn, the 80% of listening, the only asking clarifying questions outside of the customer advisory board and even with their own leaders and their own teams.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah, yeah. That's a good point. Now, I will say that with building a lot of networking time, a lot of breaks, of course, nice dinners, hanging out in the bar afterward, all that kind of stuff. That's their chance to really start building the relationship, maybe talking a little bit more, sharing some stuff.
And I failed to mention, and this is really a key point, all of these conversations are held under NDA. We're really looking for the customers to share things that they might not normally share, but also for the executives of the host company to share. For example, when the meeting kicks off, we might ask the CEO to share their strategic plan. And here are some of the capital expenditures we're looking at. We're looking to expand into this market. Different things that may not be public knowledge yet that this core set of customers will have access to hearing before anyone else. The fact that it's an NDA-type conversation also helps build that trust and helps the executives really want to listen to what they have to say.
Alex Cullimore: Yeah, it makes sense. I’m interested to hear what their reactions are. Do you get to talk to any of the customers afterward as well? What is the feeling on either side after these?
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah. So, what we do at the end of each meeting, we separate the host company from the customers for about half an hour, and we do an oral debrief and then a printed survey. Generally, one of our consultants will take the customers and say, "Okay, what do you want to tell us that maybe you didn't want to share in the room? Not specific to the conversations. But what went well? What would you like to see more of? What topics would you like to discuss in the next meeting? Anything that we can improve upon?" We have just this conversation.
We do get some good insights. It's not anything that they're necessarily withholding during the main meeting. But there may not have been an appropriate time to share it. We try to get the last bit of insights that we can get from them at this debrief at the end of the meeting. And so, then we do a survey. And what we measure our success on is – One of the questions on the survey is how would you rate the value of this meeting on a scale of one to five?
And we know that if the customers are feeling that it's a highly valuable use to their time and that they're getting a lot out of being a participant on this board, that by default, that will be highly valuable to our clients. That's the metric that we watch at Congruity to make sure that we're doing our job well.
And I’m super excited that, over seven years, the meetings that we've done over the last seven years, our average value score from the customers is 4.87 out of five. We know we're doing something right. And that's very important to us, because like I said, that becomes very valuable to our clients.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, that's wonderful.
Alex Cullimore: Yeah, that is a high score.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah. We’re working really hard to keep it that way. That's one of the things we look at every week in our team calls is that metric, because that's where we know we're succeeding if we can keep that score up above that number.
Alex Cullimore: I’m definitely curious, too. What other kind of take away some executives get? Not necessarily strategic decisions, obviously, since that's NDA covered. But what they feel like this has got to be – Like Cristina was saying, a bit of a different operating mode. What does it feel like on the customer side? What do they feel from it?
Betsy Westhaver: There are a lot of different places of value for the customers. The biggest one is probably having access to the leadership team of a key supplier. Access and influence.
If you think about it, if you're dependent on a key supplier to run your company, and that key supplier invites you into this confidential conversation and says, "What do you think? And how would this work best for you?" That's a huge value to the customers to be able to weigh in on those strategies and make sure that this is going to continue to be a long-term working relationship now and whatever's on the horizon. That's a big element of value for the customers.
Another one is that peer-to-peer interaction. If you think about all of these customers coming around the table – We usually have 10 to 15 executives in the room with the host company. And we'd like to do a two-to-one ratio. We have two customers for every executive from the host company. And you're bringing them together. And they all have this common experience of being in the same role because we make sure that the levels are peer-to-peer and working with this same supplier. So, they can talk about best practices. They can talk about challenges. They could talk about use cases. They could talk about maybe this customer's using A, B, C services. And this one is not using B.
And this is what I love when this happens. The customers start kind of cross-selling each other, like, "Oh, you don't use them for B? You should use them for B. They do a great job on B. And you absolutely need to start thinking about talking to them about this additional service." And so, the host company sits back and watches their customers cross-selling to each other. It's magic when that happens. And it happens a lot. A lot more than you would think.
There's just a whole lot of value, and the value of having a peek behind the curtain. They're hearing things before any of their counterparts are hearing them. And they can base their decisions on what they're hearing in the room.
And that reminds me of a story I’d love to share. One of our clients, we had had two board meetings. But it was one CEO's first meeting. This was a logistics company. The people in the room were the executives of pretty much every major retail brand you've ever heard of. And at the end of the meeting, my client came up to me. He's the chief commercial officer. And he's like, "Betsy, you're not going to believe what just happened." We're still in the boardroom. We're packing stuff up, saying our goodbyes, blah blah blah. And the chief commercial officer comes up to me, "You just won't believe what happened." And I said, "What?" He said, "This one CEO came up to him before he even left the boardroom, and it was his first time attending this CAB. And he said, "I got to tell you, a year ago, we decided we were done with you guys. And we've started talking to your competitors. We couldn't see your commitment to us as a customer. We couldn't see where you were heading. Couldn't see how working with you was going to help us succeed." And he said, "We've already started the process to move on."
He said, "I got invited to this. I thought, "Well, I’ll see what they have to say." And he said, "Now, I see how your strategies align with ours and how I’m going to grow my company. I see how committed you are to the customers. And so, our contract with you is up a year from now. Let's renegotiate it now. Let's make it a three-year deal. And let's add on all of our international business," which was amazing and huge.
And so, at that point, my client says to me, "As far as I’m concerned, the first two meetings have paid for the next 10 years of CAB meetings." But then what happened, and this is where it gets really exciting, that the CEO became such an advocate for that company, the host company, that they made a referral to another retailer in the UK. That retailer became a customer of our client. And then very quickly rose to be a top 20 account for them.
If you think of the ROI of this – Yeah, it's a big outlay initially. But the ROI is – And honestly, that's not an unusual story. It's a big story. But it's not an unusual story. And so, the ROI, not to mention all the relationship building and trust that goes on. And that's one member of one board. And we have some clients that have multiple boards either by industry, or by vertical, or by geographic region. And they have multiple boards and then multiple people serving on those boards. You extrapolate what that – When those kinds of things happen and you take it by 20 or 30 people, how explosive that can be for your company.
Cristina Amigoni: That's incredible. Must be great to like to know those stories and be like, "Yes, this is magic. It is working."
Betsy Westhaver: It is. It really is. It's very, very fun to watch that happen. And I’ve captured a lot of these stories in my book. And that's what I really want to put a real example of what this can do for your company to explore its growth.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, it's so powerful.
Alex Cullimore: We always talk about wanting to work with human nature rather than work against it. And this is just such a great example of, that you've got people getting to interact. They all want to help each other. You get into a room where you can actually just be transparent. Suddenly everything is just connecting. Everybody's willing to shed the armor a little bit and actually make the connections. It's very inspiring. It's really cool to see that working on such an explosive scale.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah, and it's fun for me because I have always been a very anti-conflict person. I just want to hold hands and have everybody be happy every day. And it's just my nature. And so, we go into these boardrooms, and we're not trying to come to a consensus. And we're not trying to solve a dicey issue. And we're not doing anything other than how can we work really well together. What do you need from me? How can we support you? Here's what we're thinking. Do you think we're on the right track? And it is kind of a kumbaya kind of meeting where it's just for the betterment of everybody in the room. And that's what makes it really – I mean, I love the impact and all the things we've already talked about. But this is what makes it so much fun, is because everybody's so happy to be there to try to help one another.
Cristina Amigoni: Humans helping humans.
Betsy Westhaver: Yep.
Alex Cullimore: Yeah. I think it's funny you mentioned that that's just kind of your nature. You tend to be, yeah, a little bit more or less. Let's all get together and get along. But that would then imply you perfectly aligned your values and how you would like people to interact with, creating an entire company around it. It's a wonderful synergy there of just what you wanted, what you created, and what that can do. It's really cool.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah. And like I said, it's been a long-twisted road to get to this point. And I do think – And that's why I love what you guys do on your podcast. When you align with your own values and what matters most to you and you're really in your authentic space, that's when great things really start to happen. And that's where I find myself at this point in my career, is doing the things that just feel right to me. And I know we've talked a lot about what that authenticity means.
And I think I shared with you, just kind of backtracking a little bit. Many, many years ago, I had a position with a company. And I can tell you exactly, it was 1999. And I had three small kids and was commuting to this job. And it was just a very bad year for us personally. We lost my dad. Nine weeks later, we lost my father-in-law. My kids lost both grandpas in a matter of nine weeks. We had two siblings diagnosed with cancer. We had two uncles pass away. And two of my children had surgeries. It was just that horrible year that I hope to never ever relive again.
And but I was still maintaining my job. And I was doing the best I could. And I was working from home some before working from home was a thing. But I was staying on top of that. I was getting everything done. And one day I opened up my email and there was an email from my boss. No salutation. No previous conversation to back up this email. All it said was tell your children they've used up all your sick days.
And that was the biggest gut punch and the biggest blessing at the same time because I realized I am not in the right place. This is not the type of environment I want to be in for myself or for my family. I’m not going to do my best work in an environment like that. I very quickly resigned from that position.
And fortunately, and the reason I say it was a blessing, is because I immediately hopped in my car and drove five hours and got to spend the last two weeks with my dad. It was the best thing that could have happened. Although, at the time, it was the biggest gut punch.
And so, it actually has been very inspiring to me. Because I always told myself from that point forward, "If I ever have a chance to be a leader or have my own company, that I will do everything in my power to avoid a scenario where anybody ever feels the way I felt that day."
And so, in our culture, I work very, very hard on keeping a culture of authenticity, respect, and flexibility, and family-first values. And I always say that work should fit into your life. Not the other way around. And so, that's probably the biggest source of joy for me, and being an entrepreneur is being able to create this environment. Especially, over the last couple of years, we have young families that work for congruity. And on any given day, you don't know what kind of call you're going to get from the school, that your kid's been exposed, or your kid's sick, or we're shutting down, or whatever the case may be. And just being in a position to not just say, "Go home. It's fine." But "Go home. It's fine. And don't give it a second thought. Don't feel bad about it. Don't think, "Oh, I should be at the office. But at least they're nice enough to let me come home." None of that. We want it to be like, "Okay, I’m in an environment where it's safe to do this and I don't even have to feel guilty about it."
Cristina Amigoni: That's very powerful. Heartbreaking, your story. Truly heartbreaking.
Alex Cullimore: The opposite end of the spectrum from all of the –
Cristina Amigoni: Yes.
Betsy Westhaver: I’ll never forget it, I’ll tell you that.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. One of those universe moments. It's like this is going to hurt. But I’m looking out for it. And here it comes."
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah. I think a lot of entrepreneurs have that story that is just the gut thing that drives them. And for some people, some entrepreneurs are former athletes, and they're super competitive, and they're out to win the race. And that's never been me. That's not how I feel. But everyone has that thing inside them that drives them.
And for me, that story is what really drives me. And probably why I never fit in, and when I was trying really hard to be an employee. I mean, it's not that I don't want to be a team player. I do. But just personality-wise, I’m just like, "No. I got to do this in a way that feels right for me." That's probably the biggest driver of my entrepreneurial nature.
Cristina Amigoni: We can definitely relate to that.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah.
Alex Cullimore: Everything, from gut punches, to not. Yes.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, let me shave off this corner, and that corner, and push that to the side and see if I can be fine fitting in. Nope. Not working. Out.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I used to apologize for it. In fact, I remember being at a concert several years ago when I was still kind of flipping around trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. And I was standing in line at the concession stand at this outdoor concert. And this gentleman that I knew came up behind me and goes, "What are you doing now, Betsy?" And it really embarrassed me. And I was like, "Oh, no, no. I’m settled in." I felt very defensive.
And then I thought, "That's ridiculous. I’ve gotten all these different experiences that I’m grateful for that have led me to where I am. And I really want to get the message out to stop apologizing for your journey." Yeah, I was all over the board. And there's no need for me to apologize for that.
I’m laughing at your cat on the video.
Cristina Amigoni: Hey, guest.
Alex Cullimore: You doing alright?
Cristina Amigoni: Yes.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah. I find that people feel like they have to apologize for their stories or their journeys. And once I let that go – And I did. I worried about that comment way too much. I put way too much emotional equity into someone saying that to me. And once I learned to let that go and be like, "Oh, yeah. No. I’ve had all these great experiences," and just really flip it on its head. It's not me bouncing around from job to job and all of that. It's me finding all these different experiences of things that ultimately will lead me to where I need to be. And fortunately, seven years ago, I landed. I really want to encourage people to never apologize for their journey.
Cristina Amigoni: That's a wonderful message. I also can relate to that. I used to have a three-year expiration date on all jobs and opportunities. It's like, "Yep." And then some got shorter, and some get longer. But also, I can definitely relate to that feeling of, "Oh, what are you doing now, Cristina."
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah. Oh, yeah, it happened to me all the time. And then you know I was like taking off the last two entries on my LinkedIn profile because I didn't want people to see all the different things I had done. But, yeah, now – And I think that's one of the beautiful things about getting older, is having the wisdom to know that it just doesn't matter. And you don't have to apologize to anyone for who you are.
That's what I love about the message that you guys are getting out there, is just this being your authentic self. And we don't owe anybody explanations for how we live our lives. We really don't. That leads to so much peace when you let go of that. And I think that's just what comes with age and wisdom. I’m coming up on a big milestone birthday in October. I will be 60 years old, which I can't even believe, because I don't feel like it at all.
Cristina Amigoni: You don't look like it at all.
Betsy Westhaver: Oh, thank you. But just getting to that point in your life where you just realize what really matters and what really doesn't is very, very peaceful.
Cristina Amigoni: That's wonderful.
Alex Cullimore: That makes sense.
Cristina Amigoni: Really truly wonderful.
Alex Cullimore: There's a book I read recently called Range by David Epstein, which is about like that just sampling as much as you can because then you start to figure out what you want to be. And obviously, finding that actual inner peace is the goal regardless. But it's a good book if in case anybody is also feeling similarly a little out or wrung out or like they're asked why they change jobs so much. Because I can relate to that one, too. That one's definitely got some expiration dates.
Betsy Westhaver: It's so funny to think that colleges ask 18-year-olds to declare a major. How in the world does that make sense? It just is amazing to me.
Alex Cullimore: You've had absolutely no experience with how the real world works.
Betsy Westhaver: None, whatsoever. And yeah, what's your major? And you need to learn how to do it in four years. To me, there's something wrong with that logic. But –
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, definitely. Usually boils down for me – At least, it boiled down to like, "Well, I like these professors. And my friends are in those classes. So that's my major."
Betsy Westhaver: Or, "Ooh, that building's a lot closer than that building. I don't want to go into education, because that's all the way across campus."
Cristina Amigoni: Yes. I can roll out of bed and just walk into class.
Betsy Westhaver: Yup, exactly.
Alex Cullimore: You talked a little about your journey into Congruity Group. What led you to it? And I’m curious, you've done all these advisory boards. You've got to see these executives. How does it inform how you approach being an executive? You're a CEO yourself.
Betsy Westhaver: Oh, thanks. Great question. Yeah. We got to Congruity, like I said, just drawing on past experience. I got to travel all over the world about 20 years ago working for a company pretty much like Congruity. And I was just traveling way too much. I still had kids at home. My youngest son was captain of the football team. And I was gone on Friday nights. And I was like, "I’m not missing his senior year." That's when I left and did a few other employment-type situations. One thing led to another. And ultimately landed here at Congruity.
All of those experiences have been really helpful to me. And now, seeing what the conversations that happen in the boardrooms have really helped me as a leader to understand that I can't do this on my own. And I need to validate my own thinking. When you have an idea and you're excited about it, you think, "Oh, this can't fail." And you have to let that go and basically take the coaching that we give our executives, is just take it all in. Ask people. Get different perspectives.
When we recruit these customers to serve on the board, we make sure we have a really diverse perspective. We don't want all raving fans. We don't want all naysayers. We want to blend. We look at different – We actually have 26 different criteria that we look at when we recruit the board members. And that includes how long they've been a customer. Their annual spend. What products and services do they currently buy? What opportunities are there? What's their demeanor? Are they introverts, or extroverts? We look at all of these different criteria to make sure that we have a really diverse perspective represented on the board.
I try to remember that myself. And so, I have various advisors. It's not as formalized as a customer advisory board. Although, we are working on that as well for us. As a growing company, we want to make sure that when we do our CAB, it is diverse perspectives. And so, we're in the process of building that out.
But in thinking about the advisors I have, I have one that has a really strong financial brain. And he coaches me and sometimes tells me things I don't want to hear. And then I have marketing advisors. I’ve got a cyber security team because one of our clients sent us a 17-page cyber security addendum to our contract. Well, it might as well have been reading Mandarin, as far as I’m concerned. I didn't understand a word of it.
You have to have these advisors that know more about their area of expertise than you do. And so, having that broad base of advisors is just like the executives that we coach. Just take it all in. Ultimately, you have to make the decision. You have to make the call. But you might as well do it with the best information you can gather. And being open-minded to it.
Again, like I said, my financial advisor, a lot of the times he'll – A perfect example, there's a candidate that we're considering for a role on our team. And we're pretty far apart on the salary. And he was like, "Betsy, you can't afford that right now." And I’m like, "Oh, but, but, but. This person's so good. And I think they could really deliver." "Yeah. But at the end of the day, you can't afford that person."
Sometimes it's the hard stuff that you don't want to hear. And that's what we tell our executives when we're coaching them, is you're going to hear stuff you don't want to hear. But that's where the growth in your company comes from, is hearing the things that you may not be aware of that you really need to hear.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, that's a great example of integrity. It's like we're out there doing this with others. And we do it for ourselves as well.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I try. There are days when I’m just like, "Oh, man. I just want to go do my thing." But again, it's the wisdom that comes with being around the block a couple of times, are you realize there are people that know far more about these things than you do.
And frankly, I’ve hired people that are all a whole lot smarter than I am. And you read a lot of these business books, especially for entrepreneurs. And they say to surround yourself with people that are absolutely smarter than you are. And put your ego aside for that.
And actually, I don't understand people that fight that notion. Because having all of these people that are just brilliant on my team is the most amazing thing for me to say, "Oh my gosh! Look how –" I mean, it kind of backfires on the whole concept. Because, in my mind, it's a little bit of an ego boost for me to say, "Look at all these smart people I was able to attract to my team."
But really, they do and they elevate – When I started this company, it was me. And I was wearing all the hats. And now I’ve got people wearing lots of different hats. And they have all elevated what I initially created. They have elevated to so many more levels higher than I could have ever done myself. And so, that's one of the great things about being open to the fact that you might not be the smartest person in the room.
What I’m finding my real skill set is, is not the client delivery. It's certainly not sales. It's not finances. It's not marketing. And I really hate this phrase. But it'll resonate with some people. My superpower. But that's the buzzword now. But what I find that my skill set is strong in is being that quarterback. Saying, "Here's what needs to happen. Here are some ideas. You take it and run." And just making sure that all the cogs in the machine are working well together. That's where I finally figured out that's what I’m good at. And I’m not great at all of the other things that I have people doing, because they are far better at it than I am.
Cristina Amigoni: That's a huge success measure for being an entrepreneur and being a leader, is being able to let go of needing to know everything. Having to be the one that has all the answers. Having to know everything. And it's a big transition from, especially, individual contributors to say, like, it's not about what I know. It's about what I don't know.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah, exactly. And I’ve had people ask me like, "Oh, you did all this work yourself for so long. Is it really hard to let other people, do it?" I’m like, "It's the greatest thing in the world." Like, once the world learns how to delegate, it is the greatest thing in the world. And if you can delegate the people, you trust that you don't have to follow up with, you don't have to second guess, you don't have to wonder, "Oh, did this get done?" I never have to follow up with my team. It's just amazing.
When you can build that infrastructure and then have those people building out their teams in the same way, oh my gosh, it's the greatest thing in the world. I don't feel the need to be involved in all the details. In fact, it's kind of not what I want to do. Sometimes if somebody brings me a whole lot of details, I’m like, "Mmm, no. I don't really need to know all of that. Just tell me what you need and how can I support you. But skip all that, because it just clogs my head."
Cristina Amigoni: It's wonderful. I think that's the essential leadership skill is to just – Yup. You do you. I do me. And together we do something that neither of us could have done alone. That's it.
Betsy Westhaver: And I think – Again, the experiences that you have lead you to those kinds of skill sets. Because I remember, I was a freelance marketing person for a company many, many years ago. And I wrote a press release. And I gave it to the person I was reporting to who's the president of the company. He's like, "This looks great to me. But we need to get the owner of the company. We need to get his sign-off on it." Well, it sat on his desk for three weeks. And then it was old news. And then it never went out. He was such a bottleneck. And he just didn't trust us to do our thing. And then it never went out.
And so, you can see – I’ll never forget that story either. I said all these different things lead you to the lessons that you need to learn. It was wildly frustrating to me. And that was like one example of a million things that happened like that. But you remember those things and think, "Oh, I never want to be that bottleneck." I really try to stand back and let our team do what they're great at.
Alex Cullimore: It's kind of funny that one of the recurring themes here is that the gut-punch moments end up being the most valuable, which makes sense. Also, a painful lesson in itself.
Betsy Westhaver: I, this could be an eight-part interview with all the gut-punch stories that I have. Yeah, I can keep you fat and happy with gut-punch stories, for sure. But like you said, it's all learning experiences. And it's what can I learn from this? What can I take away from it? And you just have to put a positive spin on it whenever those kinds of things happen.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, definitely.
Alex Cullimore: There always is something to learn. It's like you were telling the executives. Like, you're going to hear things you don't want to hear. But that's also what you need to hear.
Betsy Westhaver: That's where the growth comes from. It really is.
Cristina Amigoni: It is. It is where the growth comes from. It's like facilitated gut-punching moments in a room, in a safe room.
Betsy Westhaver: Maybe the three of us collaborated on our next book and it's just called Gut Punch Lessons of Life or something like that. Between the three of us, I would say we have plenty of those gut-punch lessons.
Cristina Amigoni: Oh, we have to make it into a series of books.
Betsy Westhaver: Yeah.
Alex Cullimore: All the best gut punches.
Betsy Westhaver: Volume one through six.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. Yeah. Well, this is wonderful. Thank you so much for all the stories. Two questions for you. One, you have brought it up a couple of times, but what is your definition of authenticity?
Betsy Westhaver: My definition of authenticity is when after you have engaged with someone, you don't replay it in your head wondering how you could have done it differently.
Cristina Amigoni: I that. Oh my God!
Alex Cullimore: Wow! All right, that's an excellent one.
Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Now, I’m going to think about that every time I engage with someone.
Betsy Westhaver: Well, you know all those times you were like, "Oh, I should have said this. Or I could have done. Or how did they think I did on this? You just start doing the post-mortem on how you showed up. And there's just no value in that.
Cristina Amigoni: Wow! That's really powerful.
Alex Cullimore: Yeah, that's the most instinct and very actionable definition I think we've got. That's great.
Betsy Westhaver: You just play that movie in your head over and over and over and you drive yourself crazy. And you really don't know how people perceive you. You're creating a story in your head that may or may not be accurate and drive yourself crazy. If you just show up the best way you can and be happy with it and know that you're in integrity and everything you say and do, then you're being authentic. And you shouldn't have to think twice about it.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. And there are entire relationships that are just constant replays of movies.
Betsy Westhaver: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Cristina Amigoni: There's a lot about safety.
Betsy Westhaver: That’s torment that. That is just torment.
Cristina Amigoni: That is torment. Yeah, that's awesome. All right. And then, we know you have a book, and a company, and many other things. Where can people find all your stuff?
Betsy Westhaver: Oh, thanks. Yeah, the company is The congruity Group. And so, we can be found at thecongruitygroup.com. And I love to link in with people. I’m a pretty active LinkedIn user. And so, you can find me at Betsy Westhaver on LinkedIn.
And our book, we actually have two books. One is called ProphetAbility: The Revealing Story of Why Companies Succeed, Fail or Bounce Back. And also, our latest book is called the Rarest Advantage: How to Co-Create Strategic Value to Retain and Expand Your Key Customer Accounts. And both of those can be found on Amazon in both print and Kindle.
Cristina Amigoni: Excellent. And you have a podcast.
Betsy Westhaver: Oh! And we have a podcast, yes. The Really Know Your Customer podcast. And the books and the podcasts, I have collaborated with a brilliant customer experience legend named Tony Bodo.
And what's really fun working with Tony is that his perspective is more b2c user level-up. And mine's more b2b executive level-down. And so, we kind of meet in the middle. And so, in writing the books and having these podcast discussions, we're able to bring all of those perspectives together. It's just been such a joy and pleasure to work with Tony. And I learn something every time I talk to him. He's just brilliant.
Cristina Amigoni: Wonderful.
Alex Cullimore: And I think Cristina and I can also plug any time you can see Betsy speak at a conference, go for it. It's always very fun.
Betsy Westhaver: Thank you so much. It's so good to see you guys. I’m so glad we crossed paths at KAMCon. And I look forward to the next time we're in the same room in the same town.
Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Us, too. Thank you so much for joining us.
Betsy Westhaver: Absolutely. Thank you for the opportunity.
Alex Cullimore: Thanks, Betsy.
Betsy Westhaver: Bye-bye.
Cristina Amigoni: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast.
Alex Cullimore: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood.
Cristina Amigoni: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts.
Alex Cullimore: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas, or questions. You can reach us at podcast wearesiamo.com, or at our website, wearesiamo.com, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.
Cristina Amigoni: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others, and always uncover the human.
CEO and Founder of The Congruity Group
Having delivered Executive-level Customer Advisory Boards in the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and the US, Betsy has the knowledge, experience and expertise to masterfully execute powerful customer engagements. As the leader of Congruity, Betsy ensures that all clients achieve and exceed the predetermined metrics for success from their customer engagement initiatives. Betsy is the co-host of the popular podcast, REALLY Know Your Customer, and co-authored the #1 Best Selling book, ProphetAbility – The Revealing Story of Why Companies Succeed, Fail, or Bounce Back as well as the newly released #1Amazon Hot New Release, The Rarest Advantage – How to Co-Create Strategic Value to Retain and Expand Your Key Customer Accounts.
Betsy excels at relationship building and has developed a methodology for recruiting executive leaders from recognized companies to serve on our clients’ Customer Advisory Boards. In addition, Betsy has a vast global network of recognized customer engagement experts on whom she depends to provide Congruity clients with the best of the best expertise. Providing extreme value for both Congruity clients and their customers is the foundation upon which The Congruity Group is built.