Michael Podolsky is a co-founder and CEO of PissedConsumer, a review platform, and consumer advocacy website. After completing two degrees in Computer Science and Finance, Michael has spent over 20 years on Wall Street crafting his career from a Help Desk Assistant to an independent business owner. For the past 15 years, he has been actively involved in search engine optimization, technology development, legal strategies, and general business management.
Having extensive experience in customer service, Michael advocates for consumers’ right to free speech and the First Amendment. As an accomplished entrepreneur, Michael shares practical insights and tips with young business owners. His expert commentary, opinion, and PissedConsumer news have appeared in the media outlets, such as the U.S. News, Bloomberg, New York Post, The Washington Post, The New York Times, TechDirt, ABC News, Inc.
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Table of Contents
Welcome to your ValiantCEO exclusive interview! Let’s start with a little introduction. Tell us about yourself.
Michael Podolsky: Thank you for having me here. My name is Michael Podolsky, I’m the CEO and co-founder of the review platform, https://www.pissedconsumer.com/. Being a co-founder of the consumer advocacy website, my main goal is to build the most reliable and effective review platform for consumers. So that consumers could resolve their issues and brands enhance customer trust. Having extensive experience in customer service, I advocate for consumers’ right to free speech and stand for the First Amendment.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get to where you are today? Give us some lessons you learned along the way.
Michael Podolsky: I was driven by passion and wanted to do something useful and start a business. I have completed two degrees in Finance and Computer Science and spent about 20 years on Wall Street, building my career from a customer service manager to the Director of Investor Services Technology. However, there was something more than that to get me where I am now.
It was my personal unpleasant experience that has motivated me to start the business. I was sent on the wrong vacation, got very upset with the situation, and despite all attempts, couldn’t get the issue resolved. I realized that so many people fail to address their complaints. So, as an unsatisfied customer, I decided that consumers needed a platform where everyone could freely voice their issues, draw attention to the problem, and even find a solution. Thus, together with my partner, we started a business called PissedConsumer.
I’ve learned that passion and emotions can be powerful drivers. However, to know that the idea is worth pursuing, you should be eager to invest your time in it. Not the money, but time is what you can’t bring back. So if it’s worth your time, then you’ve chosen the right way.
Tell us about your business, what does the company do? What is unique about the company?
Michael Podolsky: PissedConsumer is a consumer advocacy website and review platform. We are on a mission to protect free speech and fight for consumers’ right to be heard. While the name of the brand attracts a certain type of consumer, Pissed Consumer has rapidly evolved into a conflict resolution center where brands and consumers can come together to find mutual respect and understanding. We have features to help consumers and brands find common ground through customer service calls, reviews, public Q&A, video interviews, and more.
As a review platform, we are the strongest in this niche. We got here by innovating and concentrating on R&D and teamwork. Everyone on the team participates in R&D. The company culture allows ideas from the entire team to be discussed at all levels of the company. Some of the very interesting ideas were born by regular staff. Of course, do not forget to recognize those ideas after they succeed. A lot of trial and error as well.
How to become a CEO? Some will focus on qualities, others on degrees, how would you answer that question?
Michael Podolsky: One important lesson I’ve learned along the way is “do not waste time on minor hiccups.” As a CEO, you’ve got to concentrate on the big picture and make decisions strategically, not tactically. You need to have qualities and leadership skills to guide and encourage people to grow. Driving is only allowed in minute quantities and only on a short distance. Your employees shall catch on and carry the ball themselves.
What are the secrets to becoming a successful CEO? Who inspires you, who are your role models and why? Illustrate your choices.
Michael Podolsky: Finding the right talents who would share your vision and passion is highly important for success. Having a reliable and loyal team of employees is a challenge. If you overcome it, you have more chances to become a successful CEO.
When it comes to those who inspire, I cannot single out a single person that drove me to success. Personal experience is a collection of individuals. For example, clients of my first business have asked me to do something special for them. This request drove me to open another business and succeed. I am grateful for the insights and lessons that came from direct interactions with my clients.
Many CEOs fall into the trap of being all over the place. What are the top activities a CEO should focus on to be the best leader the company needs? Explain.
Michael Podolsky: Do not drive the team, lead the team. As a CEO, I focus on the corporate culture and ensure the specific scheme of work within teams that allows this culture to be passed across all management tiers. According to this scheme, a CEO is on top of the organization. They manage a team of about seven top members. Then, these senior members lead up to 7 more managers, which makes up to 49 people in total, and so on.
When the company is growing, you hire more talents, and it is important to ensure that those junior managers, who are two or three levels away from the CEO, share the same values and vision. You want to ensure that everyone within your organization gets the guidance and education they need to continue to grow within your company.
The Covid-19 Pandemic put the leadership skills of many to the test, what were some of the most difficult challenges that you faced as a CEO/Leader in the past year? Please list and explain in detail.
Michael Podolsky: It is always challenging to lead the team through uncertain times. I wanted to be confident that employees stay healthy and well. It was important to ensure that the entire team works in a safe working environment, even at home. So, everyone was instructed as to appropriate measures to prevent being infected. We all had to adapt to remote work that involved regular check-up calls within the team and the usage of online tools and apps for collaboration.
I had to stay calm and focused. I was making decisions based on the circumstances of the company and with the purpose to succeed on the wave when we come out from the bottom.
Staying on the course is critical. I realized that I need to think strategically, not tactically. That has allowed me to preserve my team as a great asset and not be driven by bad decisions.
What are some of the greatest mistakes you’ve noticed some business leaders made during these unprecedented times? What are the takeaways you gleaned from those mistakes?
Michael Podolsky: Putting your personal brand and its interests above the company. If a CEO promotes a personal brand, particular ideas, and gets involved in politics, it will always have an effect on the company. Some companies would be better without the CEO’s personal brand. The company can be taken down together with the personal brand of the CEO. It is a corporate risk, which I take into consideration.
The other mistake I’ve seen with businesses is when they failed to let people make their own decision as to remote or office work. Here, I don’t take into account businesses and service areas in which remote work is out of the question like hospitals, for example. But those businesses that could have adjusted the hybrid model of work and failed to do so during the pandemic, have lost some great talents along the way.
In your opinion, what changes played the most critical role in enabling your business to survive/remain profitable, or maybe even thrive? What lessons did all this teach you?
Michael Podolsky: Shifting to the hybrid model of work is the change that has played a critical role during the pandemic.
What is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Michael Podolsky: Recruiting became more difficult. It is essential to maintain a good team. The team is the greatest asset for my firm, any firm.
You already shared a lot of insights with our readers and we thank you for your generosity. Normally, leaders are asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is the most useless skill you have learned, at school or during your career?
Michael Podolsky: I guess it’s memorizing and remembering an enormous amount of information. Work and life speed up. With so many things going on, it’s hard to keep everything in mind and stay productive. Now, we have a great selection of tools that optimize daily routine and working processes. You can look things up on the Internet and check the information while on the go. It’s not the core skill to memorize and remember. For example, one tool that I think is valuable for productivity is Calendar. It helps to stay on track.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. We will select these answers for our ValiantCEO Award 2021 edition. The best answers will be selected to challenge the award.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make, this past year 2021, for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts
Michael Podolsky: The year 2021 has brought businesses to the final point where the health and wellbeing of employees get priority. So one of the most important, and at the same time, difficult decisions I’ve made this year was introducing the hybrid working model. The difficulty lies in ensuring motivation and productivity while employees work from home. As of now, employees work remotely from home or in the office as they choose best for them. I see that it has a positive impact on teams and business too. It turns out that by having this flexibility, people show higher productivity while they also stay happy.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Michael Podolsky for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Michael Podolsky or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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