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Craig Handley on Building Teams Who Follow Their Dreams

'If I can check one thing off my dream list every three months, it feels like I'm winning at life.'
Craig Handley on Building Teams Who Follow Their Dreams
Image credit: The Oracles
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In this series called Member Showcase, we publish interviews with members of The Oracles. This interview is with Craig Handley, CEO of ListenTrust, a leading sales and customer service call center provider, and was conducted and condensed by The Oracles.

Who was your biggest influence growing up?

My parents were one of my biggest influences, but I thought the world of my Aunt Pam. She always seemed so happy to me in the face of hardships. She married a man who was an alcoholic and abused her. She had no money. But she whistled all the time. She always loved others and was a servant to others. She always looked on the bright side, even when life just delivered blow after blow. She died during a seven-way heart bypass. But even going into the surgery, she was waving and smiling.

Share an interesting fact about yourself that not many people would know.

I wrote two rap albums and was offered a record contract in 2009. The touring would have kept me from my kids, and the business was growing and needed me, so I ended up going it on my own. I opened for Coolio in San Francisco at the Cow Palace in front of 15,000 fans, and I once performed at an event with 70,000 people. Also, my videos on various music websites have racked up over three million views.

How did your business get started?

I’ve always believed in the side hustle. In college, I worked a night audit job where I could balance the books in a few hours, sleep and get paid. I umpired baseball and officiated soccer, which paid close to 100 bucks a game. I deejayed on the weekends -- clubs at night and weddings during the day. I worked part-time managing a pizza place. Eventually, I took a part-time job at a call center and quickly became a star employee. Whenever they opened a new place, they recruited me to help build it, and I began doing a lot of consulting. I constantly found ways to increase revenue for them. At one point, I knew I had to build my own call center, and did.

What did you learn from your favorite mentor?

I met Glenn Reed when I was selling insurance door-to-door. I was renewing his policy when we struck up a friendship. Whenever I had a bright idea, I would run it by him. Eventually he liked one of my ideas and cosigned for my first $3,500 credit card, which essentially was my first seed capital. I was very emotional early on and Glenn would preach “the 24-hour rule.” Whether good or bad, save all emotion for 24 hours later. It became a part of my mentality to breathe, think and react after 24 hours in almost every circumstance.

What was your biggest, most painful failure?

A local center was struggling and offered it to us for free as long as we kept using their software platform (which was their primary business). It looked like a great opportunity and we took over 85 percent of it, but we soon realized the owner of the other 15 percent had negotiated rates below market value. We never generated enough revenue to cover costs, and had sunk $700,000 into it from our successful call center to keep it afloat until we finally decided to close it to focus on the successful business.

How do you define great leadership?

A great leader is someone who is clear in their values, shares those values and represents those values. They are transparent and not afraid to be humble and ask for help. They lead without allowing negative emotions to control their energy. They give without expecting anything in return.

How do you identify a good business partner?

I’ve had a great business partner for the past 15 years. The reason he’s great is that we support each other in whatever crazy way life drives us. We have very different strengths and personality styles; however, we have a shared vision and similar values, which matter more than anything else. He does many things that I prefer not doing. We both aren’t afraid of anything and have a similar feel around risk. He’s an early riser and I’m a night owl. We can both shift into almost any role. I think the things that matter most are shared vision and shared values.

How do you prevent burnout?

Burnout happens when you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, or not taking time to grow. I personally inject my passion into my work every day. I make time to play the piano and incorporate music into my life. I go to events with people I can learn from and grow with at least six times a year. I also have a list of dreams and actively try to knock things off the list at any opportunity. If I can check one thing off my dream list every three months, it feels like I’m winning at life. I think you have to put a little fun in your life if you want to prevent burnout.

What are you working on right now?

One of my biggest passions is helping people be happy. Helping people find their passions and find their dreams. We recently starting teaching our employees how to be happy, to dream and to reignite their passion through our DreamTrust program, where we offer one-on-one coaching and online training and bring in outside guests to talk about keeping passion in your life. I think we’re learning things now about employee engagement that we’ll soon be able to teach to businesses across the globe.

What are three things on your bucket list?

  1. Win a Grammy.
  2. Create a viral video that gets over three million views.
  3. Write a skit that is used on Saturday Night Live.

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