Amy Holtz of the Jewish Future Pledge: “You have to repeat yourself seven times to be heard once”

You have to repeat yourself seven times to be heard once. People don’t hear things the first time you tell them something. People need to hear a message seven times before they hear it the first time. In EOS, we teach that when someone asks you the same question for the fourth time, instead of […]

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You have to repeat yourself seven times to be heard once. People don’t hear things the first time you tell them something. People need to hear a message seven times before they hear it the first time. In EOS, we teach that when someone asks you the same question for the fourth time, instead of getting annoyed, tell yourself, “Great, I only have to tell them three more times.”

As part of Social Impact Heroes, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Holtz.

Amy is a visionary leader and entrepreneur with over two decades of experience leading and growing her own businesses and helping other entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders, and philanthropists build their organizations, reach their personal potential, and create their legacies. Amy is a professional EOS implementer, where she trains her clients how to crystallize their vision, gain traction, and build healthy, cohesive teams with simple, practical, and effective tools and a proven process. When leaders implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System (“EOS”), they are able to get more of what they want from their businesses and their lives.

In 2019, Amy co-founded the Jewish Future Pledge, a worldwide movement working to ensure vibrant Jewish life continues for generations to come. Until 2007, Amy co-owned and operated 25 Party City stores. She previously served as Chief Executive Officer of Mosaic United and President of OpenDor Media (formerly Jerusalem U).

A passionate advocate for Israel and the Jewish people, Amy was named one of the Jerusalem Post’s “50 Most Influential Jews” (2016) and one of Algemeiner’s “Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life” (2020).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I spent the first 40 years of my life thinking the most important thing was making money. I built a successful career, first in finance and law, and then as co-owner of 25 Party City stores. My husband worked on Wall Street, and we had three adorable children. Life seemed as good as it gets.

Then, a friend dragged me (kicking and screaming) to a Torah class, where the lecturer said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any path will get you there.” Suddenly, a lightbulb went off. I didn’t have a bigger, meaningful goal or a path for getting there. I spent my days responding to emergencies and surviving.

As I started learning more Torah, I realized my lifestyle wouldn’t lead me to deep fulfillment and it wasn’t necessarily in the best interest of my kids. To make a long story short, I decided to design a path that would lead my family and me to a more meaningful life. I sold my business and have been working in the Jewish non-profit world and helping people reach their potential ever since.

I quickly learned that running a non-profit was harder than running 25 Party City stores, where I had 900 employees, tens of millions in annual sales, and over 20,000 SKUs. In the non-profit world:

I didn’t have a revenue stream and I was often short on resources.

I suddenly had to answer to a lot of different constituents — board members, donors, and volunteers.

It was hard to be sure I was making an impact when I didn’t have a bottom line to prove it.

When I realized the challenges that all non-profits face on a daily basis while trying to do good for the world, I found my new purpose — to help as many non-profits as possible. I do this in two ways: Through Jewish Future Pledge, and as a professional EOS Implementer who does a lot of work in the non-profit world. The Jewish Future Pledge seeks to leverage the largest wealth transfer in history and increase the funds available to all Jewish organizations. And, EOS is a complete and proven business management system that empowers leadership teams to build world-class sustainable organizations.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I used to hate conflict. My parents never fought. I never fought with my husband. I brought this style into my leadership. I was hesitant to hold people accountable or challenge them. I discovered this style didn’t work. It led to resentment and passive aggression, both in my business life and my marriage. Being nice didn’t lead to great relationships.

Instead, great relationships come from open, honest conversations, holding each other accountable and giving constructive criticism when necessary. I discovered many people share my fear of conflict. Interestingly, unresolved issues — not too much work — is what drains a team’s energy. I came to the realization that being honest and transparent is really an act of love and kindness. I learned to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It may be uncomfortable to ask someone to change what they’re doing, but it will help them — and the company — grow. I value friends and colleagues who care enough to point out my blind spots and call me out when I can do better. In short, you don’t want friends or colleagues that are too nice.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I used to think my interpretation of what people said was right. That could not be further from the truth. One such misunderstanding almost caused me to leave a job. I was at a nonprofit where I was working really hard, and the organization was reaping the results. Once, though, I was late in taking care of something. My supervisor texted me, “You’d better do it or you’re fired!”

My knee-jerk reaction was, “He doesn’t think I am good. He doesn’t like me.” Then I started thinking, “Are you kidding me?! What do you mean I’m fired? I quit! I kill myself for this organization.” I spent the night stewing. Finally, I called my supervisor and calmly asked, “Am I doing something that’s bothering you? You threatened to fire me yesterday.” His response: “No, I think you’re doing a great job! I just thought that would motivate you.” Motivate me? Maybe he should have tried flowers!

I learned that my perception of reality can be wrong. I also learned the importance of having the courage to seek to understand when you feel mistreated. Because I made that uncomfortable call, I was able to find out what he meant and save myself from hours of negative self-destructive internal talk.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Today, I wear two hats. I run the Jewish Future Pledge and am an EOS Implementer. They both help organizations become exponentially better. The Jewish Future Pledge can significantly increase the resources available to all Jewish organizations by leveraging the largest wealth transfer in history. EOS gives leadership teams the tools to clarify their vision, create discipline, accountability and alignment and build healthy teams. EOS is a powerful way to help organizations reach their full potential and for their leaders to get a grip on their businesses.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

On one of the Jewish Future Pledge webinars, we were talking about how our grandparents had trouble making ends meet but still managed to scrape together money to help those more in need. We pointed out that today, we live in a golden age of unprecedented wealth. Two attendees were so inspired that they immediately took action by each leaving one million dollars in their Wills to organizations that made a difference in their lives.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The intergenerational wealth transfer is offering us a tremendous opportunity to secure the future of many charitable organizations. The philanthropic community and the Jewish community can better understand the power of legacy giving, and their responsibility to engage in it. A colleague of mine once said, “If you die with a million dollars and three kids, instead of giving each of your kids 330,000 dollars, you could give them each 8,000 dollars less. It will make no difference in their lives — but for the organization that gets the 25,000 dollars gift, it will be a game changer.”

Western society focuses on individual rights and acquiring more and more. Judaism focuses instead on our obligations to others. People need to realize that the true path to happiness does not lie through taking, but through giving.

I hope people will learn the power of sharing their wisdom, values, and life lessons with the next generation. Story telling is central to Jewish tradition and research shows that children who know their family stories, both the positive and challenging ones, are healthier and feel part of something bigger than themselves. Sharing your story is the greatest gift you can give your children.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

There are many dimensions to leadership, but at its core, leadership is about standing up and taking responsibility. It requires uncommon caring and uncommon courage.

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

You need a system to run a truly great business. I was a crazy entrepreneur who was just building, building, building all the time. Thank G-d I was successful, but I truly believe that if I had known about EOS, I could have been a thousand times more successful. Having a system would have enabled me to run my business instead of my business running me.

There are two kinds of conversations. There is one kind when both parties are seeking truth, and there’s another when one or both parties have an agenda. In the first kind of conversation, there are no hard feelings. But if one person is seeking truth and the other needs to be right, satisfy her ego, or make money, the exchange is filled with tension. To know what kind of conversation you’re having, simply take the emotional temperature.

Give people context. To have a sense of purpose and mission, people need to understand the whole picture and where they fit into it. The more background you can give someone, and the more you can communicate a narrative, the better they will play their role, and the happier they will be doing it. My vision was always so clear in my head that I thought everyone got it. But as Gino Wickman, the founder of EOS says, “if you want people to know the Company’s vision, you actually have to tell them.”

You have to repeat yourself seven times to be heard once. People don’t hear things the first time you tell them something. People need to hear a message seven times before they hear it the first time. In EOS, we teach that when someone asks you the same question for the fourth time, instead of getting annoyed, tell yourself, “Great, I only have to tell them three more times.”

A relationship is as strong as the party who is least interested in it. This is true both in business and in life. Relationships are built, not forced. No matter how much you want something to happen, if the other party is not as invested in it, you won’t be able to make headway.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. ☺

It would be a movement to get everyone to give. The path to happiness comes from giving. I would teach everyone to pay it forward.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Tony Robbins says, “Life is 20% mechanics and 80% psychology.” It is important to have real clarity about what you want to achieve and why, because when things get hard — and they inevitably will — your ‘why’ will keep you in the game.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to meet Golda Meir. She’s such an impressive and inspiring role model and female leader. I’d love to be able to ask her how she did what she did. What made her stick with such a hard job? I’m in awe of her grit, accomplishments, and fortitude.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on LinkedIn here, and you can follow the Jewish Future Pledge on Facebook and LinkedIn here and here.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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