Andrew Forman and Givz: “Leadership means motivating a team to be the very best they can be”

To me, leadership means motivating a team to be the very best they can be. It means being straight with them. Listening. Following up on issues. Mentoring newer members so they can contribute and grow, adding voices and ideas to our company. And sticking to your word. Everyone must be held accountable, must know you […]

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To me, leadership means motivating a team to be the very best they can be. It means being straight with them. Listening. Following up on issues. Mentoring newer members so they can contribute and grow, adding voices and ideas to our company. And sticking to your word. Everyone must be held accountable, must know you are fair and live to the same standard, and through all of this, gain confidence in the team.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Forman.

Andrew is the Co-Founder and CEO of Givz. On a mission to help companies drive sales and avoid discounts while building their brand image, Givz is a leading social impact marketing technology platform that produces measurable results.

Prior to Givz, Andrew spent 6 years in investment banking and was the treasurer of a nonprofit organization. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in Mathematics and Economics from Hamilton College. He lives in New York with his wife and 1-year-old daughter and loves playing any sport/game whenever he has the chance.

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

When I first entered Harvard Business School, I was told I was a “want-trepreneur” not an entrepreneur. Angered by this, I took the challenge right then and there to become an entrepreneur, to see where the journey took me.

I was having lunch with a friend who was hosting a fundraiser, and I had forgotten to donate and said I wish there was an easier way to donate to charities and also have a record of it at the end of the year. That gave me the idea to find a way to make charitable giving smarter — to increase total donations and help the person making the donation at the same time. I combined my first real work experiences — starting a 501c3 that sent books to Africa called Global Goodness with my successfully selling Cutco knives door to door.

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

We made a tough decision to pivot our entire business model about 8 months ago. We knew we were onto something when the NFL, one of the most innovative brands in the world, saw something in the Givz business capabilities only a few months prior.

As we set a lofty goal to sign at least 2 contracts per week with companies beginning in October, we all felt a bit crazy. But I’ll never forget coming out of the meeting with H&M knowing that not only were we on to something huge, but that we could actually affect real change by using charitable donation incentives as a marketing tool.

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?

At the very beginning, my co-founder and I were looking for reliable developers who wouldn’t break the bank and could build an MVP-level product for us. A family member at Boston University had mentioned his friend from school, who was an outstanding developer looking to earn some money during his senior year. How could this go wrong?

I’m sure you can guess how this ends — 8 weeks later we were down our 1,000 dollars deposit with nothing to show for it. The biggest thing I learned from that was that you can never be thinking linearly, thinking once you’ve accomplished one thing you’ll move onto the next thing, and then the next thing. Waiting for this college senior to finish our MVP (which he likely never started) for 8 weeks and NOT making progress elsewhere was 100% my fault. Not only was there was so much I could have been working on that I did not need the MVP for, but I should have demanded to see progress weekly.

I learned that even if the referral comes from someone you trust very much, MAKE SURE you get progress reports every step of the way. Do not wait more than a week to see progress.

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

Givz is changing how we view charitable giving. Instead of asking for handouts, we’re helping companies view giving through the prism of good business and increase sales while accomplishing corporate good simultaneously. More dollars are reaching more people in need! Givz is helping businesses see that it’s in their best financial interest to give back to charity through their customers.

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

A funny story comes to mind — I got a call from an 84-year-old woman who couldn’t find the ASPCA in our database. As it turns out, she was exactly the person I wanted to speak to to make sure that all of these 50 dollars and 100 dollars donations (30+ of them!) were actually her donating fast and furiously one after another and not some sort of attack as this was our first-ever power user. She called me to tell me that “while I’m not the most tech-savvy 84-year-old” (I think she might be), “I’m having trouble finding the ASPCA in your database and I’d like to make my annual contribution to them.” These were the very early days where our search wouldn’t pull up “American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” when you typed in ASPCA (something we have since fixed) — so when I delved into my explanation and apology that she’d have to type out American Society for the Prevention…she cut me off and said “I get it — thanks that’s all I needed,” and immediately hung up to fire ~30 more donations. I called her back after everything settled (I needed to learn more) and she said that we had saved her hours and hours of time because she used to have to send checks to various places and was so excited to be able to use Givz as her one-stop-shop. She asked if she could write a Yelp review for us and one day I’ll have to get Givz on Yelp just to get that quality review!

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

Communities could teach the importance of giving to others in early education. We are seeing this now during the COVID-19 crisis — people with next to nothing are giving whatever they can to others. Society can make heroes out of these people by spotlighting and honoring them.

Society can encourage companies to support charitable giving through purchasing power and choices.

Politicians can pass laws giving more favorable tax treatments to individuals and companies who make charitable giving to heart and come up with creative ways to donate and encourage donations.

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

To me, leadership means motivating a team to be the very best they can be. It means being straight with them. Listening. Following up on issues. Mentoring newer members so they can contribute and grow, adding voices and ideas to our company. And sticking to your word. Everyone must be held accountable, must know you are fair and live to the same standard, and through all of this, gain confidence in the team.

When our company pivoted to a corporate marketing model to increase donated dollars to charities — it was a critical moment. But by having built up a diverse group that worked well together and believed in each other and me as a leader — we were able to make that pivot putting us in the position we’re in today — to be poised for success.

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

  1. That I can’t do everything. In an effort not to overburden staff, I would try to handle fundraising, sales, hiring, product, finance, and more. Had I delegated more from the beginning, results would have been apparent sooner, for better or worse.
  2. The importance of action over perfection. I’ve spoken with many smart early-stage investors and founders, and the number one indicator they look for is around velocity. How much has this team moved forward since I spoke to them a month ago? Nothing is going to be perfect — investors want to see extreme velocity over extreme precision for a reason. Obviously if you can do both, but chances are you’ll only be able to pick one, and there is a clear right answer.
  3. That payroll burden — that can be anywhere from 10–30% more than what you expected to pay in salaries — is needed for employee benefits. Ultimately I am glad and proud to be able to employ our workers even through the COVID-19 crisis.
  4. The importance and ancillary benefits of keeping health in balance. Not sticking to an exercise regimen in favor of working relentlessly minimized health benefits (read: I gained a solid 10+ pounds and didn’t feel as healthy in the beginning), as well as the development of relationships, can suffer — do your best not to let this happen — it is in the best interest of your company because it keeps your headspace clear.
  5. That I would go to sleep at night fulfilled knowing that I controlled my destiny and that it could have a meaningful impact on the world despite the struggle. When I look at my daughter who was born after I started — I now know I have been able to be part of her life in a way that I could never have been working for a big bank, and the company that we started can impact a better future for her.

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. 🙂

To get people to INCREASE their charitable giving. As simple as that. Doesn’t have to be much. You give 100 dollars year? make it 200 dollars. You put a dollar in Santa’s red bucket at Christmas? Make it 2 dollars. You give 1,000 dollars to the United Way through work — make it 2,000 dollars. You don’t want to do the research, but you’d like to give — then patronize companies who offer to give you back a portion of your sale to donate to charities they’ve already researched instead of a straight rebate. Easy as that. If everyone did it — even if 10% did it — it would change the world. Companies can play this part as well — think about if customer matching programs were as widespread as employee matching programs. This would get a lot more people thinking about philanthropy!

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

“Sorry for sending you such a long letter. I did not have the time to write a short one.” When we were pivoting and evolving to working with companies, I’d continually get the request for a 2–3 sentence blurb about Givz that my friends could share with any CMO’s in their networks. But how could I sell all of the attributes of Givz in just 2–3 sentences? It wasn’t possible. Really, it just took a very long time — and so much more soul-searching than I was accustomed to, to nail what I wanted to say. Being pithy is something that I still struggle with (exhibit A here) yet aspire to.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US 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. 🙂

Mark Cuban. He has been a successful entrepreneur and investor many times over, owns a basketball franchise (and is an avid fan), and has a track record for paying it forward. I’d love to hear firsthand how he came to be in his position? Does he balance his responsibilities with his personal family life and most of all how does he give back? What does giving back mean to him? How can we do it better, especially since it is a major thrust of the NBA and they have the world’s attention to do good?

How can our readers follow you on social media?

– You can follow our giveback journey at @getgivz!

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