Episode 42 | Trust: The Crucial Community Ingredient with Seth Besmertnik

Two CEOs sit down to discuss creating strong corporate cultures, putting people first, and motivating teams. Learn why trust is essential for community in business and in life.

Episode 42 with Seth Besmertnik

Seth Besmertnik is the CEO of Conductor, an organic marketing and SEO platform. As two CEOs of former WeWork companies, Seth and David sit down to discuss their lived experiences as CEOs working in similar conditions. Seth has developed a leadership style that emphasizes trust and transparency. He shares some useful tips on how to drive engagement, innovation, and growth by adopting a people-centric approach. David and Seth also talk about maximizing your team’s motivation, creativity, and overall potential by cultivating safe spaces. 

Ranked as one of the top 25 CEO podcasts on Feedspot, Keep Connected with Meetup CEO David Siegel is a podcast about the power of community. For more details on other episodes, visit Keep Connected on the Meetup Community Matters blog.
We hope you’ll keep connected with us. Drop us a line at podcast@meetup.com. If you like the podcast, be sure to subscribe and leave us a rating on Apple Podcasts.

Show Notes

Welcome to the show. We have Seth Besmertnik, the CEO of Conductor. He is someone who I consider a friend. We met because we were both CEOs of WeWork companies. We bonded because of the challenges and the opportunities of being in that position. One thing I was always struck by was Seth’s people-centric approach, focus on community and building trust. Trust me. You are going to like this conversation.

Welcome, Seth Besmertnik, to the show. Sometimes, we have people I have met for the first time on the show. Other times, we have a whole history and a relationship together. Fortunately, we are friends. I consider you a friend. I’m so glad to be able to share our friendship. We know that thousands and tens of thousands of people read this show.

We’ve slept in a room together.

That story is going to be coming up soon. Seth is the CEO of Conductor, which is the number one organic marketing and SEO platform. The reason why he’s on here is not to talk about his area of expertise, which is SEO and marketing but his real area of expertise, which is building community for employees. In the last couple of years, I’ve only had one guest speaker to my executive team on a leadership offsite and it was Seth.

After Seth spoke to our leadership team, we decided, “That’s it. Give it up. We’re not going to ever have another leadership speaker come,” because no one could be as good as Seth was. He was so beloved in terms of his thoughts about building employees, employee acuity and the people-centric approach. Before we get into employee community building, the first thing is to tell the story about how we spoke, if you consider it speaking, for the first time.

We’re both WeWork employees. I was Seth as CEO of Conductor and you were David as CEO of Meetup. We had never met before. There was this leadership retreat where somewhere between 40 to 80 people go up to, in this case, a lodge that was outside of Hunter Mountain in Upstate New York. It was a nice lodge. We had not met and I learned that I was sharing a room with someone. Someone may have told me I was sharing a room with you, the CEO of Meetup, which was your ascribed status at the time.

The next day, I had to do a presentation that I had spent the prior two months working on. It was this crazy presentation on how WeWork runs all of its cadences and meetings. We had a night out and dinner. You and I still had not met. I came back to the hotel room. It wasn’t that late. It was 12:30 AM or 12:00 AM. I opened up my computer and started doing work on this presentation. It wasn’t on a phone. I wasn’t doing anything other than having my computer open and maybe occasionally typing to make modifications to this Google Slides deck.

There was this person who was on the far side of the room on the bed next to mine. He was sleeping. I was typing and after a few minutes, he rolls over. I don’t know what you said but you were pretty nasty. You were like, “Aren’t you going to go to bed? What are you doing here typing?” It was something like that. I was like, “Who is this guy?” You got angry. It was a version of David that I don’t know. Nothing happened.

I woke up in the morning to you doing jumping jacks in the room at 5:00 AM. You were waking up, doing jumping jacks, huffing, puffing and doing your thing. I didn’t say anything like, “I’m trying to sleep here. Can you do your exercise somewhere else?” I took the good principle of taking the high road. That became the beginning of an enduring friendship. That was the low point of our relationship and it’s only been up since then.

How do you activate more productivity, engagement, or creativity in someone? That comes from driving engagement and excitement and unlocking someone’s desire to do more.

What it tells you is people have different patterns. I am a crazy morning person and Seth is probably more of a night owl, not necessarily a morning person. Yet, we can still co-exist and be CEO friends.

I am a morning person but I had to work on that thing that night. Maybe I’m not to the extent as you are. What time are you waking up on an average day?

5:30 AM or so.

I’m more 6:30 AM.

That’s how it started. Great things can come from funny starts and sharing rooms as CEOs within. WeWork. There are going to be plenty of other WeWork stories to come, hopefully. Before we get into specific tactics on driving employee centricity and employee community, let’s go into the why. Why is employee community building so important for all managers, leaders and people?

It seems like such an obvious question. What are companies? Companies are groups of humans that do stuff. They might use computers, supply chains, trucks, logistics software or whatever they have but they’re still people. If you take all the people out of a company, generally, you have nothing. If you try to try to think about it somewhat logically or mathematically, every employee has a capability capacity.

Let’s call it on a scale of 1 to 10. The baseline of when they come in and do their job might be a four. That means that person has six more units of something like productivity, engagement or creativity that they can add. How do you activate that in someone? That comes from driving engagement and excitement and unlocking someone’s desire to do more to get to that ten.

The more companies can activate their people to get to tens as much as possible for as long as possible, then they’re going to have a way better company. You’re going to have better results, innovations and strategies. People are going to have more fun. Everything is better. Everyone benefits from this. It’s not just the company’s benefits.

KCM 42 Seth | WeWork
WeWork: The more companies can activate their people to get to tens as much as possible for as long as possible, then they’re going to have a way better company. You’re going to have better results, innovations, and strategies. People are going to have more fun. Everything is better.


When you’re operating at a 10 out of 10, you’re growing, learning and developing. You’re improving your career. A big part of this comes from how people interact with each other. I always think that in a workplace, the person who sits next to you, metaphorically and physically, knows more about all the things you need to work on in life, at least professionally and in some cases, beyond that than maybe anyone else in your life. A community can help unlock that wisdom. If you’re all doing that for each other, you can get people to be 10 out of 10.

I have to ask you. What are you operating at?

I started Conductor when I was 24. It has been all kinds of different motions and parts of the journey. I found that it’s very hard to get 10 out of 10 across every part of the business. There’s a baseline that the company has based on all kinds of things like what’s happening in the market. There’s this general morale and engagement of the company. We measure it. We do quarterly surveys and annual surveys. We have data that demonstrate this. You’ll find that different functions or parts of the business tend to operate at higher levels at different times. I don’t think we have yet to ever have 10 out of 10 across all the different parts of the business all at the same time. There are times of the whole company is operating high but it’s a mixed bag across the business.

Tell us about specific tactics that you’ve done in the fifteen years that you’ve been running Conductor or even prior to Conductor, that has worked in terms of building employee community. Also, tell us what you thought would work well but didn’t end up panning out.

You and I are one of only a few humans that were running companies that were owned by WeWork. All of a sudden, it went from, “Everything’s amazing,” to, “It’s all blowing up around us. Your company is going to go away. Everyone’s going to lose their jobs.” I was in a spot where I had spent fifteen years building a company. It looked like there was a high probability that everything would go to zero. It had nothing to do with what I was doing. It’s like being attached to a ship that was sinking. No matter how hard you were treading, it didn’t matter.

If there was ever a point of time where the people of Conductor should’ve said, “I probably should look for a new job and get out of this thing before it goes down,” that was probably the moment where I would say, “I would have understood if you would have done that.” What happened at Conductor was the opposite. No one left. One person left during that time. It was a 3 to 4-month time period. Our results were outstanding. I always think, “Why did that happen?”

At that point in time, the community activated. I was thinking that might be one of the times where we might’ve been the closest to 10 out of 10. It was because we were so connected about protecting what we had and protecting each other. The company came together and stuck together. That is how you know if you have real culture and community. That is why you do that.

A crisis can either bring people apart like a marriage or bring people closer together. Like a marriage between two very different people, employee community is between different people. In Conductor’s case, that existential crisis that potentially Conductor was going away or getting sold brought you guys much closer together. That’s well said. Did you do anything during that time? Do you think it was all the things you did prior to that time that made it happen?

When it comes to building community, the trust may be the most important ingredient. When you talk about the actions on how you build community, the question comes down to, how do you build trust as an executive team? How do you build trust as a leadership team?

The culture is always good when everything’s up to right. Everyone’s making money and having success. There are free drinks around the house. You don’t know your culture until you have a bump or something goes wrong. At that point in time, it was largely cashing in on all the deposits that we had made over the years.

However, at that point in time, we followed a formula from the very beginning, which is getting in front of our people and being as open, honest, truthful and optimistic about where things were at. I believe a big part of it was that people intrinsically trusted me and our leadership. When it comes to building community, trust may be the most important ingredient. When you talk about the actions on how you build community, the question comes down to, how do you build trust as an executive team and as a leadership team?

If people trust you, they commit to you and open up to you. They’d be like, “Why would I be worried to tell my manager if I’m not good at something? It’s because I don’t trust that they’re going to help me. I trust that they might screw me. Why would I be willing to do something extra if I don’t think that I’m going to get recognized for it or someone’s going to care? It’s because I don’t trust the system or I do trust the system.”

“Why would I be willing to take feedback or be vulnerable with the person who sits next to me? It’s because I trust we’re an environment where we’re all looking out for each other.” Since starting the company, it’s always been about a long effort to build trust and credibility and show that our intent is the right intent. For us, it’s to be successful as a company and do it in a way where everyone benefits and prospers. We stick together in doing it.

What you do is you don’t just say it. There are so many examples of you doing it. Words are important but actions are far more important. One of the things that have always amazed me about your leadership when it comes to options is how you back up that transparency and trust in real action. Before you do though, I have to say the reason why we’re such friends, co-leaders and similar is one of Meetup’s six core values is called trust and transparency.

Through transparency, you build trust. It says, “Access to information allows us to debate, align and act. Collaboration thrives in clarity because we know transparency builds trust and trust is the foundation to open communication.” We both believe in it but that’s just words that we have. I want to hear about specific actions that you have done. You’re right. Community building is about trust. Please do share that.

One is every quarter since we’ve started the company, we get in front of the whole company and do something called the town hall. Maybe a lot of companies do this. In this town hall meeting though, we spend as much time talking about all the stuff that’s going bad as we do all the stuff that’s going good. When we do engagement surveys for employees, we don’t just share all the good stuff. We share the things that people aren’t happy about.

Not only that, we’ll share quotes of people saying somewhat uncomfortable things. For example, they might say something about me like, “Seth always is doing X, Y and Z things in front of everyone. It makes it seem like our department doesn’t matter.” I’ll share that with someone. By doing that each time, they trust that they know what’s going on.

KCM 42 Seth | WeWork
WeWork: The culture is always good when everything’s alright. Everyone’s making money. Everyone’s having success. There are free drinks around the house. You don’t know your culture until you have a bump or until something goes wrong.


It shows that you’re listening to people.

They know that we care. They know what’s going on. Another thing we do as part of our practices is we do Q&A sessions with the whole company on a very consistent basis. However, we answer every question. We don’t filter. If someone asks a question, “How come the guy next to me is making $5,000 more per year when he does the same job and we both started at the same time,” we answer that question.

What do you say to that?

There’s a whole answer to that question. We do practice pay equity at the company. We’ve also made mistakes around pay equity and learned from those mistakes but we’ve got to share that with folks. People feel like they know what’s going on. They feel like there’s nothing secretive that’s going on. They feel that if they speak up and say something, it’s going to be embraced and welcomed instead of creating judgment around that.

I did a team offsite with the executive teams. We spent two days. In the first all-company meeting we had the following week, I went up in front of the whole company and went through all the topics we talked about. I talked about the kinds of things we talked about. What were the open discussions? Where was there contention in the conversation? I created a lot of transparency around how we’re operating. By doing that, it creates a feeling that we’re all building this company together. It also creates a lot of trusts that they know what the executive team is planning and working on.

In an environment of a lot of tech companies, employees are worried about being laid off. If people are worried about their jobs, what does that mean? That means they have cortisol in their blood, they’re less creative and they’re spending more time doing other stuff versus being productive. I have good certainty that the people of Conductor know where we stand. They have good confidence that they’re under good protection in our company and they don’t need to worry.

Talk about a mistake around building employee community that you may have made, whether it’s because you talked so much about the importance of not surprising people and being transparent and maybe what you might’ve learned from that experience. Does this one come to mind or not?

This company was built on the back of making mistakes. If I were to write a book, I can probably write the best book about all the things not to do. There’s a part of my brain that probably tunes a lot of that stuff out but it’s in there somewhere and I can activate it. I’ll get into the specific things that I can think of but it’s the opposite. It’s trying to make things better than they are and avoiding talking about particular topics.

To create the safe culture that we want means you have to hire people who are humble, open-minded, and have a growth mindset. They want to get better. “Do you work for your people, or do your people work for you?” It’s how people answer that question.

A lot of it comes from hiring leaders that don’t embody the values of the company. Creating a safe culture that we want means you have to hire people that are generally humble, open-minded and have a growth mindset. They want to get better. I always ask people, “Do you work for your people or do your people work for you?” It’s how people answer that question.

Everyone’s going to say, “I work for my people,” but you can tell whether it’s legitimate and they thought about it a lot or perfunctory and they know what you want to hear.

Keeping leaders that don’t embody those values for too long is probably the biggest mistake at a macro level. Those are the people who are not in it to empower and enable others. I’ll share something that happened. It’s a real story where the company lost trust and we had to work to rebuild it. We’re in a market where salaries are all over the place. We have a group of people in the company. There are about twenty-plus of them. They all do the same job and generally, we hire all the same profiles.

We found that the base salary that was required to hire these individuals has gone up in the marketplace. We started hiring new people on that team by about $5,000 more per year for the same role. The leadership team had a choice here to make. At any given point in time, there are always going to be discrepancies but you do these cycles, which is to make things right. We do twice it a year.

When we went through this cycle, some people should have been paid more based on the new comp band but we felt like they were not necessarily living up to the performance. They were still working at the company. We weren’t initiating a separation. We opted to not move them into that band but we didn’t tell them that they were in a low-performing realm.

It’s not the action. It’s about the communication and the context that’s more important.

It’s the action combined with the communication. What ended up happening was this was a bad decision that was made at the company for so many reasons. It was against our principles of treating people equally and also supporting people. If there’s nobody that sits in the middle of the fence, you either support them or don’t support them. These people were in the middle of the fence. There were a few of them.

These people found out that the person sitting next to them that got hired was making $5,000 more than them. That created a seed of distrust, which is saying, “I don’t know if my employer is looking after me. I got to start looking after myself. Instead of putting my head down and focusing on my job, I got to be alert. Maybe I should respond to that email or go on that interview. I got to get mine and do what’s good for me.” That created a seed of distrust in the team. It’s not just about apologizing but you have to make real efforts to try to repair that trust or else, everyone stands to lose in that situation.

KCM 42 Seth | WeWork
WeWork: Good people with the right mentality, a shared, and a joint mission gives them a playground where they feel comfortable to be in.


What a great story. It hearkens back to what you talked about, which is it turned that person out from a 4 or 5 work level to a 2. More importantly, it turned the person sitting next to them also from 4 or 5 to a 2 or 3. If you think about the representative of $5,000 is of their total salary, let’s say it’s 10% or 15% of their salary, how much less productive were they during that time? Maybe they were 30% less productive.

It was a bad decision on every level. It came back to us not having clear principles that we used to make the decision. That’s on me. I didn’t make that decision but I didn’t create the principles clear enough for people to make that decision. Eventually, we got to the point where I went and spoke to this whole group of 25-plus people.

We had three people starting on the team that day. It was their first day at work. They were not in the room and we were talking to everybody else. The manager was like, “They started now.” I was like, “We’re not going to start this meeting until they come in and they’re in the meeting.” It was their first day on the job. Two hours in, they were in this meeting with the CEO explaining the situation and apologizing. I’m like, “This is a community whether you started or you’ve been here for a few years. Everyone needs to have information asymmetry to be a part of this community.”

Who owns employee community building in your mind? Is it the people team? Is it you?

Community building is a broad thing. When I first come to that, I think a lot about how so many people in Conductor like each other. They spend a lot of time with each other. If I were to get married again and I would create an invitation list, most of the people I would invite would be people who work at Conductor or had been at Conductor. I would sense that would be true for a lot of people who are here. A big part of their communities is here.

How did that happen? It comes down to us ensuring that we’re hiring the right kind of people. Hire smart people who are motivated and humble. They want to get better. They realize that they got a long way to go in life. They’re open-minded. They have that mindset. Put all those people together and give them an objective. Get out of their way. Give them a lot of responsibility. If you do that, you’re going to find that people are going to like each other.

The people in Conductor are always getting together but we don’t do a lot of stuff to do that. We have CRG groups. We have different things we do at the company to facilitate some of this but the stuff that happens organically, it’s about having good people with the right mentality, the common vision and the common mission and giving them a playground where they feel comfortable to be in.

The answer is the CEO doesn’t own the employee community, nor the managers or people team. Every person is an owner and an influencer in building the employee community. Meetup had its twentieth-anniversary party in 2022 because our website went live on June 14th, 2002. The party was supposed to end at 8:00 PM or 9:00 PM. There were 30 people left. Someone stood up and said, “Let’s all go to karaoke.” They all went to karaoke and hung out until 12:00 AM. I would be sleeping at that time.

Hire smart people who are motivated and humble. Put all those people together and give them an objective. Get out of their way. Give them a lot of responsibility. If you do that, you’re going to find that people are going to like each other.

After 12:00 AM, another person said, “Let’s go to another bar.” They hung out until 2:00 AM or 3:00 AM. That all happened organically. It wasn’t planned. We didn’t have our events team plan it. The beautiful thing is that every person said that it was such an amazing organic moment of employee community bonding that was hard during the pandemic. People felt it. It’s those kinds of things when you see you’re unnecessary and employee communities happen on their own, that sometimes is the most beautiful.

I remember very early starting the company. I was 23 or 24 years old. I had no experience of ever working at a startup or a tech company but I read about great culture and Google. I always was like, “I want our company to be like that.” You eventually give up and start doing what you’re doing. Over time, you see over that comes. It comes from strong people that are motivated, have the desire, are humble, have a big vision and a big hairy goal. It comes from a public forum for people to be recognized and see where they’re successful. If you put these things in place, good stuff can happen.

Back to your thing on who owns it, I would say the leadership owns it right across the business. Leadership is responsible for creating safe spaces and safe spaces are what allow people to be themselves. When people are themselves, they can be a community. If you have to act at work, then you’re not going to create community with each other. Safe spaces are what enable that and leadership creates safe spaces.

That gets to what I was thinking about when you were saying it and emphasized it even more. Do you think the focus on safe spaces, employee community and the actions to drive it is different than it was many years ago? You’ve been around in leadership roles. I found it evolving. I’d love to hear your perspective on that.

There’s a broader thing that’s happening. This is more in the technology intellectual worker market because it’s the world I know but it’s happening everywhere. There’s this thing called employee leverage and employer leverage. While I hate to think about it, it’s a real thing. When employers have leverage, that means that you expect a lot and do not do a lot. That’s like, “I pay you. You work.” You’re never going to get 10 out of 10. In a world where there’s employee leverage, which means, “I’ve got a lot of options and choices. I expect a lot,” companies have to step up. It’s forcing them. There are more platforms. People are more vocal. People feel more comfortable saying things.

Anyone who went through running a company right after the pandemic or started with the initial part of the pandemic and then the Black Lives Matter movement, people were talking. It was a tough time to be a leader. The bar to running a good company got higher. If you don’t live up to the expectation, then what happens? People quit. When they quit, more people quit. It becomes hard to achieve goals. I do think it’s the employers that have been under-leveraged. As a by-product of that, it’s forcing companies to up their games across the board. In doing that, more companies are going to talk about safe spaces instead of highly progressive modern leaders who were talking about it many years ago.

A lot of what starts in tech companies moves into other industries as well. If you look at more extensive maternity policies, paternity policies or matching maternity policies, many employee benefits started in tech and then went into retail, manufacturing and other areas. What’s happening in tech in terms of the focus on employee centricity and safe space is only going to pervade everywhere else. It’s a matter of time.

I do think that it’s going to be a cycle. When Black Lives Matter in the United States became a movement, everyone was talking about DE&I. When the noise went down, there were a lot of companies that went back to their old ways but some companies drove real change. Conductor was one of them. I do think that’s going to happen where the market cools off and lays off all this other stuff but there’s going to be a lot more companies that are thinking about running a progressive organization. Those companies are going to benefit. Those are to be the great companies of the future.

KCM 42 Seth | WeWork
WeWork: More companies are going to talk about safe spaces instead of highly progressive modern leaders who were talking about it many years ago.


This stuff is not about not being capitalistic. It’s about thinking about a business as a multi-dimensional organization with multiple stakeholders. You have employees, customers, your industry, a community and shareholders. If you’re over-indexed to any one of those and you’re only focused on shareholders, then eventually, all stakeholders will lose. Hopefully, the next 100 years of business are going to be creating more companies that require that kind of diversity of stakeholders for them to be successful.

We’re going to wrap up soon but we can’t wrap up without talking about WeWork a little bit because both of us were CEOs of WeWork-based companies. Both of us suffered from the challenges and also got to enjoy and celebrate the positives and joys of that experience. There are some things that we worked on quite well when it came to employees and there are some challenges and things that we didn’t quite do as well.

At various points in your time at Conductor, you were pretty involved in WeWork employee behaviors and processes. I would love to hear your perspective because it’s so in the media with WeCrashed. I would love to hear everything else about what you think we could learn from the WeWork experience in terms of employee development and employee relationships.

It’s often overlooked how many things WeWork did extremely well. The company went from being worth $47 billion to $10 billion but it was still a company that was worth $10 billion after not that many years. They raised a lot of money. It was not a good investment but in terms of having a group of 6,000, 8,000 or 9,000 people that worked their butts off and were so committed to a place, I don’t know if I’ll ever find out anything like what WeWork had.

I would ask why. They had this huge vision. The vision was intrinsically a good business and also a good thing for the world and the community. That’s the only way to build a business. The only businesses that I would want to ever be involved in are these double-sided businesses that as they grow, also help. WeWork captured that vision. They hired a lot of great people. If you look at the top 80 people at the times that we were there, they’ve all gone on and done amazing things. There were great people but the whole thing turned.

I did watch WeCrashed. There was a lot of stuff that was accurate and inaccurate. There was a part when the PR person says to Adam, “Who do you think is the one talking to all the reporters with all these bad stories? It’s all your employees. It’s all the ex-employees and current employees that are unhappy.” At the time that I was at WeWork, I was slightly on the back end of this. People began to lose trust in leadership. They all saw this big vision. They all were willing to make huge sacrifices to go and make this vision a reality. They were willing to give up things in their life for not a lot of pay.

When they started to think and feel that leadership was not aligned with them, was not doing all the same things, was not benefiting in the same way they were or not benefiting the same way they weren’t, they started to lose trust. I watched this happen incrementally. That created a lot of distrust. A lot of times, it started getting spent away from solving problems versus making problems worse.

Ultimately, in the end, there was so much distrust in the organization that when a real crisis came, could WeWork and Adam have gotten out of that differently? Yes, but there was no foundation of trust. As soon as things went bad, everybody was pointing a finger at someone else. Trust is the currency of an organization.

Leadership is responsible for creating safe spaces, and safe spaces are what allow people to be themselves. When people are themselves, they can be a community. If you have to act at work, then you’re not going to create community with each other.

It’s not about building community. It’s about building trust. If you build trust and hire the right people, the community will take care of itself organically. That’s great learning, frankly, for me and hopefully for others.

The vision and mission are also a big part of it.

That’s well said. Thank you for adding that. You went to college with Adam. You’ve known him personally and professionally. He’s done so many great things that people don’t give him credit for having accomplished. Is there anything that you’d like to share about learnings around trust-building or community? Is there anything you could share about Adam Neumann? If not, that’s okay too.

I took a single college class with Adam at Baruch College. We got reconnected randomly in the lobby of a building on 32nd Park in 2016. WeWork became a customer. I did a lot of work with Adam over the years. In some cases, I worked closely with Adam. Adam got people excited about a vision in a way I’ve never met anyone else do. He activates someone’s desire to be a part of something. Adam speaks with amazing certainty. When someone is so certain about something, it creates a motion where you want to follow that energy and that person. Adam used that. It was remarkable.

Ultimately, over time, Adam lost trust. It comes down to some basic stuff. I remember at one point when I was working closely with Adam at WeWork, I was like, “I want someone in our office here.” Adam had a lot of people helping him. They would listen to every speech that Adam would make to the employees and write down every single thing that we said we were going to do and then make sure that we did it. That was it.

I said, “We have to do that. We have to have a tracker on all these things.” Every time you say something like, “We’re going to have a WeWork summit for all the people who were alumni and remember all these things that were there,” at the time, these were great ideas but I felt like they were never going to happen. If other people are feeling that, then your words don’t matter.

As your words start to lose value, then you become an ineffective leader. Your company becomes ineffective when your top leader is the most ineffective person. I don’t think that that came from an intention. It maybe came from inexperience. His formula always seemed to work, which was to say 10 things and do 3 of them. I don’t think there was ever a lie or Adam intended to do all that stuff. It erodes trust and when you erode trust, you eventually lose everything, which is what happened there.

I’m going to ask you a series of very short questions. I need quick answers for each of them. These are Rapid-fire questions. When was the first time you saw yourself as a leader?

KCM 42 Seth | WeWork
WeWork: As your words start to lose value, then you become an ineffective leader. Your company becomes ineffective when your top leader is the most ineffective person.


Childhood sports.

What sport?

Basketball. I went to a small school. I was leading and captain of the basketball team.

If you could access a time machine and go anywhere in the world at any point in time, where are you going?

I would go to the two days that my daughters were born. I was a dad when I was 28. I was in the thick of getting things started. In my view, you’re barely a man until you’re 40. I would go back and relive that moment and be more present and helpful. That’s where I would go.

What’s one thing on your bucket list?

I have a bucket list written down. These are a few things. I want to sleep with mountain gorillas in the jungle, sit in the first row at a U2 concert, hit a walk-off home run, take my wife around the world, take a company public as the cofounder and make a family drama that affects people’s lives.

Here’s the last question. You’ve accomplished so much. You’re going to accomplish even more. What do you most want to be remembered as?

I went through an exercise that someone gave me, which is to write your obituary. I have a few paragraphs on this. It’s a very helpful exercise. My goal in life is to achieve all the things I want to achieve but do it without compromise. I want to be known as a great leader that helped people and didn’t make a compromise for the sake of success but did it all the right way.

I want to be a great father. I want to have my children to respect and love me. I want to earn that. I want to be a great husband and be the best husband I can be. I want to be the best friend I can be and a great athlete. I want to do all the things I want to do. I don’t want to have to do one. I don’t want to be the successful business person where the kids barely knew their father was or vice versa. I want to try to figure out how to do it all without compromise and have all the stakeholders in my life feel like I lived up to their expectations.

That is a lot of pressure but you’re also not someone who ever shies away from pressure. You probably use pressure to grow. You thrive and have thrived through it. I’m thankful for our friendship even though we’ve only met a few years ago in interesting circumstances. I’m hoping that we continue our friendship. I learned a lot in this episode. I learned a lot about trust and building a community. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity.

Thanks for reading this episode. I trust that you enjoyed it. Why did I emphasize the word trust? It’s because according to Seth, it is not about revenue. It is about building trust. If you build trust, lots of things get taken care of. Trust is the currency of an organization, being transparent and building safe spaces. That’s what not just leaders but all individuals need to focus on. If you enjoyed this episode, then subscribe. Leave a review. Check out my new book, Decide and Conquer. Remember, let’s keep connected because life is better together.


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About Seth Besmertnik

KCM 42 Seth | WeWorkPassionate entrepreneur obsessed with disrupting traditional business culture and marketing strategy.

I lead a brilliant, yet humble, group of 300+ incredible people at Conductor with a common mission of turning marketing into something that adds great value in the world and re-thinking how modern companies grow their people and business.


Last modified on August 10, 2022