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Jeremiah Mostrom on Empathy and Connection as Business Tools

Jeremiah Mostrom is Chief Revenue Officer of Axios HR and understands the importance of empathy in the workplace. They took some time out to share their insights on this topic with The Industry Leaders.

Can you start by telling us about your entrepreneurial journey? What led you to your current business, and what is it that sets your leadership style apart from others?

I embarked on my journey at a tender age. In fact, my third-grade teacher inscribed in my yearbook, "to the kid who turned show and tell into show and sell." Reflecting on those words, I realize that my interest was not solely focused on selling, but rather on assisting other children in comprehending novel and crucial concepts. My initial foray into the workforce was in the restaurant industry, where I would pedal my bike to the local golf club after school to wash dishes. Over time, I ascended the ranks, taking on roles in cooking, serving, and management, all while financing my college education. The service industry bestowed upon me invaluable lessons in understanding people, conducting business, delivering exceptional customer service, and, above all, empathy.

Following my college years, I ventured into the haircare industry, establishing a company that manufactured, marketed, and distributed salon and spa products. Although the journey was arduous, it served as an invaluable learning experience that I would never trade. Through sheer determination and resourcefulness, we built a thriving enterprise, all the while realizing the paramount importance of prioritizing our people over our products or services. Subsequently, I lent my expertise to various companies, aiding them in constructing successful sales organizations, and in some cases, rebuilding them from the ground up.

When Axios HR came into the picture, I knew I had found a company that would allow me to embrace my entrepreneurial spirit once again and become an owner (Axios HR is an ESOP: employee stock ownership plan). The business model, centered around assisting other enterprises in achieving success by prioritizing their workforce, resonated deeply with me. This company shared my vision and core values, which include doing the right thing, prioritizing the well-being of individuals, and placing the team before oneself. I am immensely grateful for the journey that has led me to where I stand today. When it comes to leadership, I firmly believe that my true passion lies in helping others succeed. I am wholeheartedly dedicated to understanding the significance of empathy, work-life integration, and the pursuit of excellence. Simultaneously, I strive to create an environment that fosters growth and surrounds individuals with support.

You've been recognized for your focus on empathy and human connection within your organization. How did you come to realize the importance of these values in leadership, and how have they shaped the way you run your business?

The importance of empathy and human connection within a business cannot be taken lightly and is at the core of a successful organization. I have worked alongside many businesses that are often so singularly focused on achieving their financial goals that they miss the opportunity to build genuine connections with their employees. I truly believe that one follows the other and it becomes obvious when leaders demonstrate empathy towards their employees—It creates a positive work environment where individuals feel valued, understood, and supported. This fosters trust, loyalty, and a sense of belonging among employees. When employees feel cared for as whole people, they are more likely to be motivated, engaged, and productive in their roles.

Can you share an example of a situation where employing empathy and connection as business tools made a significant positive difference in your organization? What were the challenges and outcomes?

Sales is a difficult job and arguably one of the most important jobs within an organization. In today's competitive business landscape, customers are more discerning and value-driven than ever. When leaders put themselves in their salespeople’s shoes, it allows them to recognize the challenges they face, acknowledge their strengths, and provide the necessary support. This empathetic approach fosters a positive sales culture where individuals feel valued, heard, and motivated to perform at their best—They are the face of the company. The key to avoiding challenges is to set clear expectations upfront and provide constructive feedback to ensure accountability.

Empathy can often be misunderstood or oversimplified in a business context. How do you define it in your leadership practice, and how do you ensure that it's applied authentically?

I would define it by someone who recognizes that everyone is an individual…They each have unique challenges, strengths, and motivations, and it’s important to tailor each approach accordingly. I don’t believe in a cookie cutter, one size fits all approach. To be authentic, you must recognize how you can walk alongside a team to help them become the best versions of themselves.

Connection is not just about understanding others but also connecting with oneself. How do you maintain a balance between personal well-being and fostering connections with your team?

This is an important point and something that often goes unaddressed. As with anything, balance is a necessity. I believe it is vitally important to prioritize self-care and work to establish healthy boundaries to avoid burnout or neglecting personal needs. This has been something that I have personally struggled with over the years, but I have learned that it is crucial to set aside time for activities and hobbies that rejuvenate and recharge. For me, it’s spending time working on our hobby farm, driving a tractor, and having time to think.

In terms of scalability, how do you maintain these human-centered values as your business grows? What strategies or tools have you found most effective?

1. Make it a core value of your business and talk about it on a regular basis. Display it in offices and conference rooms.

2. Lead by example: As a leader, it is crucial to demonstrate empathy in your own actions and interactions.

3. Join a PEO (professional employer organization) like Axios HR. We can assist in managing complex HR tasks such as payroll processing, employee onboarding, and compliance with employment laws and regulations. These are no small tasks. By offloading these administrative burdens onto a trusted PEO partner, you empower your employees to focus on their core responsibilities and talents while ensuring they receive consistent and reliable HR support and framework. It also sends a clear message to your employees—Their well-being is valued and prioritized by the organization.

4. Hire people who fit into a culture of empathy. Consider using a professional recruitment service who understands your company’s culture and can spend the time to screen for those desirable qualities.

For those who are new to leadership or are struggling to build empathy and connection within their teams, what practical advice can you offer? Are there any exercises or habits that can be cultivated?

So much of empathy comes from having open and honest communication. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, concerns, and emotions without fear of judgment or retribution. Encourage regular feedback sessions, team meetings, or one-on-one conversations to provide opportunities for individuals to share their experiences and challenges. We use anonymous employee engagement surveys as well.

You've shared some truly insightful thoughts on leadership. How have these principles been reflected in your products or services, and what has been the response from your customers?

I believe this mindset of empathy within an organization is followed by client satisfaction and loyalty. Clients and prospective clients are not just numbers, transactions, or dollar signs; they are real people with emotions and needs. By empathizing with clients' concerns or challenges, businesses can provide real, personalized solutions that address their specific requirements. This level of understanding builds trust between the business and its customers, leading to long-term valuable clients.

Finally, for our readers who are interested in learning more about your leadership philosophy or your business, where can they find more information or connect with you directly?


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