Maurice Harary is the Co-Founder and CEO of The Bid Lab and is a thought leader on the topic of leadership. In this interview, they share insights with The Industry Leaders about how to navigate uncertainty as a business leader.
Could you please share a bit about yourself, your background, and the journey that has led you to become an entrepreneur? What makes your perspective unique on the subject of leadership and navigating uncertainty?
Back in 2017, my wife and Co-founder, Jordan, was climbing the ladder in the automotive industry while I was working at IHS Markit. Jordan was tasked with completing an RFP for her business and hired an outside consultant for assistance. When we saw the final work product, we were shocked by the subpar quality that seemed to be accepted by the industry at large. The formatting was off, the writing was shoddy and the information was not even compliant. She called me and we worked through the night putting together a proposal she could stand behind. It was then that we realized combining her writing talent with my RFP knowledge was a winning formula for success. Since then, we’ve created the world’s leading RFP company, had two daughters, and recently launched our own RFP search engine, Bid Banana.
You and your business have presumably faced some interesting challenges and changes over the years. Can you describe a key moment when you felt uncertainty was at its peak?
Being authentic and vulnerable opens you up to so many new experiences. If I hadn’t been vulnerable enough to leave a high-paying job at a huge company I would have never taken the risk of starting my own company. And if I hadn’t been my authentic self in starting that company, I wouldn’t have created the business that I have. I work with small and medium-sized businesses that are taking the risk of being vulnerable to expand their opportunities, and I show up for them in an authentic way to really understand their mission and be able to convey that effectively to win them more opportunities. It is my belief that good things don’t come your way if you aren’t willing to take the risk of being vulnerable.
From your experience, what are the core principles or values that guide a leader during uncertain times?
Stability, security & success. A recession is a time of anxiety for everyone, especially those that have lost their positions through the financial crises in 2007. When people hear the word ‘recession,’ it causes fear for their jobs, loss of income, and ability to find work. Considering that people work for most of their days, and their work impacts their non-work lives, having a stable and secure position is the bedrock for an individual’s success both in their career and their personal lives. As an employer, it is critical to be transparent about the risk of losing or retaining a position through tough economic cycles. If you are able to grow during a recession, explain how and why to employees so they feel your confidence. And if you are anticipating a negative impact on your business, work with your team to be aware of the challenges you are facing so you can all work together to overcome them. Either way, you’ll garner trust and confidence from your team when other employers may be holding back!
How do you cultivate a culture of resilience and adaptability within your team? Can you share a practical example where this culture made a significant difference?
Responding and not reacting is a big one. Also, take the time mentally to really focus on the person you’re with. Before a meeting take a moment to breathe and center yourself so you can be fully present and an active listener in the conversation. You never know what wonderful things might come up when you really hear what someone is saying.
Many aspiring leaders struggle with the fear of failure, especially when the path ahead is unclear. What strategies or mental frameworks have you developed to overcome this fear and embrace uncertainty as an opportunity?
There is an old Japanese proverb: “Fall seven times and stand up eight.” Throughout the years as we have continued to expand and grow, there have been inevitable hiccups along the way. The key to overcoming these hiccups is that we EXPECTED them to happen. You have to be prepared for and accept bumps in the road when you are trying to do something great. What’s great is that we always get back up, even if the fall was so hard it sometimes takes a second to heal.
In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes leaders make during uncertain times? Can you offer a real-life example where recognizing and avoiding such a mistake led to success?
Listening is the foundation of everything. Really being able to connect with and understand another person doesn’t happen unless you are able to be fully present with them. In my job, I listen to and work with countless small and medium-sized businesses to help them grow and expand. I can’t help them if I’m not willing to listen and truly understand what makes them special so I can market that. My company is also remote by design, which means the listening starts the minute the hiring process starts. I have been able to build a terrific team because I took the time to really hear them in their interviews and I make the time to connect to them via video conference on a regular basis for one-on-one meetings. These meetings are so important to maintaining and advancing great employees while also giving me valuable feedback on my business.
Looking towards the future, how do you plan to continue evolving your leadership style to meet new uncertainties and challenges? What advice would you give to others looking to do the same?
Fear is the number one aspect that holds people back from being authentic and vulnerable. And for good reason. Being vulnerable and authentic takes work and it is scary. It’s been said many times because it is so very true, you can’t let fear win. Often, we are afraid to be who we are in the world because we fear rejection, but it’s far better to be rejected for yourself than for someone you’re pretending to be. And every failure, every rejection just gets you one step closer to success.
You've clearly demonstrated a willingness to learn and grow through experience. Are there any books, mentors, or resources that have particularly influenced your leadership style? How would you recommend others to approach their leadership development journey?
I was greatly impacted by the book The Go-Giver by Bob Burg. That book specifically focuses on taking the attention off of getting and redirecting your intention to giving. It’s a powerful foundational shift.