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CEO Howard Chang on Artificial Intelligence, the Future of Work, and Being a Better Human (Thinks Out Loud Episode 416)

Banner image for Howard Chang interview on Thinks Out Loud podcast. Howard discusses Al, the future of work, and being a better human

In our latest Thinks Out Loud interview, company founder and president Tim Peter sat down to talk with Howard Chang, CEO of The Turn Lab and CEO of Just Boardrooms. In this thoughtful and insightful discussion, Howard and Tim discussed:

  • Artificial Intelligence and its effects on the future of work
  • Remote work, loneliness, and the need for belonging
  • Managing anxiety in a rapidly changing, often remote workplace
  • Increasing productivity
  • Improving business as a force for social good
  • And how Howard’s personal health journey has helped him grow as a leader

We think you’ll enjoy this deeply engaging conversation. Here are the show notes for you.

CEO Howard Chang on Artificial Intelligence, the Future of Work, and Being a Better Human (Thinks Out Loud Episode 416) Headlines and Show Notes

Show Notes and Links

You might also enjoy this webinar I recently participated in with Miles Partnership that looked at "The Power of Generative AI and ChatGPT: What It Means for Tourism & Hospitality" here:

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We have some free downloads for you to help you navigate the current situation, which you can find right here:

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Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 39m 53s

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Transcript: Howard Chang on Artificial Intelligence, the Future of Work and Being a Better Human

Tim Peter (00:02.146)
Howard Chang, welcome to the show.

Howard Chang (00:04.479)
Hey, Tim. Thanks for having me.

Tim Peter (00:06.966)
Thanks so much for being here. You’ve got.

Just an incredible background. You’ve done an enormous amount of things. I mean, I’m just reading off the list here. Retail, product design, sports marketing, film and stills production, commercial real estate, advertising, and digital technology. You’re currently the founder and chairman of the TurnLab and CEO and founder of Just Boardrooms. So you’ve done a lot over the course of your career. You’ve got a broad background in how digital has sort of affected the workplace, how AI is affecting the workplace,

workplace and ultimately how that affects the people in the workplace. So, you know, just to open it up with a big question, we’re talking a lot about hybrid work. We’re talking about a lot about the future of work. We’re talking a lot about how AI might affect work. What’s going on? You know, what are we seeing that, you know, interests you and you find particularly exciting? I told you we were going to dive right in, right?

Howard Chang (01:01.035)
You didn’t start with a softball question, Tim. So I love it. I love it. Yeah, I mean, you hear the term the future of work. And I think everyone sort of has an interpretation what that might mean for their organization. So whether you’re working for a company or leading a company, there’s probably more questions than answers at the moment.

We do a lot of consulting to C-suite leaders and we talk to them a lot around company culture, morale, productivity, innovation. And there is a general agreement right now that no one’s really got it quite figured out in terms of how are we actually maximizing our people’s productivity? How are we maximizing their ability to collaborate and bring value to a company to help product service development, etc.

Howard Chang (01:52.033)
where sometimes they’re working remotely through a pinhole called Zoom or Teams, which is very difficult to build morale and culture. So many pieces of the puzzle and of course AI fits into all of this, right? Because if you think about AI strictly as a productivity tool, how it’s used, if it’s used, can dramatically impact

Tim Peter (01:58.058)
Yeah, sure.

Howard Chang (02:12.783)
how an individual performs and how a company performs and if it’s used badly or not used at all, some companies might be left behind and so there’s all of that kind of going on right now. So we’re spending a lot of time in the learning phase. There are some published articles now by Harvard Business Review, Forbes, etc. They’re all kind of weighing in but no one really is the expert in the space because it’s happening in real time.

Tim Peter (02:36.018)
Absolutely. Oh, for sure. So one of my favorite quotes, there’s this French philosopher, people who’ve heard the show before have heard me say this before, but I’m not a big reader of French philosophers, but somehow I ran across this quote that when you build the ship, you build the shipwreck. And, you know, the point being that ideally the value of the ship outweighs the negatives of the shipwreck, but we also have to acknowledge that there are those risks and we have to think around

the positives of remote work. There’s a lot of talk about people working remotely and everything. What are some of the downsides? What are some things people need to be concerned about or thinking about there?

Howard Chang (03:16.735)
Well, so to give you an idea, you know, our company, the Tern Lab, has about 50 people, all knowledge workers. We work hybrid, you know, we’re in the office a couple of days a week and we’re remote most of the days a week. So we’ve done our own surveys and workshopping around what’s the best model. But I also think that there’s larger studies afoot right now, like Microsoft published a study I think about 18 months ago that looked at tens of thousands of workers across their

Tim Peter (03:24.661)

Howard Chang (03:46.849)
offices and they looked at groups that were predominantly in office and groups that were predominantly remote. And they were really doing it initially to measure productivity. Is there a productivity difference? They did notice a productivity difference, but it wasn’t as big as they thought. What actually surprised them was that the in office group

Tim Peter (03:56.386)

Howard Chang (04:06.431)
had much higher rankings in terms of product innovation and product quality. So by coming together in person, they were able to collaborate more, argue more, debate more, challenge each other more, which led to better product design, better product development. So productivity is only just one piece of the puzzle. And there are studies that are showing for some companies, the productivity that can be actually quite large, up to like 30% for some companies, because a lot of new people coming to the workforce,

Tim Peter (04:11.168)

Tim Peter (04:18.528)

Howard Chang (04:35.855)
No one really taught them how to do time management as an example. Right. So, so how do we, how do we close that gap? We’re not going to bring everybody back in the office all the time. So how do we close that gap is the big question people are trying to answer.

Tim Peter (04:37.912)

Tim Peter (04:47.434)
Yeah, makes sense, makes sense. And I know in some of the discussions we’d had, you know, there have been some mental health issues and the like that some folks are concerned about. You know, maybe you can talk about that a little bit.

Howard Chang (04:57.892)
Yeah, I mean, there’s a mental health issue that’s growing called belonging deficit, right? As people felt isolated during COVID, they weren’t part of physical communities and stuck in that tiny little

channel called social media, you can actually feel more socially isolated because you feel like you’re missing out on everything. So the belonging deficit is a big issue for remote workers, even hybrid workers. But what belonging deficit is also leading to is something called collaboration deficit. So as people are feeling like my work is really starting to get really isolated and I’m starting to feel really alone in my work, that’s also creating mental health issues. Not to mention

Tim Peter (05:18.872)
Yeah, sure, sure.

Howard Chang (05:42.049)
other work. So it’s kind of like a double-edged sword. And here’s the other really dangerous thing that’s happening. With the advancement of AI and the ability for AI to generate content for a lot of knowledge work, the work that we do sitting on our own is going to be more easily replaced by AI than the work we do together as teams. So

Tim Peter (06:05.751)
Oh sure.

Howard Chang (06:06.515)
That natural creativity, innovation, that’s the kind of knowledge work that’s gonna be continued to be led by human beings. The sit at home typing out, oh, I gotta write an article on cryptocurrency, or I’ve gotta create, I have to do some analytics on a research study. AI is gonna do all of that, right? So…

Tim Peter (06:27.63)
Sure, sure.

Howard Chang (06:28.935)
The interesting thing is that there’s also anxiety from people going, ooh, how am I gonna keep my job with all of this coming in? I think the key here is people need to come together in ways that make sense for moments that matter, probably in person, so that they can create amplification and acceleration of what humans are actually good at, which tends to be creativity, innovation, problem solving, something that they currently do much better than AI.

Tim Peter (06:58.606)
That makes so much sense. I mean, some of the things you’re talking about there is belonging deficit. Listeners of the show have heard me talk about a book by a real good friend of mine, Mark Schaefer, called Belonging to the Brand, where he talks about how community is the next great marketing channel and the like. And it sounds like you’re talking about the same thing from a product innovation perspective, from a serendipity perspective, right? The random collisions of people that lead to observations or insights you might not have had before, right?

Howard Chang (07:24.939)

And you might live longer. Like if you watch the Netflix show, The Blue Zone, it’s so interesting how if you look at all the Blue Zone communities that the host studied, almost all of them had one commonality, which was community. So whether that was the seven day Adventists with their community built around their religion, or whether that was the Okinawan grannies that got together every day to cook together, knit together. So quilt, you know, that idea of bringing people together

Tim Peter (07:29.704)
Oh yeah, sure. Yeah.

Howard Chang (07:55.489)
for moments of matter is incredible for not just our mental health but also our physical health and longevity. So there’s a lot of science behind the need to be social animals.

Tim Peter (08:07.046)
Absolutely. So I thought we would get to this later, but this seems like a natural touch point right now. You know, you’ve talked a lot about in your career the force of business for, you know, business is a force for good and the impacts that we make on the world in a positive way as a business, right? If I can invert that quote I said before, let’s talk about the ship maybe a bit and not the shipwreck, you know. Let’s hear some of what you think there.

Howard Chang (08:33.878)

You know, listen, I’m an entrepreneur, right? I started my first business at 20 and I’ve done very well. So, you know, I am not gonna be someone who is a hater of capitalism. I would like to think that I am a, you know, socially conscious, environmentally conscious business leader. So what we’ve done is we’ve actually taken some of these socially conscious, environmentally, you know, ideas, philosophies and put them into practice

by applying for and getting certified as a B Corp, so a benefit corporation. So the B Corp movement, it’s growing, still small, but members include like Patagonia, Ben and Jerry’s. Companies that believe that it’s not all about the shareholders, right? It’s not only about the bottom line. These tend to be kind of like triple bottom line companies and we’re one of them. We’re a certified B Corp, we’ve been since 2018. It’s a rigorous process. There is something on the B Corp website called a quick assessment that you can go

Tim Peter (09:09.456)
Oh yeah, sure.

Howard Chang (09:34.153)
as a company to see how big a gap is it between what you do and what a B Corp subscribes to. So that’s a good starting point. But what I like about the B Corp movement is it kind of quantifies and systematizes the idea of being a good corporate citizen. So it looks at things like worker health inequity. It looks at things like environmentalism, health of the planet, but also looks at things like giving back to the community, supporting underserved communities. So these are things that are all important was when I read the term stakeholders versus shareholders. So, you know, Tim, you’ve talked to enough business people, we always talk about our shareholders, our shareholders, but what.

Tim Peter (10:08.49)
Right, definitely.

Howard Chang (10:15.379)
B Corps are trying to do and what we’re trying to do is actually there’s a larger group of stakeholders involved, right? There’s our customers, there’s our staff, there’s the communities we serve, there’s the environment, biodiversity, they’re all stakeholders. It’d be very hard to run a business if we had no biodiversity as an example. What if all the bees disappear? We are screwed basically, right? So I think it’s really shifting perspective and understanding that if we account more

Tim Peter (10:38.454)
Ha ha ha!

Howard Chang (10:45.513)
we might be able to do good as we do well. And I think that’s a great combo.

Tim Peter (10:51.542)
Well, in what you’re talking about with the mental health situation with employees or things along those lines, the anxiety that they feel around artificial intelligence potentially taking their job or the belonging deficit when they’re working remote and not connecting with other people. That’s not going to make for happy, healthy, functional employees. Those folks are also representative of the people who buy from our companies and the like. And it probably doesn’t make for happy, healthy, functional consumers. So I mean, at the end of the day,

Howard Chang (11:18.804)

Tim Peter (11:20.798)
I’ve thought about this from a very different perspective over the course of my career, and I agree with everything you said, so I don’t want any of this to sound like I’m disagreeing. It’s also, at a worst case scenario, and folks who’ve listened to the show have heard me say this before, if you’re not doing well in your community, you’re not creating an environment where people want to work with you, or want to buy from you, or will need your things. So even if you don’t believe in some of these principles, though I would argue you should,

You would argue you should. It’s also in your best interest to do it because it’s in your best interest to do it. Right?

Howard Chang (11:56.615)
Yeah, I mean, 87% of millennials and Gen Z who apply for a job want to know the values of the company. 87%. So it’s a huge piece around not just corporate culture, but in terms of talent acquisition, talent retention. If you don’t stand for something, people have a hard time connecting their value strictly to a paycheck. And I think people are looking for more than that right now.

Tim Peter (12:19.178)
Yeah, absolutely.

Howard Chang (12:23.695)
Sorry about the fire. I live in the big city so you know fire, sirens, it happens.

Tim Peter (12:23.938)
We’ll let that.

Tim Peter (12:30.18)
No worries, that’s no problem at all. Cool, that’s faded. So just continuing on that, continuing on the discussion. So it sounds like when we talk about things like remote work or when we look at things like the future of work, you know, hybrid isn’t a, in your view, that’s not a fad. That’s a thing that’s going to exist for a long time. People are going to need that balance of

We’re not going fully remote ever. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth. This is more, a friend of mine likes to say, I think I heard what you thought you said, right? So we’re probably not going full remote because of the downsides that exist there. We’re also probably not going back to everybody in the office five days a week, right? Is that right? Or how do you see this playing out?

Howard Chang (13:11.976)
Yeah, I think that’s right and there’s a nuance to that. So one of the things that we’re observing as we’re studying this space is that it’s becoming a little bit more of a hub and spoke model. So people aren’t necessarily wanting to drive from their home in the suburbs all the way downtown to meet with their team for three hours. They’ve done a three hour commute round trip just to get that three hour meeting. And so one of the reasons why we launched our latest startup, JustBoardrooms, which we launched in March, it’s essentially a Airbnb spaces. So we’re just a marketplace, right? So, you know, for instance, Tim, if you had an office, if you had an office and you had a boardroom, you can put your boardroom on and rent it by the hour, by the day to a user. So that’s an example. So we get a lot of usage in our system in the suburbs. So we poll our users and go like, why did you use your boardroom? I said, well, you know what, it was close to work to where me and my client lived. Oh, our team lives on the west end of the

Tim Peter (13:55.21)

Howard Chang (14:14.517)
they’re happy to pay 50 bucks an hour or whatever for a boardroom on demand because it actually makes them more productive. They save two hours on the commute, they get more done, and they only use it when they need it. So this hub and spoke type situation is we’re seeing more and more of that. You know as the downtowns are a little bit emptier now than they used to be, what’s happening is work is happening elsewhere.

Tim Peter (14:17.248)
Yup, yup.

Howard Chang (14:38.015)
What I do see is the really smart companies are looking at ways to bring their people together more often and to make it as easy as possible for that to happen because they see the benefit of doing it.

Tim Peter (14:51.342)
Right, right. And I want to come back to that point just for a second, but just as you’re talking about your company a little bit, where are you located? Like, where can people find you?

Howard Chang (15:01.035)
We’re in Toronto, fourth largest city in North America. I know that’s surprising for a lot of Americans, but our clients are all over North America. So what The TurnLab is a marketing technology lab and incubator. So we do traditional marketing, market research, we do planning, we do media campaigns, but we also do a lot of technology. So all our software engineers are in-house, they’re not off-shored in India, they’re here.

Tim Peter (15:04.298)
Yep. Ha ha ha.

Howard Chang (15:30.709)
you know, million dollar enterprise digital commerce sites. We also build apps for startups. So one of the products we developed was Just Boardrooms. So that’s one of our proof products as an example, right? So we’re an incubator and we’ve helped other startups incubate as well. So we are based in Toronto and you can check us out at the And I definitely suggest you check out our marketplace, Just Boardrooms, it’s You know, the sharing economy is gonna be another big piece of the future of work, right? As we start thinking about reducing friction

as we think about collaboration, there’s gonna be a lot of assets right now, commercial real estate assets, transportation assets that have been all geared towards coming back to the office that aren’t gonna be used for coming back to the office. So the share economy is gonna play a much bigger role in that not just in Canada, you know, we have 55 cities for just boardrooms, most of them are in the States. So the US is really growing quickly and I think that’s something that’s gonna happen for every major and minor market is we’re gonna do things differently.

Tim Peter (16:33.71)
That makes total sense. Well, and what I love about it specifically, first of all, I think it’s a cool product and it gets a cool idea. I also love that you’re putting your money where your mouth is, right? You’re talking about all of this in terms of, these are the trends we see happening. You build digital experiences, you build commerce experiences. Hey, let’s put these two things together and actually show this in practice, right? Ha ha ha.

Howard Chang (16:52.359)
Yeah, I love burning my own money. Like, like, it’s like a dumpster fire in the back of my office. Like, let’s just throw more money out of startup because I just I’m a glutton for punishment. But you know what the good news is, it’s growing quickly. So, you know, we were at 250 locations now where sales are growing in double digits compounded month over month. So it’s all good. But the truth of the matter is I’ve been a startup guy since I was 20 years old. I, I played a lot of risks as we do it, an appetite for risk if you’re going to do a startup.

Tim Peter (17:24.466)
Absolutely and we’ll give you a chance to say this again at the end but just for folks who’ve heard this bit, you know, it’s…

Howard Chang (17:32.491) and

Tim Peter (17:45.25)
So, you know, one of the things that I find particularly fascinating about your story is that, you know, you just said you have to have an appetite for risk as an entrepreneur. You obviously, you like to burden your own money doing this, right? You like to have fun doing this and finding new challenges and all. But you’ve gone through a personal challenge. Like, you’re a recent cancer survivor. You know, can you talk about that a little bit?

Howard Chang (18:08.011)
That’s right.

Absolutely. In 2017, I was diagnosed with relatively advanced prostate cancer and part of it was because I sat on my hands and, you know, did the usual guy thing and say, well, you know, I’m going to delay dealing with this as long as possible. So my tumor was about two thirds of my prostate. So it was it was a it was relatively advanced. So when I talked to the local urologist, you know, very good urologist at great hospitals here, and we have universal health care, by the way.

Tim Peter (18:29.128)
Oh wow.

Howard Chang (18:39.725)
So it was all free healthcare. So I talked to the best specialists and they gave me a bunch of options. And frankly, I didn’t love the options. So I did my own research. I am a very curious guy and I’m more than capable of doing, you know, using that thing called Google. I’m not sure whether you heard about it. But I ended up finding a clinic in Germany that was doing a very innovative surgery called IRE NanoKnife. And I would say if anyone listening has anybody in their family that is going through localized

Tim Peter (18:41.77)

Tim Peter (18:54.37)

Howard Chang (19:09.645)
other words it has not metastasized, it has localized the prostate, definitely check out something called the VITIS Prostate Clinic in Offenbach Germany. So, they have a procedure called IRE Nanonife that stands for irreversible electroporation. It’s what they call a focal therapy. So instead of cutting you open,

Tim Peter (19:11.455)
Right, sure.

Howard Chang (19:28.331)
cutting around all your nerves and removing your prostate, which leads to a very high level of chance of incontinency, erectile dysfunction. Hopefully I’m not getting too personal here. But the bottom line is there’s a there’s a lot of side effects to traditional radical prostatectomies. So the Nano knife is a whole different system where they basically using MRIs and and and other technology, they isolate the tumor and they basically zap it with high voltage for nanoseconds.

Tim Peter (19:38.122)
That’s okay. I asked the question. It’s okay.

Tim Peter (19:43.054)


Howard Chang (19:58.285)
a knife. So I had full recovery, they got rid of my tumor. After three weeks I was good as new and I was great for five years. And then two years ago my cancer came back. So I had to deal with that. So they spotted three tumors and what was left of my prostate. You know I’m at that age now where that could absolutely happen.

Tim Peter (20:21.378)

Tim Peter (20:25.171)
Absolutely, sure.

Howard Chang (20:26.315)
And so I had to figure out, well, what am I gonna do? Am I going back to Germany, pay for surgery, go through the recovery process again? And I decided to actually talk to a naturopathic oncologist who specializes in alternative cancer treatments. She works with regular oncologists, she works with hospitals, but she does a lot of complementary treatments. There’s something called a high dose vitamin C IV, which is basically an IV, very high dose vitamin C, which has been shown in clinical trials to slow down or even reverse the trend of cancer in breast and prostate cancer.

Tim Peter (20:36.75)

Howard Chang (20:56.269)
So I started doing that, changed my diet and crazy thing Tim, after 18 months of doing this, all my tumors went away. So, this is…

Tim Peter (21:04.15)

Howard Chang (21:07.243)
I share this story not because I want to give you the gruesome details in prostate cancer. I want to share with you my core philosophy in life and business which I think drives me as an entrepreneur but what makes our company so successful and powerful. A lot of companies in the knowledge space are focused on selling their solution. We are focused on falling in love with the problem. So

Tim Peter (21:26.667)

Tim Peter (21:30.743)

Howard Chang (21:32.075)
With that philosophy, our job at the TurnLab, for instance, and how I operate personally is I don’t even want to talk solution. In fact, the solution may actually not even be anything I sell. I want to first deeply understand the problem. That’s why we do leverage AI in our company. We do have analysts and strategists and market researchers in our company. Unlike a lot of traditional marketing firms, we invest in that space because having evidence

Tim Peter (21:44.436)

Tim Peter (21:49.638)

Howard Chang (22:02.029)
the right strategy to build the right solution has been our path to success. And I think a lot of people forget about that and they get so in love with their solution that they’re just kind of ramming it down people’s throat whether they need it or not. So sorry that was a long-winded very you know convoluted way to get to that point but it came through cancer.

Tim Peter (22:16.179)
Ha ha!

Well, that’s OK. I mean, that’s what podcasts are for, right? That’s for us to have a conversation and kind of work our way around to the thing. It’s really funny you say that. We are very fond of the expression around here that a problem well-defined is half solved, right? Rather than starting with a solution, and how do we try to apply the solution to a range of problems, it is very much understand the problem, understand what the challenge is, and then talk about what can be done to solve it, rather than start with the solution

Howard Chang (22:36.107)

Tim Peter (22:53.488)
looking for problems that it might whack a mole, right?

Howard Chang (22:56.843)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure, for sure.

Tim Peter (22:57.874)
Yeah, so it’s interesting to me, you’ve had a couple of, I would say fairly substantial health scares, I don’t think that’s an unfair way to state that, right? And the like, and you also talk about creating these environments where people can work more productively, where people can come together, where they can do better work, how they can contribute to their communities and things along those lines. I’m personally very curious about this.

Howard Chang (23:08.747)

Tim Peter (23:27.728)
You know, is there a relationship there? Were you always in that view? Or did your health challenges kind of lead you in that direction? Or was it sort of just a little bit of both?

Howard Chang (23:36.651)
Yeah, I think that’s a great question. I founded and ran a very successful integrated ad agency for about 20 years. So I started in the 90s and we had great clients. We had Callaway Golf, we had Honda. It was great. It was like 55 people, good kind of mid-sized boutique shop. But in the kind of like mid-20 teens, like 2015, 2016, I really started feeling like

Tim Peter (23:45.634)

Howard Chang (24:05.835)
we were becoming more the hands for our clients than thought partners, right? And I thought the idea of an integrated ad agency was becoming a lot more commoditized, right? And what I found interesting is that my clients started to be meeting with companies like PWC and Deloitte and Accenture on their marketing strategy, I thought was really interesting. So the consultancies are starting to occupy the space. So I was thinking about it for a while, I was thinking about how do we deal with it, and I will tell you right now, a move. So what I did is I actually shut down that company to start the TurnLab.

Tim Peter (24:36.941)

Howard Chang (24:42.507)
So I shut down a successful 20 year multimillion dollar agency and started with a handful of intrepid people that were willing to bet on my bet to do this kind of consultancy led marketing technology model. And oh my god Tim we stubbed our toes so many times in the beginning like we didn’t quite get it right. We couldn’t get our proposition right. But after about 18 months to

Tim Peter (24:55.437)

Tim Peter (25:04.969)

Howard Chang (25:12.461)
people kind of hiring us for the right reasons, not to be their hands, but to be thought partners. And now we’re…

bigger than I ever was as an integrated agency with about 50 staff now, higher revenues. And I think the model’s working. I like to tell people we’re a lab, which means you can break some beakers. That’s what, we stubbed our toes, but just don’t burn down the lab, right? So we wanna do it right, but we’re gonna make mistakes along the way and we’re gonna learn. My background, I’ve been a competitive athlete a lot in my life,

Tim Peter (25:38.91)
Yeah, sure. Right, right. Ha ha ha.

Howard Chang (25:50.285)
athletes and I would say that the most impressive characteristic of any great athlete I’ve ever met is just resilience. You know we’re gonna keep stumbling, we’re gonna keep skinnier knees but are you able and willing to get up and go and keep going? That I think is key to any for any entrepreneur but really for any business leader or someone who’s trying to progress in their profession.

Tim Peter (26:15.114)
Yeah, absolutely. Well, and I mean, I don’t want to trivialize.

You know, your health situation by any stretch. I unfortunately have a, as listeners to the show know, I’ve got a cancer history in my family. So it’s something that I’ve been close to a lot. You know, and I think that there’s a lot to be said there of just getting up every day and dealing with whatever it is, you know, is the difference between folks who are successful, who would deem themselves successful. I mean, forget what society says, but you know, you have gotten to where you wanna get, or things along those lines,

keep trying, right? Even if it knocks you back a little bit, setbacks are temporary. They don’t stop you, right?

Howard Chang (26:56.139)
Yeah, and I think anytime we hit an existential crisis in our lives, it provides clarity, right? So you start thinking, well, I only have X number days. Sometimes we think, oh, our luck goes on forever. But when you have these moments, you go, well, actually, no, I played most of the cards in my deck already. I only have so many left. And so you start thinking, well, how am I going to play them? Those questions come into mind. And so it definitely provides a lot of clarity.

Tim Peter (27:01.952)
Yeah, right, right.


Yeah, no, that makes perfect sense. And I think very inspiring for people to hear in terms of, if you’re going through a rough time, this will probably pass and all you can do is just put one foot in front of the other and kind of work towards whatever the next objective is, right?

Howard Chang (27:39.307)
for sure and surround yourself with good people, right?

Tim Peter (27:42.322)

Howard Chang (27:43.595)
I would say, you know, as an entrepreneur who started at 20 and built a multi million dollar business in my 20s, I would say the biggest mistake I made as a young entrepreneur is I thought I was the smartest kid in the room. And so I didn’t look for enough advice from smart people around me. And I would say my success now is I’m really good at identifying smart, aligned, talented people, and put them on the right seats of the bus. I

Tim Peter (28:01.688)

Howard Chang (28:13.549)
anything and I think business is no exception. Even if you’re working for a company, look at the team around you and look at how you can impact making sure you have the right people around you, right? So I think it’s really important to surround yourself with supporters that are aligned and that can amplify, you know, who you are and what you bring to the table.

Tim Peter (28:33.578)
Yeah, yeah, so much.

I told you when we were starting off, I’ve been consulting for a little over a dozen years, and it’s so funny, I always think that one of my great failings was, in jobs that I’d had prior is, you wanna be the smart person in the room, you wanna ask really smart questions. One of the things I love about being a consultant is you’re allowed to ask the dumbest questions in any room, right? You learn so much when you just ask things that you don’t have to look smart. People think, oh, that’s a really interesting question, because I never thought about it that way, when you ask things that sound really

Howard Chang (28:54.539)

Tim Peter (29:06.2)
dumb at first, right? Please.

Howard Chang (29:07.371)
I’m going to do a shout out to a buddy of mine. His name is Steve. His name is Steven Babis. He is a CEO coach and you can check him out on LinkedIn. He was one of my first major clients and he brought Home Depot into Canada and he launched this incredible big box golf concept called Golf Town. And I worked with him for 12 years helping to helping him build it into a $400 million retail company. And I couldn’t figure him out at first because he’d be the guy in the room

Tim Peter (29:17.003)

Howard Chang (29:37.325)
dumbest questions. And I was like what’s going on with this guy because he’s obviously successful, he’s obviously smart. And then I realized no that’s actually his superpower. He would ask the questions that everybody felt embarrassed to ask and he got to the truth way faster. And so I do think that we let ego get in the way a lot when it comes to how we perform. And I think the ability to ask the obvious or dumb question is actually a bit of a superpower.

Tim Peter (30:06.826)
Yeah, well, and especially, right, if your bonus at the end of the quarter or at the end of the year depends upon it, right? You, it, you, not asking the dumb question, right? You want to look like the smart person in the room because there’s a lot of incentives to look like the smart person in the room. Yeah, for sure. For sure. That’s great. It’s great advice in terms of being willing to ask, surrounding yourself with smart people. I just love the stuff we’re talking, you know, we’re talking about here, Howard. And I know we’re coming near to the time we have together.

Howard Chang (30:17.579)

Howard Chang (30:21.099)

Tim Peter (30:36.72)
to put a button on this, you know, you’re talking about how we get people to belong more effectively. You’re talking about how we bring people together more effectively. I love this focus on the triple bottom line and having some larger purpose to actually appeal to the folks who want working with you and the like. If you’re going to attract smart people, it probably makes some sense to focus on things that those smart people might care about beyond just a paycheck, right?

Tim Peter (31:06.74)
the matter. So if people want to learn more about what you do and your companies and the like, where can they go? How can they find you?

Howard Chang (31:15.019)
Yeah, so definitely go to to check us out. You can email me at HowardC(at ) Happy to field any questions anybody might have. I am still on X, a little reluctantly, but still on X. I’m @adcycle. I’m an avid cyclist and so therefore @adcycle. And also just check me out on LinkedIn. I’m always happy to you know, have a productive conversation around life, work, and what I would call the human condition.

Tim Peter (31:53.678)
I love it. I love it. Howard, before I let you go, there’s one last question I always like to end with. I always like to ask people, you know, is there something I haven’t asked you that I should have? Is there something you’d love a chance to, you know, kind of share with the folks we’re talking to today?

Howard Chang (32:08.811)
Yeah, I think one of the things that keeps me up at night is all the division that’s happening in society right now. So whether that’s political division, religious division, I mean, you look at what’s happening globally right now in Gaza, what’s happening both in Canada and the US in terms of political division and the idea of, you know, dogma fighting dogma, whether you’re a liberal or a conservative. And I do think that there is an opportunity for people to be more empathetic and to lean in and to listen. And, you know, a little a little trick I learned over the years is that when

Tim Peter (32:22.833)

Howard Chang (32:42.253)
somebody comes at you with a position that’s completely counter to what you believe in, instead of going right at them and going, that’s BS, what I’ve started doing is you could be right.

and are you open to hear my opinion? So acknowledging them, like the biggest problem right now between let’s say Democrats and Republicans is there’s a general lack of acknowledgement. I think we can all agree that Republicans aren’t all wrong and the Democrats aren’t all wrong. There’s probably some right between both of them. If we could have a little bit more discourse around, you know what, you could be right and I also have a point of view I’d love to share.

Tim Peter (32:58.446)

Tim Peter (33:13.716)
Of course.

Howard Chang (33:21.099)
individually if we can do that more, as leaders if we can do that more, I think we just get a lot more out of it.

Tim Peter (33:28.238)
Perfect. Howard Chang, thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it. This has been a delightful conversation. Again, you can find Howard at Hold on, I’m going to say that again and make sure I got that right. You can find Howard again at and at Again, Howard Chang, thank you so much. Take care of yourself. We’ll talk with you soon.

Howard Chang (33:55.851)
Thanks so much, Tim.

Show Wrap-Up and Credits

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week.

And I want to remind you again that you can find the show notes for this episode. As well as an archive of all past episodes by going to Again, that’s Just look for episode 416.

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Show Outro

Finally, and I know I say this a lot, I want you to know how thrilled I am that you keep listening to what we do here. It means so much to me. You are the reason we do this show.

You’re the reason that Thinks Out Loud happens every single week. So please, keep your messages coming on LinkedIn. Keep hitting me up on Twitter, sending things via email. I love getting a chance to talk with you, to hear what’s going on in your world, and to learn how we can do a better job building on the types of content and community and information and insights that work for you and work for your business.

So with all that said, I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day, I hope you have a wonderful week ahead, and I will look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe, and as always, take care, everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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