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Interview

Interview: A FutureCast on D2C, Community, Web3, Leadership, with Sonesh Shah, Global President at Dremel

This is the 150th episode of Unpacking the Digital Shelf! For this episode, we returned to our very first guest, Sonesh Shah, who is now Global President at Dremel. Then, and now, we count on Sonesh to help expand our brains around what great leaders should be thinking about now to continually reinvent an organization and products that drive growth and connection. Rob Gonazalez and Peter Crosby reunited with him to talk about what he’s focusing on between now and episode 300. 

Transcript:

Peter Crosby:
Welcome to Unpacking the Digital Shelf, where we explore brand manufacturing in the digital age.

Peter Crosby:
Hey everyone, Peter Crosby here with the 150th episode of Unpacking the Digital Shelf. I don't know about you, but I’m exhausted! To re-energize for the next 150, we returned to our very first guest, Sonesh Shah, who is now Global President at Dremel. Then, and now, we count on Sony to help expand our brains around what great leaders should be thinking about now to continually reinvent an organization and products that drive growth and connection. Rob and I reunited with him to talk about what he’s focusing on between now and episode 300.

Sonesh Shah:
Yeah, I don't know how many times my parents downloaded this and listened to it for you guys to think that this was a wise decision, but I am happy to be back again and with you and Rob it's always a great conversation, whether it's recorded or not.

Peter Crosby:
Well, this time we're recording it, so I warn you. But Rob and I still speak of that episode as the first time that we heard an e-commerce leader being in charge of both digital and brand marketing, like that was a huge breaking down of silos that led to a ton of great digital storytelling for the Bosch brand and community and improving your performance as well. So before we dig into the future on this 150th episode, any reflections on that shift now three years later in your role as global president of Dremel?

Sonesh Shah:
Yeah, in hindsight it actually feels like smarter now than you. And I'm not doing that to pat our own back here. I think, and you guys know this and probably many of the listeners know this, but any CPG type company, product, hard goods, whatever you want to call it with e-com experimenting has got to be like a core competency on structure.

Peter Crosby:
Yeah.

Sonesh Shah:
You have to be able to do that. I mean, how many times has anyone in this space been asked, "What's the right eCommerce structure or what's the right digital structure?" I mean, forget about it, there is no right answer to that. But there definitely has to be a core culture of willing to experiment with it. And that's really what we did when we did that move.

Sonesh Shah:
And now, again, in hindsight, I think, yes, it's just gone quite well. Organizationally it's led to a lot of benefits. It's one of the things that I want to share though on it, which I think has been great is, I've changed roles, we were looking for the backfill for that, right? Like who's going to lead this moving forward. And Bosch is a company that tends to promote from within. And we really wanted to go to the outside on this and bring in some rockstar talent. And the number of people that said to me during that interview process, that I probably wouldn't have taken this call except for the fact that it had both of these things combined, really, really made us feel good that not only were we doing something right for our business, but it was actually helping us to attract talent, because most great marketers want to have that digital component in their portfolio. And most people that are in the e-com space or in the digital space, they're butting heads with marketing a lot and they want to take that part over. So, that was a nice validation also.

Peter Crosby:
And I'm sure you having been on our first podcast was a big event.
Sonesh Shah:
Absolutely. Actually I will say, a few candidates did hear that and actually did mention it. So that is a-

Peter Crosby:
Google, Google maybe.

Sonesh Shah:
Yeah.

Rob Gonzalez:
So, since the first podcast, let's get onto this thread a little bit more deeply on experimentation.

Sonesh Shah:
Yeah.

Rob Gonzalez:
Because the last three years have been a crazy town in the world in general and for manufacturers, I mean, explosion of DTC businesses, pandemic, supply chain issues, crazy inflation, the great resignation. Now, I guess, war is back on the table. And none of these things have been easy for large global manufacturers to live in. And for me it feels like we went through this period of reasonable predictability for a few decades. Things were kind of clean and now we're in this period of, God who knows what's going to happen next month? You've got a whole system for dealing with this now. So how has Bosch and how has Dremel set up for a culture of experimentation where you're not locking yourself into a reality that might not exist a month from now?

Sonesh Shah:
Yeah, great question. And boy, has it been and continues to be waking up in the morning and opening up your email or watching TV is probably one of the more frightening experiences if you're just trying to look for calm. About five or six years ago, large Bosch really started on an endeavor around how do we bring more agility to the organization? And one of the core elements of that was, how do we design organizationally around these four letters, VUCA, we call it, V-U-C-A. And VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. It's a term you can look up and see. But the question was, how do we manage in that world? And so organizationally, in the past we've been very top down, we've been extremely planning driven and we've kind of really transformed around that, around smaller iterations of everything we do.

Sonesh Shah:
Understanding agility as a core competency of our business. We're still deep in this transformation. This doesn't really have an end date for us. But I think it's equipped us. It's equipped us as leaders to remain positive, which is actually really important I think, for your associates, for business outlook, even for your personal mental health. I think it's opened up the opportunity for us to have very transparent conversations in an organization, which is also quite important to say, "Things aren't going that well right here. We might have to change course. And what I told you two months ago is no longer the reality." And these things don't sound so powerful in all honesty, if you talk about them this openly, but in organizations with hundreds of thousands of associates and deep cultures, these small changes allow us to actually execute way better. Not only as leaders, but again, as associates and as teams, because I don't love this term failure culture. I think it says, "Hey, we want to fail." That's not at all. What we're trying to accomplish is failure.

Sonesh Shah:
But what we're trying to accomplish is making sure that we're transparent and have visibility in terms of what's happening. And so, that has been a tremendously important opportunity for us. And I think it's been something we're leaning a lot on nowadays. And it's going to be impossible to look back on it and say, some Harvard business review case and says, "Hey, this actually worked." But I promise you, being in this company and watching it transform has changed our opinion of how we work and how we deal with each other. And it has helped us tremendously in these last few years.

Rob Gonzalez:
Yeah. The whole, how do you be agile in the face of uncertainty and volatility, just knowing that you're going to make mistakes, but also not succumbing to glorifying failure.

Sonesh Shah:
Yes.

Rob Gonzalez:
That's a fine line to walk. Because on some level it's like, you know you're going to fail and you shouldn't punish somebody who fails but does the right thing and you learn from it and you understand why you're failing and whatnot. And then there's other people that will fail and they're a little bit less self-reflective and a little bit externalizing of the blame on why things went wrong and it wasn't their fault, and this, that, and the other thing. So, I mean, to be able to do that across an organization the size of Bosch and be on the right side of that line, I have to imagine that's got to be tough.

Sonesh Shah:
Yeah, and specifically in the Dremel world, we get to be this small entity in this really big organization. And so we also get to work a lot on culture at let's call it a granular level. In the market we're not small, but within Bosch we tend to be this small animal. And so it's been easier for us. It's been easier for us to push this mindset and mentality. I mean, in the market we look at ourselves as, we're unlike any power tool company out there. We think that's a really special place for us to be, and where we want to be in the future. And this, culturally we also want to act that way. So we want to act like no one else is acting. One of the key things out there is, we saw during the pandemic obviously a significant trend towards DIY. I mean, all of you guys were in it. You guys probably all did projects around the house, or you may have gone to your local Home Depot or Lowe's or shopped on Amazon, whatever it might be.

Sonesh Shah:
We also saw something else there that I think is really core to how we're thinking about our business, moving forward. Which is the amount of the transformational shift towards a younger generation interested in DIY. And normally the process, and I hate to standardize these things. So we're talking about millions of people, but normally the process kind of looks like this. You're young, you rent a house or an apartment. You don't really care about it. You get married or you have kids, or you move out to the suburbs or you actually buy your first house and then you start caring about it and you hate it all, because it's all things you don't know how to do. And then slowly over time you get better at it. And maybe by a certain age frame, you're very comfortable doing these types of projects in the house. And you know when to call a pro and when not to. And that's a very typical kind of journey, let's say.

Sonesh Shah:
And then you get to fast forward that, and now what we see is that the whole process happened to a lot of people within months. And the amount of projects people were doing at an age where they weren't normally doing them accelerated tremendously. We, this gen Z and the kind of younger millennials jumped into DIY at an unbelievably fast pace. And what's cool about it is that they love doing the projects. But they're an extremely digitally oriented user. The current power tool and DIY environment, we don't believe really caters to them. We think it's built for this general journey that we talked about. And so we think that's kind of a once in a generation opportunity for us.

Sonesh Shah:
Because our brand is really kind of perfect for this. So that has been very exciting as we think about, my focus very heavily on digitalization, my focus heavily on brand and what our brand stands for today, but then this huge opportunity emerged that we just want to take advantage of.

Peter Crosby:
So Sonesh, is that kind of, when you cast your eye on your immediate future and thinking about this kind of shift where there's an opportunity for you to really connect with a new set of consumers in a really new way, is that where you're starting your future thinking, and what's the most important thing that's on your mind to get good at in order to do that well?

Sonesh Shah:
So, we call this user, we should be better at this by now, but we call this user the new DIY. And one of these days will come up with a better term, but that is kind of stuck organizationally for us. What we feel is that this is someone who has their needs catered to today via YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and friends. And that's great because those avenues are giving them a lot of inspiration, a lot of advice. What gets challenging for them though is as they go and shop at a retailer, whether that's online or in store, there aren't many brands catering to them. And so there's a few attributes we think that are really important to have. One of those is approachability, right? So if you want to go and shop in a power tool aisle, it is not that approachable.

Sonesh Shah:
It is intimidating. It is yelling at you about various different features and functions. And quite frankly, it's usually organized around a professional and their needs. And then the other thing is inclusivity, right? I mean, it's not hard to picture how you build a power tool for someone who's got a certain size hands and a certain gender. Now, if you make that into a 23-year-old female, what has to change? Significant things have to change.

Peter Crosby:
Yeah.

Sonesh Shah:
And it's one thing to neglect an audience that was making up one or 2% of the market. And generally that's how brands will think, right? Let's cater to the mass market, especially when you're as large as a traditional business as we are. But that one to 2% just became much bigger. And that's where the opportunity lies, now you can actually look at that market and get excited by it.

Sonesh Shah:
I also think fundamentally when we talk to our users about our brand and our products and what they mean, all these words come out, approachability comes out, ease of use comes out, versatility comes out. I love when my Dremel comes out. There's a real deep brand affinity that we think allows us to quickly talk to a new user and get them engaged with us. I mean, it sounds easier than it's going to be, but we're certainly up for the challenge. And it really kind of gets us all kind of energized as a team.

Peter Crosby:
And do you feel like that's going to be more and more direct? Like you write to them?

Sonesh Shah:
I mean, I think it has to be. I mean, the channel environment is not going away. That's for sure. Our current customer setups are great. We feel really comfortable with a lot of the customers we have and how they approach the market and what they do for our business and our brand. But as I was explaining, so much of what this new user needs is education, inspiration, a community to engage with, and these are not things you're going to get at retailer.com. So we look at, we're late to the D2C party, but I think it's a really good thing that we're late. Because we get to build now on, five years ago, the D2C conversation was, or maybe six years ago, we're looking at large econ platforms and that's the whole storyline, is this tech, what can we do? And in all honesty, a lot of that's been solved now. The ease of even enterprise doing the technology is no longer like this big question mark. And Rob, I know you've come deeply from this world. So you've seen how that has changed.

Sonesh Shah:
So why that's great is now we get to focus on what matters is experience. And that's what I think we want to focus on as a brand is how do we build the best digital experience here for this user? And as an end point there, they're shopping. And I think Nike has really exacerbated how to do this, or Adidas, or some of the great D2C brands that are out there. They're showing exactly the roadmap. So we don't have to whiteboard everything from scratch. We have so many examples in the market of how great brands go D2C. Now we need to understand what our product line is going to look like and what our user needs and how we're going to build those experiences on top of tech that thank God exists.

Rob Gonzalez:
Yeah. I am, as we've established on this podcast, significantly a giant nerd. And when I was a kid, I used to, just in this world of DIY, used to paint fantasy miniature figurines that were made of pewter. And it was out of this company called Citadel Miniatures out of Newcastle. I was living in England at the time. And when I moved back to the U.S. nobody existed for this thing. And the other thing is that when you would get the magazines, you would see the miniatures that the professionals painted and they looked amazing. And my miniatures did not look amazing. And I've got a couple little kids now, and I was thinking about getting back into this thing. I thought, "One of my girls really loves art. It would be fun to teach her how to paint these figurines."

Rob Gonzalez:
So I looked up the company, again, I haven't seen them in more than 20 years. They're now like a multi-billion dollar global company. And what's interesting about this is so much of the growth of the business is not even from this company doing their own marketing and advertising. It's YouTube and Instagram and hobbyists that are way different then the profile of nerd that did this in 1990, painting these miniatures, showing off how to paint them on YouTube and then commenting on each other's techniques. And actually doing bake offs, how many miniatures can you paint in a 24-hour period with each other? And so this thing grew organically in a way that wouldn't have been possible before. It's become a lot more inclusive. And now what the company's wrestling with is some of these community oriented things that inevitably develop.

Rob Gonzalez:
Like, what about, what happens if somebody 3D prints figurines in your world that sort of violate your IP? Should we glean into that because the community's doing it? Should we fight that? And what's great about this is they have this opportunity because they've got such great brand affinity in storytelling that tons of other companies do not have.

Rob Gonzalez:
And so I look at Dremel, I think of the position that you're in and what you're talking about. It's kind of the same thing. 1990 you want to figure out how to DIY something, maybe you go to Home Depot, maybe the pro in the aisle will kind of walk you through the process. Maybe your dad's good at this stuff. Maybe you go to the library and pick out a book, but it's hard. Now you just pick out your phone, YouTube up a bunch of videos and you could start hacking it up. So I know we've had this conversation before, but when you think about the community aspect of the D2C versus the technology aspect of the D2C, based on what you just said, I mean, when you weigh these things together, there's almost more importance on getting the community part of this right.

Sonesh Shah:
That's right, that's right. I think, on a broader scale, community will be the buzzword for these next seven to 10 years. I think for brands, it already is starting. I'm sure if we Google trended the word community, we'd see it kind of slowly rising up in the right. I think this word means a lot of different things to people. Probably most brands will have some kind of forum set up. Maybe some people will be calling their Facebook group or community. Others will be calling the Reddit group or community, whatever it is, I think it's yet to be defined how everyone is looking at this. But the difference, I think, few years ago we were talking about audience. We were saying, "Hey, we want to grow our audience. We want to have a larger audience."

Sonesh Shah:
And this really came from how many followers do we have or what's our reach on various platforms. And I think we've changed that vernacular to community for a reason. Because this idea that it's not just us telling everyone something, but rather they can do things without us is really, really an important element. And your example, Rob is a great one, because I don't know what led you to stop painting. I'm sure it wasn't the skillset, but if you had a community of folks, whether they were in England or not, or whether they lived near you or not, that creates I think so much of a moat and a sticking power individually about why I do something. That it's probably one of the most untapped, yet powerful forces in commerce moving forward.

Sonesh Shah:
And so yes, to quickly answer your question. That is a huge strategic initiative for us . What does Dremel community mean? What is the Dremel community going to start to look like? And how do we start to build, how does our user not just become a customer? And I think that's a longer term thinking, like what else can a user be to us? Product insight is one thing, product development is another. Can we help them monetize their art? It's a very interesting question that we're trying to answer. We have a lot of creatives that use our product. Can we help them monetize their DIY skills? Another interesting question we can ask, what does a marketplace mean for us? Think five, 10 years down the road about who we can connect with? And it's not just like a product to sellers or to users in a physical product to users kind of way. So it's just, the questions are fun. They're really fun questions to ask. And I don't think there's many companies out there in our space that are getting to ask these questions. It's the unique position that our brand is in, which is exciting.

Rob Gonzalez:
You know, I'm going to tie a couple ideas together that I think are really interesting so far. And one is, there's a generational change in who might be doing the DIY projects. And you gave the whole history of the traditional target market. And then as an alternative you said, "What if all of a sudden it's a lot of gen Z 23-year-old females that are doing DIY projects?" And there's that old adage on marketing strategy. It's like somebody doesn't buy a drill. What they really want is holes, and they buy a drill in order to achieve the holes. And almost what you're saying is, if you look from a community perspective and you look at these new audiences, you might not actually be selling them holes anymore. You might be selling them, like you're saying, how do you monetize the artistic projects that you're going to use our drills to help you build?

Rob Gonzalez:
And that's a totally different perspective on the whole space, which is fascinating. And almost the only way to figure out what those, whatever the new hole is today, NFTs based on my art, you've got to be engaged with them from the beginning.

Sonesh Shah:
You do. And you have to show them value that isn't just a 10% discount code or whatever kind of generic marketing tactics we've all been kind of putting in our toolkits. So, this is a really fun area to innovate in. And it's a really interesting area to bring products in. So I'll give you a few kind of examples, like the services that could exist for DIYers around digital. So every reason why someone goes to YouTube as a DIYer, we think could be a service in itself.

Sonesh Shah:
So let me explain that a little bit more in context. So I want to know how to install an electrical outlet in my home. Great question. Probably a huge search term in YouTube, and you get your 500 videos or whatnot. And in the first video you look at, it kind of looks like what I have, but it's not exactly what I have. Because mine is on tile and that's in drywall. And okay, I get it, but that's not going to work. And then you find, you may search again and eventually you might get there. But there's also a big question, which is, "Well, why can't I just FaceTime a pro? Why can't I get my problem solved much more immediately?" And if you start looking at it, you and I think in the past, Rob has talked about how products, really popular digital products get unbundled all the time. I think there's a great image of Craigslist getting unbundled into Airbnb, into bike specifics and whatever it might be.

Sonesh Shah:
You can do the same thing in this arena. You can unbundle why users are going online for DIY and actually create a whole set of services around all of these topics. But you have to be focused on this more digitally inclined user, and they have to have a purpose to come to you. And that's where I think the community aspect becomes really important and the brand aspect matters. Not anyone can just do that.

Rob Gonzalez:
Yeah, another joke in the software is a service space where of course I live and work. And every use of Microsoft Excel is a billion dollar company waiting to be built. It's like-

Peter Crosby:
So I can vouch for both of those things. Because one, I can't use Excel at all. And secondly, I am not a DIYer, and whenever I've tried, it ends up costing me more because I've done something horrifically bad to my house. But I think just listening to you, Sonesh, if there was in fact a way that I could be on that journey, but I had an expert on the other end of the phone that I'm not paying as much to when I have to find myself a plumber or something. Even for an agent soul like mine, that sounds super interesting and engaging and something that I would hop on and in a digital context, because I am at least digitally savvy.

Peter Crosby:
So if you think about extending this out and building communities today, they talk about the issues of them being invested in the community and ownership in them and all this stuff that comes up when you start talking about Web 3.0, when do we and our listeners have to care about that stuff? When is the what of this really going to matter? And in your mind, what should our listeners be doing about it now to get ready for when it will matter?

Sonesh Shah:
Yeah, so I also grew up quite a geek.

Peter Crosby:
I'm shocked at this for both of you. It's been so revealing.

Sonesh Shah:
And, I never really could connect the personal passions of mine to how they could become careers. For example, I probably built a ton of webpages in my teens for friends and never in my right mind could I think that this could actually become something bigger than a bunch of pictures and encounters of how many people visited your GeoCities page. So it never clicked.

Rob Gonzalez:
GeoCities.

Sonesh Shah:
And so, and my dad was an engineer, he was always a tinker. And so our house was always filled with kind of new technology. And I think when the .com boom hit and I was in high school or college, and I was like, "Oh boy, this could actually be something, this whole internet thing, it matters. And people are actually willing to create big companies out of this stuff." And I think that obviously I've always been adjacent to it. And my career was, especially when I went deep into e-com I started to see these things and I said, "Okay." And I think a lot of people listen to this, see that. I mean, a lot of the folks that are listening to this, making their careers in e-commerce in one way or another, and probably before the organization they worked for picked it up, we're seeing it.

Sonesh Shah:
And we're saying, "Okay, this is transformational. Let's get on this boat." And I think ever since then, I've always kept my eye on thinking about, "Well what, where and how will this now continue to change? What historical moment am I actually a part of that I'm not realizing?" Is really the question I constantly am asking myself. And for me, and right now I think that moment is happening absolutely with what we hear about Web 3.0 and NFTs and in general crypto. So I've been kind of a side passion project of mine, what's happening in this world. And I never thought it would become the cultural phenomenon it is today, this quickly.

Sonesh Shah:
Okay, I mean, what we're talking about, we would all have laughed about two years ago. We would all laugh about it maybe even a few months ago. My encouragement to those that are still laughing about it and that are listening to this is, I think you might want to pay attention a little bit. Because this is not one of those things that has garnered this much attention, because the media headline that someone is paying a million dollars for a picture of an ape. It's not just that simple of a story. And I think this is a more important element that brands are already paying attention to.

Sonesh Shah:
So every week, if you just want to kind of pay attention to the number of brands that are jumping into this arena, you will be amazed. You will be amazed at how. So just last week we saw Acura, your car manufacturer, you guys all buy Acura, they're relaunching their Integra. And they said, "If you want to be the first 500 to pre-order this, you get an NFT, you get an Acura Integra NFT. And when you get delivery of the car, we're also going to change that to mimic the car you have." And as you can imagine, it sold out really, really quickly. So a traditional brand, and now they're also building in the metaverse a showroom, right? Think about something like looking at a car. Something that has been an awful experience online. It has been except for recently where people are figuring out how to shop. These guys are going and saying, "We're going to make it a complete digital experience," which is a very tactical, tactile, physical experience in general cars.

Sonesh Shah:
So they're going kind of all in, a brand like Acura. You see brands like Budweiser, Adidas, really at the forefront of culture, right? Forefront of what's happening in marketing and digitalization going all in this arena. Now I'm not saying anyone's getting this right. And I'm also by no means an expert. When I think about this space though, I see a few areas converging that I think are really important for eCommerce professionals and brand professionals to really think about. So one is this idea of community, just about every single digital asset out there involves a deeper level of community than many people realize. And that community is built financially. There's a financial element there. There is a commonality. We all believe in the same thing. And there's a huge digital component, a global component. They are not in one place.

Sonesh Shah:
The second element is this idea of selling digital goods. So all of us are used to selling physical goods online, and that's been a big transformation. We don't need store shelves the way we used to, the digital shelf is the shelf. Now you have digital products on a digital shelf. It's a completely new environment to think about. And if as a professional you don't think that within the next few years your portfolio of products don't start looking like digital ones, you're probably wrong. You're probably wrong. You might be right, but you're probably wrong. And that's a really interesting way to start thinking about your general assortment questions or your general, "How do I increase profitability, or how do I increase sales or what new markets can I enter?"

Sonesh Shah:
And then the third thing is really around culture. And I think as brands, especially CPG brands, are always trying to fit into some element of culture. What you're seeing here is really a cultural change. You're seeing cultural momentum change. You're seeing folks, like late night TV hosts buying NFTs and talking about them. You're seeing kind of, JayZ, I think yesterday bought one of these NFT punks. So you're seeing the folks that are in charge of culture and in charge of culture is maybe not the right way to say it, but lead culture also goes all in into what we're seeing in Web 3.0 and NFT. So I've kind of gone longer, but I'm really passionate about this. I don't know what it means for Dremel, to be clear. It's not like we have some deep NFT strategy that we're about to launch and I'm going to give everyone some insight on this podcast, but we will and we are absolutely thinking about what it means. We don't need to be first.

Rob Gonzalez:
Yeah, this is, for me I was a math and computer science major back in college. And so when the crypto stuff first started coming up, I had studied cryptography back then. It's one of the things that was on our course load. And I remember reading the original Bitcoin paper and trying to work through as much of the math as I still could, despite not having practiced it in a decade or so, and thinking, "Wow, this is amazing. I just don't know where this is going to go. It's going to go somewhere." Because you're, in general there's this technological ping pong between centralization and decentralization that has happened several times in the last 100 years. And we've just experienced a massive swing to centralization with Google and Facebook and the tech giants.

Rob Gonzalez:
And every action has an opposite reaction. And man, it just felt like the timing was interesting to watch. And so the last point on, I don't know what this means for Dremel, that's kind of where I'm at right now. I've been trying to think through exactly what this means outside of the apes and outside of the weird experimentation that IBM and Walmart and others will do on supply chain transparency and whatever the rest of the list of issues are. Still kind of looking for the ones that look more like a sustainable use case that's not a speculative experiment. And what's amazing though, is there are about 1,000 of these speculative experiments going on all at once. So as long as you're a fast follower, I think that anybody who's been following this stuff will be able to take advantage of whatever seems to be working.

Sonesh Shah:
Yeah, no, and I think, my message to most people that I talk to about this is, what I find is, especially with friends and even colleagues at work, it starts at, a year or two ago it starts a lot of chuckles. And then lately it's been a lot more genuine interest. And I think the levels at which these things evolve now are so much faster. It's so incredible. A story that I kind of want to ... Last year in summer I was invited to a dinner, and Web Smith, he's a really popular 2PM founder, probably many people read his stuff here. And he said to me, "By fall or winter of this year," so last year '21, "because of all the supply chain issues, I bet you a ton of brands will launch NFTs."

Sonesh Shah:
And I said, "No way." I was like, "Absolutely not." And he was 100% right. And it blew my mind how quickly that environment changed. And you're right, they're all experiments. But I think it also shows the speed at which we have to be able to understand what's happening around us as leaders. And then be able to quickly decide what and how we're going to take steps forward. I mean, Facebook rebranding to Meta, again, gets kind of chuckled at. Which is okay, I get it. But boy, that's a really big company betting on a very different future. And people may like or dislike Zuckerberg, but he hasn't really been that wrong. And I'm not saying that he's going to figure this out and nor do I envision a world where Facebook kind of owns our digital futures, but you'd be foolish as a leader not to pay attention. I think that's my number one point to definitely the listeners here.

Sonesh Shah:
And then the other thing that I think is interesting is, specifically in the context of understanding the implications of on-chain kind of data. And I think specifically around product data. One of the simplest use cases that could happen is, how does product data start to have truth that lives on a chain? And that's really different, this is a challenge we all face. And we talk about it a lot. I mean, that's how we know each other, Rob. It's not crazy to think that brands can create NFTs of their product data and allow different people to use that. And actually charge rent for it, if they wanted to, create economic models around it. I mean, this is just the beginning of experimentation here, but the truth now gets to live in different places if you want it to. And I call it truth with air quotes a little bit, because that's what we refer to sometimes with non-chain data.

Sonesh Shah:
And then the other area that I think is important is career. Because again, I think most econ professionals or digital professionals have bet on this trend and it's really helping them in their career. I mean, you have to see also what's coming around the corner, but also for your associates. Because all of our associates get calls from the Amazons of the world. And we try not to keep them, but now they're going to get calls from like Web 3.0 and Web 3.0 is way more interesting for them, because they have ownership and it's a new world and they get to the story of building a new internet. I mean, we can go on and on here, but there's stuff you have to be aware of now because in the next three to four months now, it's not three to four years, these trends will start to take shape.

Peter Crosby:
Sonesh, I'd love you, because I've been, for me the thread that I'm connecting throughout this podcast conversation actually is leadership that underscores all of this. And thinking of your career growth that we've experienced with you, and now as the president of Dremel. Now that you're in this job, and now that you see how uncertain the world is, how has your sense of your own responsibilities of leadership or how you express it evolved either at all or in a different way than you expected?

Sonesh Shah:
Yeah, I think there's ... So probably one of the biggest leadership kind of aha moments for me in this last year. We did a little bit of a leadership retreat and we had a speaker come and pre-decorated that, and he does this now for a living and he talks to teams about how he sees leadership. And I don't know why, but I was expecting a little bit of a rah-rah session. And what actually it came down to was this very important statement that you can't lead others unless you are right yourself. And his focus was deeply on self-reflection, on mental health, on writing, things that I don't do quite frankly. And-

Peter Crosby:
You don't do mental health, Sonesh?

Sonesh Shah:
I generally put it into some corner of the back of my brain and assume I never have to leverage them.

Peter Crosby:
Yeah.

Sonesh Shah:
But because I always thought spending time on myself was really just about me. And I'm like, "Okay, I don't need to spend time on myself. I have a family, I have a job. I have a career. That's where I need to put my energy." But this aha moment for me was, "Well, you're actually no good at that stuff if you aren't actually yourself right." And maybe for most people that makes a ton of sense. For me this was like this, like, "Oh my God, I never looked at it." I never ever thought that a core part of my ability to lead outside is for me to lead myself inside. That seems quite obvious, but that's been a massive aha moment for me.

Peter Crosby:
No, it doesn't seem obvious at all. I think, in the maelstrom that we live in right now, often the last thing that we put at the top of the list is ourselves, because we're trying to help others often. I think that's very true. And Rob, I think of, maybe you'd explain a little bit of your theory of zone of control versus zone of concern.

Rob Gonzalez:
Well yeah, I mean mental health for me is a big topic. I married a psychiatrist. Both of her parents are psychiatrists. So it's, a lot of this is spoken about in house. My little brother got married years before I did. And he officiated our wedding and at our wedding, his whole speech was, "If you want to be a good partner, first take care of yourself. Because if you are solid, then you could be a good support for the other person. But if you're not solid, then things are just a lot harder." And that was from his 10 years of marriage experience at that point. And to the specific area that Peter's talking about, and also apropos of this whole conversation, the last bunch of years, if you wake up in the morning and you look at whatever news source you look at, CNN, the New York Times, Fox News, whatever you pick, looks like the world is burning down on some level. And people have a lot of anxiety about it.

Rob Gonzalez:
And Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has this concept of circle of concern versus circle of control. The circle of concern is every darn thing in the universe that you might possibly spend your mental and emotional energy worrying about at any given moment. The circle of control are the things that you can actually do something about. And the more time that you spend your mental, emotional, physical energy on the circle of control, the happier you'll be, the more effective you'll be. But also paradoxically, the bigger that circle gets and therefore the bigger impact you can have on the world and environment. And so often, in the context of taking care of yourself and all this type of stuff, I tend to default to that advice for people. People that are just worrying a lot outside of their zone and miserable because of it.

Rob Gonzalez:
And it's like, "Well, look, if you're not okay, if you're miserable, if you're anxious, if your head isn't right, it's going to be hard for you to be as effective as you would like to be for the things in your life that you want to do." And that's, it's obviously not a solution for everything that might go on in somebody's mental health, but for a lot of folks it's a shortcut.

Sonesh Shah:
No, and I think that the leadership element of dealing with the external world these last few years obviously has been challenging. But again, dealing with family and associates, I mean, this has also become a core element of everyone's lives. How are we all managing in this environment? And that gave me a lot of strength, to be honest with you. Because I, again, I also always looked at it as selfish to kind of spend time on yourself when you have all this stuff going on, and how can you be so selfish?

Sonesh Shah:
But that really flipped it for me. And that's actually not how to think about that. That's actually an inaccurate way of leveraging it. And so I'm trying that now. And I'm really thinking about, "Okay, well where am I, what do I need? Because if I'm going to walk in and help this place be great, or make my kids happy today and loving, and am I doing everything right?" So good question, Peter. I think it's something I've thought more about in a different way than I normally would.

Peter Crosby:
Well, just, Sonesh, when we started this 150 episodes ago, and we started with you, we never knew that we would now be the number one podcast named Unpacking the Digital Shelf. No, but seriously, I think we met at a trade show several years ago. And just to watch the way that you have built your brands and thought about leadership and engage with the community in the way that you do, is just, I think it's really appreciated. And I think I really do think it's an inspiration to the folks around you that are looking to build their careers and they get to watch you figure it out. And it's really, we are grateful that you come and share with our community the journey that you're on, because it's incredibly informative and valuable. And just thank you.

Sonesh Shah:
No, thank you guys. It's always been fun to have these sessions with you guys. It opens my mind quite a bit. I hope it's valuable for the listeners, quite frankly. I mean, it's really just me spit balling with you guys. And I, again, I've always enjoyed it. I think our world is one where you have to constantly listen and learn and challenge people with new things. And that is, I think the excitement that we all get every day. So I hope people look at the worlds that they get to play in at work as kind of the most exciting ones. Because that's been the purpose I think for us is where else can we fix change, adjust and put a smile on my face?

Peter Crosby:
Yeah, I can't wait for episode 300 and see where all of this ended up.

Sonesh Shah:
Yeah, we'll see. We'll see what's next on the radar.

Peter Crosby:
Exactly. Sonesh Shah, thank you so much for being with us.

Sonesh Shah:
No, thank you guys. It was a pleasure as always.

Peter Crosby:
I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Sonesh as much as we did. Thank you so much for your listenership over the past 150 episodes, and hope you will join us for the next. Most importantly, thanks for being part of our community.