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The Significance of Community, Collaboration, and Conversations With Thom Singer of ATC

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Thom Singer

Thom Singer is the CEO of Austin Technology Council (ATC), the leading unifying voice of technology in Central Texas. ATC is an informed opinion leader, providing the Austin Tech community with the insights, resources, and connections they need to grow and thrive.

Thom is a keynote speaker with over 15 years of speaking to corporate and association audiences about cultivating meaningful connections. He has worked as a Director at Stanton Chase International, an executive search firm providing clients with consulting services. Thom has also authored many books on the power of business relationships and networking.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Thom Singer talks about Austin Technology Council and how it helps people

  • How Austin has evolved over the years

  • ATC’s strategies for building connections between businesses

  • Thom’s journey to joining ATC

  • How does building a network help customers win?

  • ATC’s customer success stories

  • Thom shares his thoughts about building communities virtually

In this episode…

Are you a tech leader in Austin struggling to grow and thrive? What is the secret sauce for your success in this area?

According to Thom Singer, community collaboration and conversations can solve all problems in any industry. He believes adding one person to your inner circle is more impactful than adding 1,000 people to social media. He realized this after a successful career in business development for law firms, banks, and consulting firms. He now shares how he's working with the best thought leaders and visionary entrepreneurs to promote and support the Austin Tech Community.

Listen to this episode of The Customer Wins as host Rich Walker welcomes Thom Singer, CEO of Austin Technology Council (ATC), to discuss how they help Austin tech leaders thrive through community. Thom explains how Austin has evolved over the years, ATC’s strategies for building connections, how building a network helps customers win, and shares his thoughts about building communities virtually.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Episode Transcript:

Intro 0:02

Welcome to The Customer Wins podcast where business leaders discuss their secrets and techniques for helping their customers succeed and in turn grow their business.

Richard Walker 0:16

Hey, I'm Rich Walker, the host of The Customer Wins where I talk to business leaders about how they help their customers when and how their focus on customer experience leads to growth. Our past guests have included Shelli Taylor, the CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, and today I'm speaking with Thom Singer, the CEO of the Austin Technology Council. Today's episode is brought to you by Quick! the leader in enterprise forms automation, when the last step to earning your clients business requires filling out paperwork, don't ruin a good relationship with a bad experience. Instead, get Quik Forms to make filling out forms a great experience and the easiest part of your transaction, visit to get started. Now, just before I introduce today's guest, I want to give a big thank you to David Danelle, who's both a good friend and as on our advisory board for introducing me to Thom. So Thom Singer, he's the CEO of the Austin Technology Council. He's also a seasoned keynote speaker who speaks on the power of community and connection. He has given two TEDx talks with one coming out this June. And Thom thinks this is going to be the best speech he's ever given and 1200 presentations in his life. Oh, my gosh, Thom, you've been busy. Welcome to The Customer Wins.

Thom Singer 1:30

Hey, Rich, thank you so much for having me. And big shout out to Dave Danelle, I don't know that he'll actually listen to this, even if we tell him he's being mentioned. But Dave's a college friend of mine and a lifetime friend of mine. And I'm really glad he introduced us when you moved to Austin?

Richard Walker 1:44

Yeah, so appreciate that. I'm gonna try to make sure he hears this. Now, if you haven't heard this podcast before, I talk with business leaders about what they're doing to help their customers win, how they build and deliver a great customer experience. And the challenge is to grow in their own company. Now, Thom, I know a little bit about Austin Technology Council, but I'm not sure our guests do. And so I want to understand that better. How does your organization help people?

Thom Singer 2:08

Sure. Well, ATC, the Austin Technology Council is a 31-year-old, nonprofit organization in Austin, Texas that was founded to help put technology on the map as the economic driver for Austin. Well, check. I think that's been accomplished. I don't think there's anybody out there who doesn't know that the Austin community is driven by high-tech. The second reason we were founded was to help bring the community together and build an ecosystem. 30 years ago, there wasn't this vibrant community of people from small startups, growing local companies, and then large international companies with local offices. There were just a few people in each of those spaces. And so our role was to help be the thread that ran through the community to bring people together. That second charge becomes more important today than ever, because we've had so much growth. In 30 years, the population of Austin has tripled in size. And it's doubled really in the last 10 years, which means that we have geographic constraints, we have traffic constraints, plus their tech isn't just software anymore. The Austin Technology Council was founded as the Austin software Council. But technology is so much more in our area than just software. There's semiconductors, there's FinTech, there's med tech, there's gaming, and there needs to be an organization that works to make sure that everybody feels they're part of one community. So that's who we are. We're in the process of reinventing what the future looks like for the organization, because we are 31 years old, and we need to be prepared for the next 30 years.

Richard Walker 3:34

Yeah, that's a fantastic way of looking at things. Because I mean, I haven't been in Austin for 30 years. So I don't know what it was, like 30 years ago. Do you think that Austin is becoming, quote-unquote, the next Silicon Valley?

Thom Singer 3:45

Well, I have lived here for 31 years. In fact, I moved here in the summer of 1991, July 91. And they actually say I was at 92. They say 92. They say that that is when Austin took its bounce from the downturn, that Texas experience with the savings and loan crisis of the 80s to becoming what we are today. Now, I'm not saying that I had anything to do with that in July 91. I'm just saying that I've seen it all I got here right as the Boomtown began. And I don't think we ever wanted to be the next Silicon Valley. I don't think that's the goal of Austin 30 years ago, I certainly don't think it's the goal of Austin today. I think we want to be the best Austin that we can be. And that's very different than the Silicon Valley, our vibe, our culture is very different. And I actually think that we're becoming more Silicon Valley like, and I think as a community, we have to work to keep that Austinness alive and thriving. As we grow. Our greater area now has over 2 million people. The next 10 15 years will be 3 million people. We need to work hard to make sure that we're welcoming that we're still have that small-town heart and that we still care even if you're a successful entrepreneur who's had an exit and is now in investing in companies that you're still willing to talk to that newcomer who has an idea and a dream. That's what makes Austin special. And we have to work to keep that.

Richard Walker 5:07

I agree, there's nothing worse than going somewhere because you have a dream of what it's like, or you've experienced that on a vacation getting there and realizing it's not like that anymore. Because it's been diluted, watered down are the all the outside energy is bringing outside energy, and instead of making it Austin Energy and capabilities.

Thom Singer 5:25

And that's okay, that we change and morph. I mean, that's what societies do. However, I think that we need to be intentional in who we are as a community. And I think that's what we've done for 30 years. And I think that's the trick to the next 30 years is that we come together and decide who do we want to be and work towards that?

Richard Walker 5:45

Yeah, I think that's very important to think about. I came to Austin, because number one, I've been coming out here since 2004, to meet with a client from time to time, and I've always loved this town, and a year and a half before the pandemic, my wife and I thought, well, we should think about getting out there when the pandemic hit, we shut our office, it was obvious to come out here. But one of the main reasons I wanted to be out here it was because of the tech. So I'm super happy to have met you and to be part of ATC to make that happen. What are the different ways that you help businesses like mine? I don't know find employees or connect with other businesses. What is ATC doing to build connection?

Thom Singer 6:21

Well, the number one thing is that we host events, and we support the events of the other technology organizations. I tell everybody that we're a community organization first than we're a membership organization. If everything was about getting membership dollars and sponsorship dollars, then you create an insular little community that doesn't really mean anything. But if you're really saying we want to support the growth of Austin, that means that we support the Chamber of Commerce events, they're having their big tech awards next week, we'll be presenting one of the awards as a sponsor of their awards. We look at the Austin Women in Technology Group, instead of us putting on women in technology breakfasts, we promote their women and technology events. So part of what we do is we help expose people to everything that's going on in tech. And if we're not the right fit, that's awesome. Because you got to support something, I tell every company that I talk to that you should be supporting two or three organizations in town. But there's 20 or 30 organizations. So find the ones that whose message really matches with who you are and what you're doing. And then all of the organizations need to support each other instead of being competitive. So number one, we try to lead by being a community organization first. And that's been in the year that I've been here. My number one flag is it's not about ATC, it's about the Austin tech ecosystem. The second way is when you connect people, the magic happens, right? community collaboration, and conversations can solve all problems. And so if we get too siloed, and people who are CEOs like yourself, only get together with other CEOs and sit around a pool and drink scotch, we're not really solving problems, we're sitting around making ourselves feel good that we're talking about solving problems. But when you meet people up and down the food chain, people from large international companies who are running the offices of Metta and Google and TikTok and people who have hundreds and hundreds of employees here, when someone in a small growing company like yours can meet them, maybe there's ways you can partner, maybe you can find new clients, or maybe you just get inspired by something they're doing, or vice versa. Because the big companies can learn from the small companies. And then those companies in the middle, the large, homegrown employers, they need to realize that those big giants who are here, they're not just here competing for people to work for them. They're part of the ecosystem too, the same thing down the chain. So I'm a big believer that if we just want to hang out with people like us, we lose. And if we really embrace diversity, and diversity includes a lots of things, its race, gender, its age, but it's also the type of company you came from. It's what's your educational background? It's what is your political beliefs? If we only want to hang out with people who are exactly like us, I don't think we win as a community.

Richard Walker 9:04

Wow. So there's a lot there. One of the things that you caught my interest on is your model, your go-to-market models, kind of like the software as a service freemium model, where you're saying, hey, everybody's welcome to be part of this, because we need the community first. And I love that attitude. Because the right members will present themselves out of that to say, this is what I care about. I want to see this happen. Let me help you build it up with you. Yeah, that's awesome. I want to ask you, we'll come back to ATC in a second. But how did you get started? Where did you get this idea to be an ATC? I mean, where does the path come from?

Thom Singer 9:38

So I've had a really eclectic background. And some people might say that's good. Some people might say it's bad, but it's been quite the journey. So I started my career, really in the sort of tech world in sales. I sold to companies who were the tech company, so I worked for a financial printer, and then a law firm and then a bank and then a consulting firm in a sort of hybrid. marketing and sales roles sort of a business development role. And I was really well-networked in the community. If you go back 15 years, I knew everybody in the tech community because the law firm or the bank, or the consulting firm that I represented, that was their goal was to raise their visibility. So my whole idea was getting myself and those bankers or lawyers out into the community so that people would see us because sales isn't just about closing the sale. The first thing you have to do if you're a salesperson, you have to get on the shortlist. Because if someone's going to buy a product or service, they're usually going to talk to two or three vendors case of a law firm or a bank, they're going to talk to two or three, they never talked to 32 law firms, no, there might be 32 law firms they could choose from, but they're going to talk to two or three. And that comes from reputation around town asking for referrals. So here's what I tell everybody. If you're not on that shortlist of three in your category that they're talking to, what are your chances of winning the business? The answer is zero. So you've got to get on more shortlist. And part of the way that you do that. You get involved in your community, you're visible, you help serve people, you make introductions to people you volunteer in the organizations you belong to, and your company needs to sponsor things like the Austin Technology Council. So the companies I work for, we're members or sponsors for Austin Technology Council, and for text change and for the Association for Corporate growth. And I showed up and I participated, along the way, people started asking me to speak about this whole idea of your network as your secret weapon to building your career and your company building its reputation, your networking isn't just so you can find your next job is so that your company is getting on more shortlists. And I started speaking about it, and 12 14 years ago, I actually went off on my own and became a full-time professional speaker. And that's all I did, from 2009 till 2020. And it was a great lifestyle business. And it was not Austin-focused. So I was no longer sort of in that Austin tech ecosystem. Because most of my business meant getting on a plane and giving a speech to an association, or a company meeting somewhere else in the country or beyond. And then 2020 came, and it's sort of undermined the live meetings industry, and 100% of my income came from the live meetings industry. And so it was really hard. And when we think about who was impacted by the pandemic, the meetings industry is actually when you look at the efforts to the GDP, the meetings industry is bigger than the automotive industry. But the automotive industry can be tracked, because it's really a handful of companies and their suppliers that make up that industry, the meetings industry, you've got speakers, you've got hotels, you've got meeting planners, you've got florists, you've got transportation, these are mostly small businesses, so they can't all be traced as easily. So nobody thinks about the meeting industry, the lives meeting industry as a major component of our economy. Well, it is, and it was devastated. Like it was hit as hard if not harder than anything else in the thing. My business went essentially from a pretty good income to a third of that income or a quarter of that income for two and a half years. And there came a point where I knew it wasn't going to come back for a while. And I started thinking about opportunities to go to work for somebody. And before I even raised my hand and said, I'm looking for opportunities. Three or four people sent me the job listing to be the head of the Austin Technology Council. And this was my network from 10 and 15 years ago, that said, you might be a good fit. And when I met with the board, one of the things they wanted to do, it was time to reinvent the organization, it's time to recreate it in a new model for the next decade. And because of my background, working on community collaboration and conversations, they thought I was a good fit. I thought I was a good fit. And I decided to do it. As long as I could still be a speaker, I didn't want to shut down my speaking business, I needed to be able to still go out and do that because it had become a big part of who I was and who I am. And so I'm able to do both and I speak a lot in my role as CEO of the Austin Technology Council. I speak to other groups around town about the history of tech and Austin. I've written a speech called Austin Tech Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Because we need as a community to know where we came from. There's a lot of people who think Austin Tech really began 10 years ago, no, it became began 40 years ago. I mean, if you go back to, the 1960s and especially the 1970s and 80s. That's where the birth of this Austin miracle began. So I've done a bunch of research I've read a lot about the founders, civic leaders who really founded the tech community. And it's a fascinating story. So part of what I get to do at ATC is go out and speak about Austin, which I enjoy because it's like my worlds colliding. So that's sort of the history of where I came from, how I got here and how I'm doing both of those little pieces of my life simultaneously.

Richard Walker 14:50

You know, I'm passionate about careers as much as I'm also passionate about customer experience. It's really nice to see that you've found the blend of passion and your history of the network of technology. And you said some really important things in there about your network. So, I like to translate that back to how we build customer experience and how we help our customers win. How do you feel that building a network helps customers win?

Thom Singer 15:15

Well, at the end of the day, a customer, no matter what you sell, no matter what your product or service, a customer is a human being. And human beings, they want to feel they matter. They want to feel a sense of belonging. And if everything is just a transition, how do I separate that customer from their cash, eventually, they're going to feel like they're just a transaction. And so if you treat people in a good way, if you realize that every time you have a conversation with a customer with a prospect with anybody, on the other side of that conversation, is a carbon-based life form, who has their own stuff going on in their life, they have their own hopes and dreams and ambitions, they like their job, they don't like their job, they're married, they're single, they have a big friend group, they're feeling a little lonely, or they're raising kids, or they're dealing with aging parents, we have to look at that person, as the whole of that person. And when you actually take the time, to see somebody to really see them as a person who has more than just a checkbook to write a check to get your product or service. They're more drawn to you, they like you, it's going to be better for your company. And that relationship goes on, beyond that one thing. I know people who've changed jobs, they've changed industries. And those clients have come along with them, because they have a friendship. There's nothing wrong with having business friendships. In fact, if you have business friendships with your customers, your company is going to make more money, and you're going to have more opportunities in your future.

Richard Walker 16:37

We've experienced that here at Quicken. We were in our 22nd year, and I have had friends who are partners go from one company to another partner to another partner and bring new partners to us. Because they're like, Rich, we just want to keep working with you. We love your company, this company needs your service. Let's do it. So I'm really glad to hear you frame it in that manner, because it is about the human interaction. It is about connection at the end of the day. What's the famous phrase people buy from people they liked? Not because they liked the product or the price?

Thom Singer 17:05

Yeah, well, I mean, there's the old cliché, people do business with people they know they like and they trust. But think about your own life. I mean, everybody who's listening, we get to make decisions. And we're always going to go to that one where we just have that gut feeling. I mean, price is important. And quality of the product is important. But in most cases, those are pretty similar. People say, oh, you know, we get beaten on price? Well, if it's a 5% difference, I don't know that you're being beaten on price, you might be being beaten because the other person treats them better.

Richard Walker 17:32

Yeah, for sure. So in thinking about network community, what ATC actually does about building community, a lot of those things take time to develop, and they take time to see the fruits of that labor. I mean, being part of a community is not just hey, I'm rich. Now let's give me business, right? It may be years in the making. Do you have any success stories with ATC so far that you can talk to where people have joined, or they've come to your meetings and they have built relationships or are bigger companies as a result?

Thom Singer 18:01

Sure, well, I've not been there long enough to be able to show the exact thing from an ATC standpoint, but I can talk to just in general, because I think it does take three to five years of participating in whatever organization you're involved with. Not before your phone is ringing off the hook, and you're making all these sales. But it takes a lot of interactions before people even know you exist. So if you belong to an organization and you only go occasionally, you maybe go five times a year they meet monthly, you only go five times a year, it could take you three years, not before you have all this business. But before people even recognize you, I argue that it takes seven to 10 interactions with people before they notice you. And then before you get that business friendship, where they're going to be referring business could take a lot longer. So throughout all the organizations I've ever belonged to, I see that it takes three to five years before people really start reaping the benefits. And yet we live in a society now where people want things right away. It used to be in our grandparents in our parents generation, that if you owned a company, you belong to things like the Rotary Club, or the Chamber of Commerce, or some other industry group that is specific to your company. Or maybe you belong to three or four or five of these groups, because that was what you did. You were part of a community you supported the community. Now we do have a little bit of a what's in it for me. I met with a young entrepreneur, and I won't name him. But I talked to him about supporting organization. He goes, I don't support things like that. And I'm like, why? And he goes because that doesn't impact my bottom line. He goes I don't do anything that I can't track a guaranteed a 10x. And I'm like, Whoa, man, you're listening to a little too much Grant Cardone, not everything you do has to be trackable to 10x in your dollars you put in he goes, well, if membership dues are $2,500 How do I get $25,000? You know, for sure by the end of the year, and I'm like, well, there is no for sure. Are you going to show up? Are you going to participate? Are you going to support are you going to be part of the community however, if he did those things, and he met one person who he could hire as a key employee, one person who could become, you know, a potential customer, or a vendor that would really help him succeed, that would easily be worth $25,000. But just giving the money in joining any organization isn't going to produce results. It depends. I joined and I support, and then I have to give back. And so I think that that's one of the things people have to realize is this isn't a shortcut. There are no shortcuts in the relationship game. But in today's world, all the surveys show that people are feeling more disconnected in their communities, in their life and inside their companies than ever before. So if people are feeling disconnected, the answer the solution to disconnectedness is belonging. So if you can be the person that helps other people feel that they belong into a community, you're going to reap the rewards, and you're not going to be able to trace it back to oh, that's because I joined the Chamber of Commerce, or that's because I sponsored the Austin Technology Council breakfast, or whatever, it's because all of those things that you do little by little, create that vibe, and then things come your way. So, I've seen it in my own life. And I've seen it in hundreds of other people's lives, where giving back to your community and showing up and being supportive, brings an opportunity, you may not be able to directly tie. But if you really dissect it, you never would have got that opportunity if you hadn't been engaged,

Richard Walker 21:20

I think you've just made the best business case I've ever heard for being in an organization, you know, apart from well give back or feel good or whatever. I was part of a networking group where we met every single week. And I knew from experience, I became president of that group, it took six, even nine or 12 months to see growth out of that group, because of that need to be there consistently show up, show up, show up. So I completely agree with how important it is to participate and take action. But you said something else that makes me think about this. Here, I work remote now. And I love my team, we connect through various methods of communication. But I find myself if I have an opportunity to go to an event, second triple, quadruple checking, do I really want to go to that event? When I had an office and the event was just on the way home? It was like, yeah, I'll just do that on the way home, no problem already out of my house. But now I have to get dressed. I have to leave, I have to commute I have to face traffic. But what do you see people doing these days to combat this?

Thom Singer 22:20

So you bring up a really interesting point. And that is the world of networking events has changed drastically, partially because of the pandemic. And partially because of the shift in society where people aren't necessarily leading with, how do I serve the community, like maybe they did in the past? So there are something like 47 technology councils in North America. And there's actually an association of technology councils that I've gotten involved with, we would hope and think that Austin would have the strongest, but we don't, we don't have the grassroots support that they have in cities like Pittsburgh, and Nashville and Northern Virginia, and Arizona, etc. And so I meet with these people who have these thriving councils. And we talk about what are you doing for events and things like that. I also meet with the leaders of other local nonprofits, and we talk about what are you doing. My wife runs one of the best business nonprofits, she runs the Association for Corporate growth in Austin and San Antonio. So we talk about it at the dinner table. And there are people who go, oh, well, breakfasts don't work, because I don't have to commute in. So why would I go to something at eight o'clock in the morning, when I don't have to go to the office or you know, even if they do go in, they have flex time. They don't have to go in that early. So they go, I don't go to a breakfast, then you ask the same person. What about a lunch? And they're like, well, but that's mid-day, I have to break my momentum. So I'm not gonna go to lunches, or like, what am I happy hours. And they're like, Well, I don't want to take shower and put on a shirt at the end of the day, if I'm working from home. So happy hours are no good. People are coming up with reasons not to go to these events, like you said, it used to be well, I'll go to that happy hour because it's on the way home, I leave the office 15 minutes early, I get home about 45 minutes later than normal, nobody's worse for where. However, if we don't go to anything, we become more isolated. And if we're working on a distributed team, and we don't participate in anything in our community, because we live in Boise, or companies based in Austin, and our customers are all over the world. Now we're doing ourselves a disservice. Because yeah, maybe your company doesn't do work in Boise. But if you get laid off, then you become the person who shows up at the Chamber of Commerce or young men's business league or Young Women's Alliance with your resume in hand saying, Hi, I'm looking for a job and nobody knows who you are. And there's nothing worse than being an active part of an organization, seeing the economy dip and people get laid off. And then they show up like they really liked the organization. People see through that. You have to dig your well before you're thirsty, which translates to you have to be engaged in your community before you need your community. And there's lots of reasons we need our community. It's not just about finding the next job. It's not just about getting the next sale. We are social creatures. It's been proven that if people are too isolated, they have more depression, they are more lethargic and they're less sad. Fight in their jobs. But one of the things I teach companies is inside your company, even if you're distributed teams like your company, you need to get people together. That might mean an annual conference where you fly everybody in. That might mean your Austin team gets together, your la team gets together, your Seattle team gets together. But people need to have friends at work. Gallup has done the survey for like 30 years, if you have a best friend at work, somebody who your family is go do stuff together, you really like them, you have lunch together, you're one of your best friends, you will stay at the company longer, you'll work harder, and you're more satisfied in your job. So we have to as companies be thinking, we need people to have friendships in the company. And then we need friendships in the industry. And that's why I'm a big believer in national industry organizations as on the speaker side of my life, I'm super active in the National Speakers Association. On my ATC side of my life, I'm becoming active in the Council of technology councils. Because when we are known in our industry, that helps our company animals, but it also helps us feel more fulfilled in the job. So I believe we can't do this alone. And everybody who thinks that virtual real will replace face-to-face. That's not what's proving out. Now, there are ways to do virtual and distributed teams successfully. But it takes effort to make it work.

Richard Walker 26:21

I agree. I just came back last week from beacon strategies roundtable called the innovators. And it was like 40, or 50 people from industry, these are all leaders in tech, and FinTech and wealth management. And I go to these events, rarely, because the last four years, and now I'm starting to go to these more frequently. And I always have the same trepidation like, oh, man, I got to get on a plane. And I got to go through all that process and travel and take time away from my family, and I have this reticence, and then I get there. And I'm just in love with the experience of being there. And I don't want to leave it, and then come back home, and I have all this energy ready to go. And that human connection is so vital, to really get you thinking and acting and doing more. So yeah, I think you're doing the right things. Thom, I want to know, something else that like one of my favorite topics right now is artificial intelligence. And I don't know how that's impacting what you see in the world, whether that's this remote work, or how do we actually have counselors like yourselves? So I'm curious, how do you see AI changing customer experience for you, your world, your customers, etc.

Thom Singer 27:30

So I'm by no means an expert in this, but I'm fascinated by it. And so I've been playing with In fact, I was an early subscriber to ChatGPT, back last November, when you first could do it, I was on the waiting list. As soon as it opened, I was one of the first people in and I played with it. And AI is more than just generative AI writing a blog post for you or something like that. There's so many things that it can do that can help make our lives better. We shouldn't shy away from it. And I talked to somebody recently, who was asked about using these types of tools, in your career in your company, both from writing from information gathering from finding inspiration and creating plans for teams. And they were like, nope, nope, I don't use it and I never will, because the human brain and they had this big argument. And I said, if you went back to 1993, would you have said the same thing about the internet? Because there were people were like, what do we need the internet for? What Why do you need a web page? If you're an association, why do you need a web page? You know, and if you think back to the early stages of the early 90s, when the internet was coming out, there were people who were like, oh, if you go back to when calculators came out, this is before your in my time, but my brothers all grew up in high school using slide rules. I was never taught how to use a slide rule. Because we had calculators and people were like, well, you still have to learn how to do the math, because it's not like you're gonna have a calculator in your pocket everywhere you go. Well, guess what? I do have a calculator in my pocket everywhere I go. They just didn't predict the iPhone. So all of these technologies come out and people push back on oh, it's gonna ruin the world. It's gonna take away jobs, right? I mean, if you think about it, how many times in the last 200 years has new technology came out that people said, well, that's going to take away jobs. Yes, it takes away some jobs, but new things are created. So I was talking to somebody who employs three copywriters full-time in his company. And he sat them down in January. And he said, By December, I'm going to need one copywriter. He goes, what I need is the copywriter who can use AI for inspiration, and then take that framework and make amazing copy. So yeah, you don't have to be the person who generates the ideas because AI can give you an outline but can't just rely on AI. Here's the thing with like using it to write things, it currently and it'll get better. It makes things up. I asked it to write something for me and I wanted it to cite sources because I wanted to go read the sources. The links didn't work. It gave me cited sources. And I would Google the mag Using didn't even seem to exist, it cited sources I couldn't find on Google. So it made me wonder it was asked to cite sources, did it merge things together? What did it do? How did it come up with, and I don't know that they were necessarily fake. But what I realized was, you can't trust AI, you have to use it as an inspiration to do your own research if you're writing and take things, I don't think anybody should write anything on AI, copy and paste it, and then you have a blog post, I think you need to ask AI for suggestions. And then you need to write, 60-70 % of it needs to be fresh ideas that come from you, using your own voice and your own creativity. Because AI tends to say things the same way every single time. What makes it special being a human is you have your voice and your take. So these are tools. And I think these people who are scared that it's going to take away jobs, yeah, it will that my friends company is going to have one copywriter. However, because of that, he's going to have resources now to hire other people to do other things. So I'm a believer that any tech we have opens doors as well as closes doors. And so I don't think we should be scared of it. But I also don't think we should think that it's the end all I mean, the internet changed the world amazingly, my smartphone was the biggest change in my lifetime was the fact that I am constantly now connected to my email to everything I have Google in my hand. But that's not always good. So we need to realize that these changes, I don't know, they're awesome. But they're just changes. And that's why I think the human side of life becomes more important with all of this generative AI because we need that community, those collaborations and those conversations more than ever. Because if you're just chatting, and you can do this, by the way, with ChatGPT, you can talk to it and have a full conversation like you're talking to another person. But that would be awfully shallow, I would rather have an in-depth conversation with you, Rich.

Richard Walker 31:55

Yeah, I'm gonna give you my two predictions of what I see this doing, because I think it plays back to the value of ATC. So number one, I think what you're saying, by the way, I don't think your friend is playing Hunger Games with those three copywriters in saying only one will survive, he's probably given them an opportunity to grow and evolve and adapt and prove their worth and other ways and become better people, which goes to my first prediction, I think lower-skilled workers will become higher skilled workers over time with AI because AI can do the high skill work and enable the lower skill person to make better decisions or choose better outcomes, and find strategies and see patterns that AI is not going to see or choose which patterns the right one for their business. The second thing, I think that's going to happen. And by the way, I haven't had anybody, Ecuador validate this for me, but I think AI is going to create more remote workers, I think it's going to happen because people will do the jobs without having the interaction with somebody. So for example, I've used ChatGPT, to help me brainstorm and treat it like a sound wall, right, bounce ideas off of it, and to your point, come up with better ideas as a result of the spark of inspiration that I saw on my screen.

Thom Singer 33:06

So here's the thing that I've done that I haven't seen a lot of other people do. And you just basically said the same thing a little differently. I asked it to act like my business coach. And both for running ATC and for running my speaking business. I act like it's a paid business adviser. And I asked him all kinds of questions for ideas on what can I do to promote this organization? What are the three things I can do to get better social media interaction? And the trick isn't just asking it once it's then going, please go deeper? I don't understand what you mean by that? How can I do that in a practical sense, and you ask it five or six in-depth, deeper questions, and all of a sudden, the nuggets start to appear. So it might hurt business coaches, because now I have ChatGPT. But it allows me to sit down any time and have that, look for that inspiration. Now I have to take the action to go do something with it. It doesn't automatically get me members or get me speaking gigs. I have to take those ideas and go put them into practice and put them into practice through the filter of my own brain.

Richard Walker 34:08

Yeah. And I think if I were the business coach, I wouldn't be worried about you doing one little thing with the chat. And then coming back to me and saying, okay, look, this is my ideas that I have better ability to talk about them now. Help me figure it out. Because that's really the value of the human is to have the true brain working for us. I love this topic, because it's fascinating. And I think we could do two hours of podcasting on it alone. But I want to keep going and we're getting close to the end here. What is one of the secrets or key lessons that? I mean, you've talked about some really great things here about leveraging your network and building community. But are there is there anything else that you would want to share with other business leaders to help them win more customers?

Thom Singer 34:46

Well, I think that engaging in your community, whatever that means, and community is different for everybody. You might have a local community, you might have an industry vertical, you might have an international community. I think the secret weapon is how do you engage human to human, which means you've got to go to these industry conferences, you've got to sponsor dinners. You've got to get together with people do a zoom call do these things. I think the people who have the best human connection relationships are going to be the people who win is everyone's looking for shortcuts. A like a link, a share and a follow is not a business relationship. So we'll use David Danelle as an example. Right? So he's somebody that I went to college with. He was one of my fraternity brothers. I was at his wedding. He was at my wedding. Our families have traveled to Europe together. He his wife, and his two children will be at my daughter's wedding in June. So I have a lifetime friendship with this gentleman. Now, if I just met Bobby Smith this morning at a breakfast, and she sends me a LinkedIn request. I'm connected to her on LinkedIn. But we just met we talked for two minutes. I have a 35-year history and friendship and multi-generational friendship with Dave Danelle, if I look at LinkedIn, can you tell the difference? No, right. They're both people I'm connected to. There's no difference in likes, links, shares and followers. However, if one of them asked me for a massive favor, I may or may not be able to do that for Bobby, I don't know her. I'm not going to drop everything I'm doing. David Danelle asked me for a massive favor, I'm going to do it. So we have to remember that a link or a friend connection in social media is not the same as a 35-year human-to-human history. I think the secret weapon moving forward as we get AI and more digital and more online and more remote work. I think the secret is, where are you connected to? And how do you make them feel?

Richard Walker 36:42

Yeah, man, that's great. So like, as we wrap this up, I do have one more question for you. But before I ask it, what is the best way for people to connect with you?

Thom Singer 36:51

I think the best way to connect with me is probably LinkedIn. Although they can find me on the websites for ATC or, my own website, but LinkedIn is probably where I spend most of my time when it comes to connections. Okay, perfect. And in-person. Yeah, that's, that's, that's the magic sauce.

Richard Walker 37:12

All right, so here's my last question who has had the biggest impact on your leadership or how you approach your role?

Thom Singer 37:18

God, there are so many people I've been very fortunate. I've had a lot of mentors in my life. I've had a lot of peers that have really helped me. But if I was really to say, who had the biggest impact, which I think was the word you used, I would say it's a guy named Dave Morris. Now he's actually a mutual friend with Dave Danelle. And Dave Morris is the Chief Revenue Officer for a quantum computing company called Quantum Computing, Inc. And he's also somebody who I knew in college, he was the second person I ever met when I moved into the dorms. He's my oldest daughter's godfather. And he and I, when I wanted to publish my first book, when I was becoming a speaker, he's kind of got a serial entrepreneur gene in him, he founded a publishing company, so that I would have a publisher who has a friend like that, who has a friend who founds a publishing company, to be able to help you follow your dreams. I think all of us should have friends like that. So he has not only been a great friend, we've been business partners with that publishing company for a number of years, he helped me launch my speaking business, but he's also one of the best salespeople I've ever met. And so he's always there to help me look at, how do I market and sell when it comes to things along those lines. And I think that that's what, you know, he's, he's been a peer. He's been a mentor. He's been a buddy, he's always been part of my life since I was 18 years old. But at the same time, he lives a life by example. And I think having friends like that, who put their money where their mouth is, and show up 100% true to who they say they are. I think that's an example we all need more of in life.

Richard Walker 38:42

Amen to that. Yeah, that is awesome. Well, hey, Thom, I want to say thank you, to you for being here. You're the CEO of Austin Technology Council. Really appreciate you joining us on this episode of The Customers Win. So everybody listening, please go check out Austin Technology Council website at and to see all of his public speaking put him in your next event. And also don't forget to check out Quik Forms at where we take the work out of paperwork. I hope you enjoyed this discussion, and we'll click the like button. Share this with someone even subscribe to our channel so you get notified of future episodes of The Customer Wins. Thom, thank you so much for joining me today.

Thom Singer 39:23

Thanks, Rich. This was awesome.

Outro 39:25

Thanks for listening to The Customer Wins podcast. We'll see you again next time. And be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.


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