Digitalization and the at-our-fingertips interconnectivity now in our grasp have not only ushered in a new baseline of convenience, it’s transformed the world of commerce.
Fresh opportunities have emerged for entrepreneurs who adapt, and amongst those harnessing these opportunities is business leader Michael Podolsky, whose story illustrates the upward trajectory possible for those who react to evolving challenges with innovative solutions.
The Path to Digital Entrepreneur
A 20-year rise through the ranks on Wall Street and a background in leadership, customer service, legal and tech spheres have propelled Michael Podolsky’s entrepreneurial ventures.
In 2006, Michael co-founded PissedConsumer.com, an online review platform committed to enabling freedom of speech for consumers, and in 2015 – WiserBrand.com consulting firm. Both companies have since achieved recognition on the 2023 Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies, with PissedConsumer.com ranking 611 in the Business Products & Services, and WiserBrand.com being #97 in the IT services category.
Michael attributes this accolade to solid team commitment:
“Both the WiserBrand.com and PissedConsumer.com revenue growth over three years demonstrate exciting progress. That growth was possible thanks to the hard work of our teams.”
Through WiserBrand.com, Michael’s aim is to “continue building bridges between businesses and their customers” through digital solutions that prioritize customer care as a tool for growth.
Revisiting the story behind starting PissedConsumer.com, Michael shares that his dissatisfaction with an unaddressed vacation issue planted the seed:
“It was my personal unpleasant experience that motivated me to start the business. I realized that so many companies fail to address their customers’ complaints. So, as an unsatisfied customer, I decided that consumers needed a platform where everyone could freely voice their issues.”
Seeing the need for representation in the area that lacked it underlines Michael’s advocacy-oriented approach:
“It was more of a calling. I enjoy what I do. I had an idea, so I had this service and product in mind, and that’s what I went towards. That’s how I became an entrepreneur. I just chose to provide extra service to the community that needed it. I found a niche that drove me to succeed and accomplish something in that niche.”
Fighting Adversity and Advancing Consumer Rights
Unfortunately, initiatives that protect free speech also invite challenges. Michael has repelled 24 lawsuits targeting consumer review rights, with each victory strengthening legal protections and expanding the rights of consumers to share experiences publicly without fear of censorship.
This perseverance through adversity has certainly achieved results in directly strengthening protections for open feedback online.
As Michael remarks:
“Based on those court cases, a law was passed to stop companies from including contract clauses that prevent consumers from publicly sharing their experiences. That became a revolutionary decision.”
Key Traits of Successful Digital Entrepreneurs
To thrive amid uncertainty requires a robust work ethic. As Michael notes, “I’ve learned that passion and emotions can be powerful drivers. However, to know that the idea is worth pursuing, you should be eager to invest your time in it. Not money. Time is what you can’t bring back.”
According to Michael, “Workaholism, honesty and punctuality” are instrumental to entrepreneurial success.
As he explains, “Freedom of choice is what I enjoy most about entrepreneurship – it’s my choice to do or not to do. Dedicating hours through a passion for what you do gets you the focus and drive needed to succeed.”
Few achievements are arrived at alone. Business development demands teamwork, Michael asserts, “The team defines the leader. It’s the team that makes leaders effective. The only leadership skill that is needed is to pick the right team.”
By respecting honest feedback and nurturing an open and honest corporate culture, Michael believes teams can build trust through sustainable relations and the freedom to think laterally when up against obstacles.
What leadership style works best? For Michael, it’s to “lead strategically. Take the wheel only when needed. Your employees will catch on and be empowered to drive things forward themselves.”
Consumer Advocacy and Business Development
Online reviews have become pivotal to the success of any online business as consumer review platforms give voice to the consumer.
Consistent negative feedback, and how a company responds to that feedback can shape a brand’s public perception and by that, its fortunes. Rather than dismissing such platforms as a gathering place for disgruntled shoppers to vent their grievances, Michael feels that companies should see these complaints as a prompt to initiate customer development, to start a conversation for equal benefit:
“PissedConsumer.com has rapidly evolved into a conflict resolution center where brands and consumers can come together to find mutual respect and understanding. We have features to help consumers and brands find common ground.”
In Michael’s opinion, listening and engagement are vital:
“… because if you don’t take feedback and don’t optimize, you don’t hear what consumers are saying, consumers will just say it more.”
What Defines Successful Entrepreneurship?
Indeed, as a customer service expert, Michael feels strongly that good customer service is the linchpin that differentiates a struggling startup from a scalable brand:
“For me, the next level is better service to our customers… and this demands people sense… you need to be willing and ready to restructure your team. It’s about adapting and changing the culture of the company. You become a successful entrepreneur only when you are able to move the company into stability later on.”