Be willing to be flexible on the product and business but never on the values.
In today’s competitive business landscape, the race for profits often takes center stage. However, there are some leaders who also prioritize a mission-driven purpose. They use their business to make a positive social impact and recognize that success isn’t only about making money. In this interview series, we are talking with some of these distinct leaders, and I had the pleasure of interviewing Augustus Franklin.
Augustus is the Founder and CEO of CallHub, a leading political technology company that provides digital organizing solutions for campaigns and causes around the world. Under Augustus’ leadership, CallHub has grown into a successful company with over 2,000 customers across 46 countries — including major political parties, advocacy organizations, and businesses like Uber, the UK Conservative Party, the Bernie Sanders’ Campaign, and Accenture.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
My brother and I grew up in a middle-class family in India, as children of school teachers. It was this upbringing that created in me an innate need to stand out and create a larger impact all through my childhood.
I was the first in my family to leave my home country to move to the US. After working in corporate America for 11 years, I moved back to India and started CallHub. What began as a telecommunications business quickly became a product that helps campaigns across the world connect meaningfully with their supporters.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
A pivotal moment for us was during the COVID-19 pandemic. The best way forward for our organization in those trying times was to help outreach and communication efforts. We provided free calling credits to nonprofits that were calling up hospitals in different areas to try and locate oxygen cylinders for patients. My compassionate team went out of their way to find organizations that needed our technology and provided them with free credits.
We often learn the most from our mistakes. Can you share one that you made that turned out to be one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?
One of the biggest lessons I learned was to recognize red flags in clients in the initial stages, irrespective of their ticket size. We once worked with an organization whose employees were rude and dismissive of our customer success team. However, considering their revenue potential, we still decided to continue working with them.
Down the line, we found out they were using our product to threaten their customers, breaking the law, and more, and we had to eventually let them go in an unceremonious manner.
It was a tough lesson, but I learned then that when people show unkindness in some aspects of their lives, they are most likely to remain the same elsewhere. As a business, since one of our primary goals is to help campaigns that are making the world a better place, we now choose better.
As a successful leader, it’s clear that you uphold strong core values. I’m curious what are the most important principles you firmly stand by and refuse to compromise on. Can you share a few of them and explain why they hold such significance for you in your work and life?
The core principles that have guided CallHub have been Openness and Trust, Kindness, Extreme Ownership, and Aspiring to be Great.
These four principles have helped me choose the leaders who lead this company, the approach we have towards our customers, and the overall mission of our company. Whenever I find myself at a crossroads, it is these values that I come back to.
What inspired you to start a purpose-driven business rather than a traditional for-profit enterprise? Can you share a personal story or experience that led you to prioritize social impact in your business?
At one point in my work at CallHub, I realized that I was providing some of the biggest political, nonprofit, and advocacy campaigns on the planet with tools to engage their audiences and influence them. CallHub has become one of the best campaign management tools over the last decade. Customers who choose our products created empirically better impact on their audience than any of our competitors.
It was at this point that I had to take cognizance of my role in creating an impact on the world. I also realized that our success put us in a position of privilege and responsibility, and that has allowed us to be more vocal about the values we have always held dear.
Can you help articulate a few of the benefits of leading a purpose-driven business rather than a standard “plain vanilla” business?
Purpose-driven businesses will not grow just for the sake of growth. We grow very consciously and only among the customers who are aligned with our purpose. It creates a strong sense of community within the company that is difficult to re-create in “plain vanilla” businesses.
How has your company’s mission or purpose affected its overall success? Can you explain the methods or metrics you use to evaluate the impact of this purpose-driven strategy on your organization?
Somewhat counterintuitively, we have found that more people gravitate towards CallHub because we are a purpose-driven business. Even the customers we refuse to onboard because of our values admire our product and the impact we bring to the market. This lets us know that we truly creating something that the world values.
We now measure our success by brand recognition among the customers that are aligned with our values. We are seeing a significant uptick in media interest and interest among prospective customers because we are more interesting to work with.
Can you share a pivotal moment when you realized that leading your purpose-driven company was actually making a significant impact? Can you share a specific example or story that deeply resonated with you personally?
During the 2016 elections, Democrats Abroad worked with CallHub to reach out to veterans and overseas citizens to participate in the democratic process in the US.
The primary method to reach these voters was persuasion through phone calls. With CallHub, they increased their voter turnout by 3x and in their own words:
“When we added CallHub to our voter outreach tool set in 2016, we knew that it would impact our outreach. What we didn’t realize is how much it helped to recruit and energize volunteers. ”
It is this campaign that drove home the point that CallHub is a significant persuasive tool. And like any tool, CallHub can be used for good.
This revelation helped solidify the idea that it was essential to vet the campaigns we worked with and only accept campaigns that aligned with our values. Because our hope is always that CallHub helps them change the world for the better.
Have you ever faced a situation where your commitment to your purpose and creating a positive social impact clashed with the profitability of your business? Have you ever been challenged by anyone on your team or had to make a tough decision that had a significant impact on your finances? If so, how did you address and reconcile this conflict?
Yes, all the time. We’ve let go of many large contracts because our values did not align with our customers’ values. We’ve let go of employees when values were misaligned. Every time something like this affects our finances, we’ve found that our team steps up. They say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”. Our team stepped up to get us more customers or to take on additional responsibilities whenever we made tough decisions based on our values.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs who wish to start a purpose-driven business? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know I Order To Create A Highly Successful Purpose-Driven Business.”
1 . Understand yourself and your values.
2 . Look for a large market where you have the ability to sacrifice part of the market.
3 . Work with passionate people who share your values
4 . Listen to everyone around you
5 . Be willing to be flexible on the product and business but never on the values.
I’m interested in how you instill a strong sense of connection with your team. How do you nurture a culture where everyone feels connected to your mission? Could you share an example or story that showcases how your purpose has positively influenced or motivated people on your team to contribute?
Regular team interactions and open communication is the key to building a strong sense of community in the team. We talk about our values and the way we work with every new employee who joins our team. We reward people who exhibit our values. We have open Q&A sessions every month for anyone to ask questions and keep us all accountable for what we say and what we actually do.
Imagine we’re sitting down together two years from now, looking back at your company’s last 24 months. What specific accomplishments would have to happen for you to be happy with your progress?
Two years from now, if any progressive organizations want to organize or mobile people, the first company they should think about should be CallHub. We wish to create a larger impact for progressive organizations around the world.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would like to bring a movement for equal opportunity. If we can bring about equity in opportunities to the largest number of people, irrespective of who they are, then I think we can create the most happiness for most people in the world.
How can our readers further follow your work or your company online?
You can follow CallHub and my work on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. You can also visit CallHub’s website to learn more.
This was great. Thanks for taking time for us to learn more about you and your business. We wish you continued success!
About the Interviewer: About the Interviewer: Chad Silverstein is a successful entrepreneur with more than two decades of experience as a successful founder and CEO. He started his first company, Choice Recovery, Inc. a third-party collection agency, out of his apartment while going to The Ohio State University. He grew the business nationwide and represented more than 10,000 clients before he sold the company on his 25th anniversary. Chad’s second venture [re]start, a career development platform that helps people find new jobs, launched in 2013 as a division inside his agency. [re]start was a catalyst to Chad’s team becoming an industry outlier after connecting thousands of people sent to collections with new career opportunities so they could afford to pay their bills and get out of debt. His team was nationally recognized for their social impact, while twice being ranked the #1 business to work for in Central Ohio. Chad sold [re]start in 2023 and is now a writer and thought leader for Authority Magazine’s Entrepreneur and Sports Editorials. He also offers an exclusive executive leadership program inside his online community at Authentic Authority.