Paul Isenberg is a sales and organization leader with over 30 years of experience in Fortune 100 as well as small/middle market companies. He is also the Founder and CEO of Bringing Hope Home, a nonprofit that helps families going through the cancer battle with financial assistance and other resources. The organization will cross its 5,000th family sometime later this year. Listen to Paul as he shares what he’s learned from running this successful nonprofit.
Bobby: What is the greatest moment in/from your professional career? Take us to that moment.
Paul Isenberg: I would say that every day at the nonprofit is my greatest professional achievement. I really mean that. I come from a commercial sales background; that was great because I could make a great income, take care of the family, etc. But now, I am running this charity, paying for the bills of families who are dealing with cancer.
We are about to help our 5,000thfamily. After talking about this some more, that’s actually likely my biggest achievement. I like to think that we built an organization that made the lives of over 20,000 people that much better. And now, I literally cannot wait to get to work every single day. That gets me out of bed all excited. I love it.
Bobby: That’s amazing. So, what has been the hardest moment in your career? A moment you needed to bounce back from.
Paul Isenberg: Yeah, one comes to mind. And I think that’s exactly what makes a business successful: being able to get back up after something goes wrong and figuring things out to stay alive and, ultimately, become stronger because of such a hardship.
So, our nonprofit pays bills for families battling cancer. We need a cash reserve to make sure we can pay for the bills of the families that we are already committed to, regardless of future contributions. Back in the day, I was working another job so I was not always a part of the organization’s day-to-day operations.
An executive came up to me one day at a meeting and told me that she spent all of our money including the reserve. She spent the money on families, which is alright. However, she was supposed to go through me before she touched that reserve. What she didn’t realize was that now our nonprofit was completely out of money, we couldn’t meet payroll, our liabilities to families might not be meant.
But fortunately, I met with one of our board members, a successful retired CEO, and we figured out a solution. We developed a new program to raise that money in a short time period. We started a new adopt a family program where we would meet with corporate donors and ask if they would personally adopt a certain family struggling with cancer. People loved this idea, and we turned a horrible situation into one of our most successful programs today. When you have a big problem, the first thing to do is stay calm then make it better. And not just back to the status quo better, but better than things ever were before the problem.
Bobby: Very interesting. Next question: if you could have a do-over in your early twenties what would it be?
Paul Isenberg: This question resonated with me, because I have thought about this for many years now with my kids. I used to bartend when I was young, and I made a lot of money. If I saved just 20% of the money, in Pennsylvania, I could’ve easily bought a house when I was young. I had a great time, but if I saved just some of this money, my early days of being an adult would’ve been so much simpler.
Bobby: Now, I probably shouldn’t even ask you this next question, because you probably don’t have many. If you died tomorrow, what would be your single biggest regret?
Paul Isenberg: Yeah, I really don’t have many regrets, but I do have one. I wish I joined the Marine Corps. I am a huge believer in service, I love this country, I grew up with my dad in the service. I have always gravitated in doing whatever challenges me, tests me. It would feel great to say that I did that. I just think the world of our Military.
Bobby:Okay, thanks for sharing. That’s a good one. Then what is one action that listeners can focus on this week to improve as a person or become more successful? Give us a life-hack.
Paul Isenberg: Exercise. Just exercise. It helps you replenish the tank. You don’t have to do six hours of CrossFit. Just get out and take a nice walk, clear your head.
Also, I’ve learned that, in opposition to common thought, you don’t have to work 20 hours a day. I tell my team this. If you can get all your work done in 6 hours, go workout, go home and see your family. I want people to work really hard and get a ton done, but it’s okay to step away.
Some reminders from this podcast:
1. As Paul said, always figure out how to turn a bad situation into a good one. This is always a possibility.
2. THIS WEEK: Exercise. This doesn’t have to be the weight room but could be a relaxing 20-minute walk or run every day. And remember, you don’t have to work every minute of the day to become successful. Sometimes, you need to step away and take a break.
BONUS CONTENT: We recommend listening to Episode 10.5, 30-minutes of Paul talking about business lessons learned from running Bringing Hope Home. He also opens up about life after the death of his wife and how that inspired him to help other families facing cancer.