Planet Leadership

By Eric Thurston

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This is planet leadership, the podcast that enables leaders of associations and nonprofits to grow their organization and achieve their missions. In the episodes of this podcast, your host Eric Thurston will interview leaders in associations and nonprofits about leadership. In his role as a CEO of a midsize, dynamic software company, Eric has access to just some amazing leaders with some amazing stories. He works closely with associations and nonprofits and the unique challenges they face as organizations. The podcast is called Planet Leadership because we are going to talk to people that are literally trying to change the planet. When you look at associations and how they are advocating for their members, they face many challenges, some being budget, people, resources, public scrutiny, and public accountability. Why do some of them do it better than others? That's what this podcast will talk about. How do you build a great culture? How do you build a great team to scale an organization to potentially change the world? How do leaders transition from other industries to associations and nonprofits? Go to to learn more about how you can grow your association or nonprofit. Please subscribe, rate and review planet leadership, wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Episode Date
Episode 09: Business Leaders in the Big Picture, with Gary Shapiro

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies and which owns and produces CES® – The Global Stage for Innovation.

Shapiro directs a staff of about 200 employees and thousands of industry volunteers, leading his organization’s promotion of innovation as a national policy to spur the economy, create jobs, and cut the deficit. CTA advocates for skilled employees, immigration and free trade, and eliminating regulatory and tax burdens on innovators that delay, restrict, or ban products and services. CTA does not seek government funding for industry.

Shapiro has testified before Congress on technology and business issues dozens of times and led the industry through its successful transition to HDTV. As chairman of the Home Recording Rights Coalition (HRRC), Shapiro led the manufacturers’ battle to preserve the legality of recording technology and consumer fair-use rights, and was an early opponent in the fight to defeat SOPA and PIPA in Congress – legislation that would silence free speech online. He co-founded and chaired the HDTV Model Station, served as a leader of the Advanced Television Test Center (ATTC), and is a charter inductee to the Academy of Digital Television Pioneers, receiving its highest award as the industry leader most influential in advancing HDTV.

In 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, The Hill named Shapiro one of the top lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Shapiro has also been repeatedly named one of the 100 most influential people in Washington by Washington Life magazine and a Tech Titan by Washingtonian magazine. He has also held many exhibition industry leadership posts and received the exhibition industry’s highest honors including the IAEE Pinnacle Award and Legend of the Industry Award. Under Shapiro’s leadership, CTA regularly wins awards for its success as a family-friendly employer, the healthiest workplace of its size in Washington, and as a “green” trade show producer. In 2019, CTA earned its sixth consecutive selection as a Washington Post Top Workplace.
Shapiro is a New York Times bestselling author, whose books include “Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation” (HarperCollins, 2019), “Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses” (HarperCollins, 2013), and “The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream” (Beaufort, 2011). Through these books and television appearances, and as a columnist whose more than 1,000 opinion pieces have appeared in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, Shapiro has helped direct policymakers and business leaders on the importance of innovation in the U.S. economy.

Shapiro sat on the State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy and the American Enterprise Institute Global Internet Strategy Advisory Board. He also served as a member of the No Labels Executive Council and the United Nations Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development Panel of Advisers. He served on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s bipartisan Commission on Information Technology, which created policy positions for using the internet as a medium for business. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the Economic Club of Washington, and on the Board of Visitors of George Mason University. He has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a “mastermind” for his initiative in helping to create the Industry Cooperative for Ozone Layer Protection (ICOLP). And he is a member of the Churchill Club’s 2018 Academy.

Prior to joining CTA in 1982, Shapiro was an associate at the law firm of Squire Sanders. He has also worked on Capitol Hill as an assistant to a member of Congress. He received his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate with a double major in economics and psychology from Binghamton University. He is married to Dr. Susan Malinowski, a retina surgeon.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The defining moments in Shapiro’s career that brought him to this point
  • CES and its influence on innovation and the future of technology
  • The importance of believing 100% in your organization’s vision as a leader
  • The global impact of Shapiro’s decisions
  • How Shapiro aligns his personal culture and beliefs with the strategy of his organization
  • The opportunity for business leaders to stand up for the people of the United States
  • How Shapiro leverages the freedom that his board gives him
  • Challenges of taking a hard stance and the backlash that can result
  • The path to becoming a NYT bestselling author

Additional resources:

Oct 02, 2019
Episode 08: Consultancy in the Exhibition and Convention Industry, with Sam Lippman

Sam Lippman is President and Founder of Lippman Connects, providing executive-level consulting to the convention and exhibition industry in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and management. Sam is also a trained facilitator (A.C. Nielsen/Burke Institute) who has helped event producers, venues and cities understand their market position and determine their future plans. Since 2001, Sam has produced the Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum (ECEF) and the Large Show Roundtable (LSR). In 2011, Sam launched the Attendee Acquisition Roundtable (AAR) and in 2012 added the Exhibit Sales Roundtable (ESR).

Before launching his company, Sam was Vice President of GASC, producing PRINT and GRAPH EXPO and was Vice President of the Consumer Electronics Show. Sam started his career with GES in 1977, working in Chicago, Detroit and New York City.

Sam is a proponent of better education for the exhibition industry, and was presented an IAEE Merit Award for his contributions. He is an international speaker, author and teacher, and is often quoted by the media.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Lippman’s journey from freight room clerk to President of Lippman Connects
  • The formation of the Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum
  • The power of conventions and exhibitions as a marketing tool
  • Current trends in the invisible industry
  • Lippman Connects and Lippman’s role as a consultant in the exhibition industry
  • Establishing credibility and expertise in your industry
  • The role of technology in the exhibition and convention industry
  • Similarities and differences of associations vs. for-profit show organizers

Additional resources:

Sep 18, 2019
Episode 07: Leadership in Sports, with Oscar Aparicio

Oscar Aparicio has leveraged his rich experience as an educator in the technology and enterprise SaaS space to drive software adoption. When not helping services departments scale, he enjoys watching an inordinate amount of football.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Eric Thurston’s lifelong love for the Denver Broncos
  • Oscar Aparicio on the 49ers and the best team in NFL history
  • Oldhead GMs that pick players based on what used to work
  • The Peter Principle as it relates to players who move into management
  • Examples of successful leadership through transition in the NFL
  • How leaders in the NFL create a system that lifts people up
  • Managing the coaching carousel
  • The importance of being adaptable and innovative as a quarterback

Additional resources:

Sep 11, 2019
Episode 06: The Invisible Industry: Association Management and Trends in The Global Exhibition and Events Industry, with David DuBois

David DuBois is the President and CEO of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events® (IAEE). As IAEE’s leader, DuBois is responsible for the management of 23 full-time professional staff, producing the annual business operating plan and budget, overseeing the support of all meetings of governance units, leading business development, directing fundraising efforts, advocating for the industry and the organization’s members, providing organizational leadership and giving strategic counsel to the board. Also, he serves as the association’s representative with industry coalitions, partner organizations and strategic alliances.

DuBois began his career with Sheraton Corporation in various sales positions including Regional Director of Sales and the Director of Marketing Programs. He has served as both President and CEO and Senior Vice President at the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) where he was responsible for all operations and a $7 million budget. As Senior Vice President, he managed the development of 15 new chapters and was responsible for magazine advertising sales and membership recruitment and retention.

DuBois has also served as the Chief Operating Officer at Meeting Professionals International (MPI) from 1996-2000. During this time, he supported programs and services for more than 16,000 members worldwide and served as the Executive Vice President of the MPI Foundation. David has also served as MPI’s Vice President of Sales and Key Account Management and Vice President of Corporate Services.

Most recently, DuBois has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau where he had oversight and full responsibility of 42 staff, with the responsibility of attracting convention and tourism business with an $8.5 million budget.
DuBois has served as a board member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE); Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Texas Society of Association Executives; board member and Chairman of the Dallas-Fort Worth Tourism Council; and board member of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. He currently serves as Immediate Past Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Convention Industry Council (CIC). He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Meetings Mean Business Coalition and the U.S. Travel Association.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • David DuBois’s journey to becoming the President and CEO of IAEE
  • How DuBois’s experience with sales and marketing in the hospitality industry prepared him for the association management
  • The best thing about being a CEO
  • How DuBois drives openness and trust in his staff
  • The process of prioritizing decisions when limited financial resources are available
  • David’s exhibition, Expo! Expo!, and what it is all about
  • The face-to-face nature of the exhibit and exposition industry and technology’s impact on its future
  • DuBois’s women’s leadership program, the challenges they face in the industry, and how they deal with them
  • The biggest industry changes in the last five years, and the biggest challenges moving forward

Additional resources:

Sep 04, 2019
Episode 05: Strengthening Teams Through Experiential Leadership, with Jay Irwin

After a fruitful and successful 23-year career in the computer software industry, a near-death experience inspired Jay Irwin to transform his life and make a difference in the world.

An adventurous soul who’s determined to inspire through wilderness experiences, Jay’s transition from the computer software industry to experiential leadership development didn’t happen overnight. While working with some of the largest computer software companies in the world, Jay started to realize his passion around wilderness adventure could enhance his experience leading and inspiring companies to increase their productivity and success via software solutions.

That realization almost never came to fruition. After a morning skiing in the backcountry of Colorado, Jay found himself in the wrath of an avalanche. During the 8-hour struggle in the snow and debris, visions of his family kept his heart warm and as he was pulled out of the snow and on his way to surgery, Jay knew that he wanted to make changes to his life to help make a positive impact in his children’s lives and on the world.

That determination stuck with Jay through his lengthy recovery, after which he set out on a year-long sabbatical to reconnect with the things in his life that mattered: his family and his love of adventure. A vision during a solo backpacking trip led Jay to start combining his love of adventure with the desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Jay now owns CBST Adventures, where he teaches audiences, from inner-city youth to C-suite executives, how to bring the gifts learned from wilderness experiences into daily life to create powerful and long-lasting change.

Jay is an avalanche survivor, Ironman finisher, avid skier and backpacker, and a foolhardy mountain biker, but his underlying passion is being a dedicated father. Jay is also a board member of cityWILD, a local nonprofit bringing adventure and leadership to culturally diverse inner-city youth.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Jay Irwin’s transition from the corporate world to the entrepreneurial side
  • Why Irwin chose to become an entrepreneur instead of taking another job in the software industry
  • Why everything Irwin wishes he had learned is centered on leadership and dealing with people
  • What is experiential leadership and how does Irwin implement it with CBST Adventures
  • How CBST Adventures facilitates transformational events with progressive team building scenarios
  • The types of teams that Jay Irwin works with, and how they are impacted by his programs
  • The biggest change that Irwin has seen in the NFP market in the last 5 years
  • Future challenges and opportunities that NFPs like cityWILD face

Additional resources:

Aug 21, 2019
Episode 04: Big Data That Changes Lives: Digital Strategy for Nonprofits, with Amanda Myers

A recognized leader in developing and launching innovative, online programs Amanda Myers brings 20 years of experience to her role as Director of Product Growth with Austin-based Personify. Her broad background includes developing highly engaging national campaigns, online tools and loyalty initiatives for household brands including Land’s End,, Enfamil, Marvel and Samsung. The last seven years have seen Myers leverage this expertise to empower thousands of associations in driving similar levels of success with a strong focus on helping leaders understand their membership data, optimize their engagement and embrace new technologies for exceptional results. Myers has previously shared her passion for the nonprofit sector with audiences in speaking engagements at CESSE, ASAE MM&C and ASAE Annual.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How to compel younger generations to be apart of your NFP
  • Moving into e-commerce with the charity and nonprofit market
  • The psychology behind online behaviors of nonprofit audiences
  • Distinguishing charities, nonprofits, and associations and their digital strategies
  • Challenges that nonprofit organizations face now and in the future
  • Leveraging data and market information to create long-term strategies that serve your members
  • The importance of leadership investing in their own systems, tools, and programs to increase efficiency
  • How to create meaningful interactions between your organization and your members

Additional resources:

Aug 14, 2019
Episode 03: The Association Market and What Makes it Unique, with Loretta DeLuca

As DelCor’s founder and CEO, Loretta is the inspiration for her company’s work with associations and nonprofits. She has a particular interest in mission-critical business systems, such as AMS, and is an advocate for project management for complex IT projects.

Loretta has served on ASAE’s Board of Directors and chaired a number of ASAE committees. For her exemplary support of the association community, Loretta received ASAE’s 2015 Academy of Leaders Award and was named Association TRENDS 2017 Association Partner of the Year. She was named an ASAE Fellow in 2007, an honor bestowed upon less than one percent of ASAE’s membership.

Loretta’s commitment to the local community is evidenced in both her personal and professional endeavors. She serves on the Board of Visitors of Children’s National Medical Center and previously served on the Board of Directors of Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic.
She has a B.S. in Business Management from the University of Maryland, Summa Cum Laude.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How Loretta accidentally ended up in entrepreneurship and started selling databases and apps to companies
  • Loretta’s “turn back” moment and how she fought through doubts to continue on her entrepreneurial path
  • How Loretta’s ability to rely on and trust her teammates has brought her business a unique level of success
  • Why Loretta entered – and stuck with – the association market and what makes it different from other markets
  • What Loretta views as the most important thing she has learned to make herself a better leader
  • The values Loretta follows to keep her employees with her company for twenty years or more
  • Changes Loretta is seeing in the association market and how organizations can roll with those changes
  • The impending challenges associations are facing and the questions associations should ask themselves in order to come up with solutions

Additional resources from Eric Thurston:

Additional resources from Loretta DeLuca:

Aug 07, 2019
Episode 02: Leadership in the Fintech Industry, with Amy Porter

Amy Porter founded AffiniPay in 2005 and now serves at the company’s Executive Chairman. In this role, Amy steers the direction of the team and has led the company to 12 consecutive years of profitability. Her knowledge and experience in the payment industry have helped her build a dynamic, talented, and client-focused team dedicated to the success of association and member-based organizations. AffiniPay is also the technology behind the company’s industry-leading payment solutions LawPay and CPACharge. Together, these solutions are trusted by more than 60,000 professionals and recommended by hundreds of bar associations and CPA societies, including the American Bar Association and AICPA. In 2016, Amy was named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® in Financial Technology for Central Texas.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How Amy got involved in the payment industry in the mid 1990s, long before the industry began to be called “fintech”
  • How the industry has evolved significantly, and why Amy decided to start her own company, AffiniPay
  • Why automated renewal is a powerful technology that allows associations to add value and improve their renewal numbers dramatically
  • Why recognizing opportunities and wanting to bring people innovative solutions pushed Amy to launch two different businesses in the payment industry
  • Why Amy tries not to fall into the trap of being a “woman entrepreneur”, and what advice she has to offer to young women leaders today
  • Why Amy and AffiniPay was excited to partner with Eric’s company, Personify, and why they each saw a tremendous opportunity from the partnership
  • What major changes Amy has seen in the nonprofit and association markets in the last few years, and why member engagement efforts are rapidly changing
  • Why increasing competition from the private sector for resources is going to be an ongoing challenge for nonprofits and associations in the future
  • How Amy has made the transition from CEO to Executive Chairman, and how she recognized that it was time to bring in new executive team members with fresh perspectives

Additional resources from Eric Thurston:

Additional resources from Amy Porter:

AffiniPay for Associations resources:

Jul 24, 2019
Episode 01: Getting to Know Your Host, Eric Thurston, with Guest Interviewer Oscar Aparicio

Eric Thurston has enabled many of the world’s leading organizations to leverage technology solutions to drive business performance. At Personify, he led the company through a founder transition, a major product rewrite and has transformed the organization into the market leader of constituent management and engagement solutions. In 2018, he led Personify’s acquisition of events software provider a2z, the company’s third acquisition under Eric’s guidance, and successfully positioned Personify to be sold from its private equity sponsor Rubicon Technology Partners to Pamlico Capital. Eric is committed to creating a suite of complementary best-in-breed solutions that help Personify’s clients achieve their missions. He has a wealth of experience in the software industry, serving in leadership roles at Mitratech, P2 Energy Solutions, Oracle and SAP. Eric lives in Austin and enjoys boating, hiking and fishing with his family.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Oscar introduces himself and discusses his work at Personify, and he shares his enthusiasm for the San Francisco 49ers
  • Eric shares how he became the CEO of Personify, a mid-sized software company whose products are primarily designed for associations, charities and nonprofits
  • Eric discusses his background in the software industry and the private equity world, and he shares how he was tapped to take over Personify when the founder left
  • Eric talks about his work at Personify and discusses the challenge of taking over an existing business with an established culture
  • Eric reviews some of the acquisitions he has made with other companies, and he shares how he has successfully integrated those acquisitions
  • Eric talks about how he developed his personal mantra, “Invest in people and they will change the world”
  • Eric discusses the importance of failure and the benefits that come from learning from your mistakes
  • Eric explains how he defines leadership, and he shares the kinds of stories he plans to share in future episodes

Additional resources:

Jul 10, 2019
Trailer: Welcome to the Planet Leadership Podcast, with host Eric Thurston

Eric Thurston has enabled many of the world’s leading organizations to leverage technology solutions to drive business performance. At Personify, he led the company through a founder transition, a major product rewrite and has transformed the organization into the market leader of constituent management and engagement solutions. In 2018, he led Personify’s acquisition of events software provider a2z, the company’s third acquisition under Eric’s guidance, and successfully positioned Personify to be sold from its private equity sponsor Rubicon Technology Partners to Pamlico Capital. Eric is committed to creating a suite of complementary best-in-breed solutions that help Personify’s clients achieve their missions. He has a wealth of experience in the software industry, serving in leadership roles at Mitratech, P2 Energy Solutions, Oracle and SAP. Eric lives in Austin and enjoys boating, hiking, and fishing with his family.


What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Meet your host, Eric Thurston, and learn about his role as the CEO of a dynamic mid-sized software company
  • Why Eric decided to launch the Planet Leadership podcast as a way to share unique stories of business leaders, associations and nonprofits that aren't being told elsewhere
  • Why the podcast was named Planet Leadership to reflect its goal of sharing stories of people and organizations who are trying to change the planet
  • Why nonprofit organizations, who are doing incredible work, also face remarkable challenges they have to overcome
  • Why the private equity world is another area the podcast will cover, featuring interviews focused on building a great culture, scaling, team building, and rebranding
  • What Eric and his team look for in a company when considering an acquisition, and how they integrate an acquired organization into their own


Additional resources:  


Jun 18, 2019