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Episode 69: True Grit: BoodleBox.ai CEO & Founder France Hoang

Episode 69: True Grit: BoodleBox.ai CEO & Founder France Hoang

Description

France Hoang’s journey to entrepreneurial success is one of true grit. Prior to his current role as Co-Founder and CEO of boodleAI, a tech company that built the collaborative GenAI platform BoodleBox, France went from army officer to White House Counsel then back to the army as the XO of a U.S. Army Special Forces Company in Afghanistan. A Vietnam War refugee himself, Hoang passionately worked to evacuate our Afghan Allies after the US ended its military and diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and continues to serve his country and lead his team with relentless drive, purpose, and motivation​

Check out France’s innovative GenAI platform at boodlebox.ai or connect with him on LinkedIn.


France Hoang: Here’s the question I always ask people when they say, should I become an entrepreneur? I always ask them. Is there something you love enough to fail at? Because if the answer to that is yes, then you’ve got enough passion and enough fire in the belly to be a successful entrepreneur, because you’re going in with the attitude that, you know what, I’m most likely going to fail at this, but I still want to do it anyways. Then your heart and your your heart and your gut are in the right place for entrepreneurship. Welcome to the.

John Berry: Welcome to the Veteran Led podcast, where we talk with leaders who use their military experiences to develop great organizations and continue to serve their communities. Today we have a guest that personifies Veteran Led. This is boodleAI CEO and founder France Hoang. Now, France has been a part of teams that have sold over $600 million in services and products, and he has also employed over 1200 professionals. And he’s a member of a law firm, Fluet Law Firm. So France, welcome to the show, John.

France Hoang: Thanks for having me today. It’s always great to join fellow veteran leaders and entrepreneurs like yourself.

John Berry: You gave the best speech I’ve heard in years last month, and I want to turn the floor over to you. Veterans look up to you as this is the guy that had an amazing military career and built an even bigger future that continues to grow. So, France, how did you get to where you are today?

France Hoang: Wow. That’s a that’s a big question, John. So just a little bit about my background. So I was originally born in Saigon, Vietnam, 1973. Um, in 1970, April of 1975. You know, my family and I found ourselves obviously bearing down, uh, the wrong end of a bunch of communists coming over to take over Saigon. My father’s a South Vietnamese army officer. My mother was working with the US naval attache, and we were very fortunate. We got airlifted out of Saigon by military forces and end up settling up in small town America. Tumwater, Washington, where I grew up, learned about my family’s history, John, and, uh, and felt I had a debt to pay back. Right. I not just to this country, but really to the military in particular. And I chose to pay that back by putting on a uniform like you did. And, uh, and that drive to serve and give back, uh, that’s really been my driving purpose throughout all my life. Everything I’ve done right, whether in and out of uniform, whether in and out of government, it’s that desire to give back and make a difference. Um, and, you know, take advantage of this amazing opportunity I had, uh, because of our armed forces rescuing me all the way back in 1975.

John Berry: Well, and then you get the opportunity to go to West Point. You’re in the one top 1% of your class. And the only thing I really don’t admire about you is that you got commissioned as a military police officer, but other than that, uh, but you had a great career, uh, went through Ranger school as a cadet all the way through, straight through. And then tell us about what happened after you were commissioned.

France Hoang: Yeah. I had a great five years in the Army. Served as, uh, a military police platoon leader, um, best job in the military, right? Leading America’s sons and daughters, uh, who are going in harm’s way, asked to do hard things on behalf of our country. Amazing, as you know, to write an amazing amount of responsibility for a 2122 year old has. So I did that. I was a peacekeeper in Bosnia. Then I served as the deputy chief of police and Swat team commander for Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Um decided to transition, figure out how what I wanted to do when I grow up. I’m still trying to figure that out, I think. But at that point, I knew I wanted to serve in other ways. I applied to and got into Georgetown Law School, um, went to law school, took the bar, took the CPA exam, and ended up falling in love with the law, which was kind of unexpected. Um, I actually didn’t intend to become a lawyer. I was going to law school to kill time, uh, in order to apply to be an FBI agent. But like John Lennon has often been quoted as saying, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Uh, so then I served as a lawyer for several years in DC, doing a variety of things working for a judge, working for a couple judges, working in the Senate, and then had this amazing opportunity, uh, four years out of law school to be an associate white House counsel and worked as a lawyer for the president.

John Berry: And then it only gets more interesting after that. Somehow you become a special forces officer, uh, even though you got out of the military. So how did how did that happen? Yeah.

France Hoang: So, uh, it as when I, when I left the white House, I had this opportunity, um, to mobilize and, uh, and I did, and I recommissioned as an army officer. After a nine year break in service, I became a captain again, uh, and then got slotted, even though I’m not Green Beret into a Special Forces slot. So I became the XO, the executive officer of a special forces company, and deployed to Afghanistan. And, uh, this is kind of whiplash, John. I mean, I literally went from, like, picking out ties for work at the white House to picking out hand grenades on patrol in, like, a six month period. Um, but it was an amazing experience. Um, like, we like I mentioned earlier, right. Um, there are few honors as amazing as being able to lead America’s sons and daughters in combat. And I was given a second opportunity to do that. Um, you know, years later, uh, and in Special forces. But it was a great opportunity. And so, uh, 2009 to 2010, I served in Afghanistan with 20th Special Forces Group. And, uh, had an amazing experience.

John Berry: You made right by you were an MP. You chose to be an MP. And then you made right by by being, uh, Special forces. Uh, and I always heard that the top graduates at West Point went infantry. And so that’s why that’s why I had to give you, uh, a little bit of garbage about that. But. So you. Get this opportunity to to lead soldiers again. And then you leave Afghanistan. Then what happens?

France Hoang: Yeah. So while I was in Afghanistan, I got an email from a law firm, a colleague of mine, Joe Fluet, saying, hey, as soon as you get back, I’m going to twist your arm and I want you to to become an entrepreneur. I’ve started not one, but two companies, and I want you to come on board. And so I came back from Afghanistan, you know, transitioned back into civilian life. I met with Joe. He gives me this pitch about, you know, we’re going to create this great law firm and this great aviation company, and, you know, it’s going to be awesome. We’re going to take over the world. And I looked at him and I said, no thanks. Uh, and then later that night, I’m actually walking around DuPont Circle in D.C. asking myself, gosh, why do I say no? And what I realized, John, was, I said no because I was afraid of failing. Like, I had this track record of success, and I was afraid of doing something different and not doing well at it. And when I when I realized to myself that I was avoiding something out of a fear of failure, I said, oh no, f that. I called Joe back and I said, I’m in, let’s do this. And so that was my path to entrepreneurship. I don’t have an MBA. Um, there’s no history of being an entrepreneur in my family. Honestly, I was incredibly naive when I chose to join, um, you know, these founding teams and began my entrepreneurial journey.

John Berry: And it’s been quite a journey. And I think one of the things that you’re very honest about is the failures. France, for the veterans out there who have started companies and realized that this is tough, when is it over?

France Hoang: It’s never over. You’re what? Whether you’re like, I still remember, uh. I mean every. So there’s a couple of sayings, right? Every overnight success is like years in the making. Right? Um, and if it was easy, everybody would do it. Entrepreneurship. You know, I have served in the white House. I’ve served at a white collar law firm. I’ve served in war zones, the hardest I have ever worked in my life. And the most stressed I’ve ever been is as an entrepreneur, because ultimately, it’s all on you, right? And there’s a saying I like. Someone once says that if you want reasonable things done, ask reasonable people. But if you want something unreasonable done, you better find somebody unreasonable. So I think entrepreneurs, by definition, are unreasonable. People like like, who am I to think that I can create something from nothing a company, a business, a service, and. And make it successful like that takes some cojones, right? Like to to really believe that about yourself. And what’s worse is you believe it. You make the dive and then at some point you stop believing because you’re like, oh man, I messed up. I’m I’m an imposter. I’m a fake. I’m in way over my head. And at that point, you know, it’s like being in the middle of a lake. It’s just as far to swim back as it is to swim to the other side. Well, f it, I better just keep going. But it’s that grit that’s required to be an entrepreneur. It’s that not just acceptance of failure but embracing. It’s part of the journey. Um, that I think makes it all the more worthwhile. And so when you do have a success, you do get a great client or a great customer. You get that round of funding, you know, fingers crossed you get that exit. You’re going to be like, boy, that is the best thing ever. Um, but to your point, John, it doesn’t get any easier. I mean, I’ve started multiple ventures. I have that fear of failure with every single venture. Even though I’ve been successful at other ones, it never goes away.

John Berry: Now, you’ve led America’s sons and daughters in combat. You know that feeling, but you also know the feeling of getting amazing professionals to join your team, promising them a bigger future and being on the brink of failure. And once again, it’s like you’re in command because someone has entrusted you with the future of their family, that you know France is going to make this happen. Because I believe in the commander, I believe in France. And when you fail, how do you communicate that to the team? That yes, we’re down, but we’re not out.

France Hoang: Yeah, I think it’s a mixture of, uh, it’s a mixture of vulnerability and optimism, frankly. Right. Like, so there are some leaders that are like, no, we’ve got this. Like it’s all good, right? But what if it isn’t all good? Like they can see the numbers. They can see it. Right. And you can have this reality distortion field around you like Steve Jobs did. And you need that. Right. But I think in today’s day and age also being vulnerable like, yeah, you know what, I woke up I woke up at 3 a.m. worried about the company too, right. Like I am stressed. So that’s the vulnerable part. But then becomes the part where the leader you have to be the optimist, right? You have to be, uh, you have to provide the inspiration. You said, but we’re going to figure this out like you, me, the team, we’re going to figure this out. Other people figure this out. We can figure this out. I know that we have problems. I don’t know what the solutions are, but we’re going to find it together because we’re on this journey together. And I think I think that combination is what people are looking for from the leader. Right? They expect someone to be honest about where they’re at, but they also need someone to say it’s going to be okay.

John Berry: So as the leader, how do you protect your confidence so that you can say it’s okay and look them in the eye and tell them that knowing that there may be some danger, but you have that confidence that it will be okay.

France Hoang: Yeah. There’s a saying I shared with you, John. That’s one of my favorites. Um, it’s not about being right. It’s about getting it right. And so if you’re committed to getting it right, we can always get it right. Right. You can always figure out how to get it right. Now, you may not need to be wrong though in the journey of getting it right. And I think that’s where leaders trip up. They want they want to be right and get it right. Those two things are sometimes in tension. And so, you know, if you make that mental commitment, all I care about is getting it right. Even if my entire if even if I make a mistake and I admit to the team, I made a bad decision and we’re going to get it right, even if I put out a strategy and I get it wrong and I commit to the team, we’re going to get this right. You will write whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t. You’re right either way.

John Berry: So as a leader. Understanding the opportunities that have been in front of you in the past. Could you put a dollar amount on that biggest mistake that you made?

France Hoang: Oh, geez. I mean. Yeah. Uh, I mean, it’s probably millions of dollars. Yeah. And, you know, we’re we’re playing with live rounds here, right? Right. I mean, these this is. Yeah. And to be honest, the more responsibility they have, the more mistakes. But I think the mistakes that hit the hardest aren’t they. It’s not dollars right. It’s it’s pride. It’s ego. It’s your sense of self-worth. It’s your sense of self. It’s your belief in you. It’s the disappointment that you see in your team’s eyes, or you know, the promises you made, your family. And now it’s not turning out the way you want. That’s where it hurts. That’s that’s where it really like. Okay, so, you know, I made $1 million mistake. I’d rather make $10 million mistakes than disappoint the people who have their faith in me.

John Berry: Well, I like the $10 million mistakes, because the people that make those mistakes are usually making billions of dollars. So I’d be I’d be happier making the $10 million mistake than the $10,000 mistake. What about that where you’re. Perception of who you are is so wrapped up in your who you were as an army officer, and now who you are as an entrepreneur and a business leader and a CEO is do you have any distance or space between that? Or is this, hey, this is who I am. I’ve integrated my life into it, and this is how I want people to perceive me. Or do you have a way where you can kind of peel back and escape it from time to time?

France Hoang: Yeah. Look, I, I think it’s a double edged sword, right? Like. Again. If you want unreasonable things done, you need unreasonable people, not unreasonableness needs to come from somewhere, right? Like, I know a lot of people that came from broken homes or people who whose families told them they couldn’t do something, or who came from dire situations, and that desire to prove themselves gave them the fuel they need to do extraordinary things. Right. And so, you know, that desire to prove other people wrong, the desire to live up to your own expectations of what you can be. You know, we need drive, purpose and motivation. That’s got to come from somewhere, right? If if you’re perfectly content with who you are today, you probably wouldn’t put it all on the line to create something that’s bigger and better tomorrow, right? You just not do it. So it’s got you got that drive and purpose has to come from somewhere. But at the same time, ultimately we can’t guarantee success, right? Like the Founding fathers once said, all we can do is deserve it. We can do all the right things. But ultimately, luck and timing have an outsourced hand to play. And so your sense of self-worth, I think if you can, needs to come from I’m the kind of person who’s going to do all the right things, but also accept that I can’t guarantee success so that if success doesn’t come, my ego doesn’t come tumbling down with it because my team needs me to have that belief, that optimism. Right. Um, that’s a hard thing, right? That’s a hard balance as leaders.

France Hoang: Um, frankly, success is easy. Like, man, if you’re crushing and you’re killing it and you’re walking around, you’re showing up at talks, talking like, oh yeah, we’re up 200% from revenue last quarter. Yeah. Who who can’t be that person. That’s easy right? How about the entrepreneur who’s like, man, I was up 200% last quarter and now I’m down 400%. I’ve got to go. I’ve got to get 200% just to get back to where I was before. I was bragging. Right. And and so people end up having this imposter syndrome. Uh, another great quote I like from Theodore Roosevelt is that, um, comparison is the thief of joy. And the reality is 97% of seed stage companies fail 97%. So for every single person on their LinkedIn bio that says successful founder, successful exit, there’s 30 other people who had an unsuccessful one. Well, oddly, last time I checked LinkedIn, I didn’t see 97% of people listing that they were a failed founder on LinkedIn for some reason. Right? So the reality of what’s going on in the entrepreneurial world is far different than what is being portrayed right in people’s social media, or when people talk, or even if you even on this talk. Right. Um, you know, so I would I would tell people, right. Like, it’s okay to fail, you’re most likely going to fail. But don’t let your ego fall with your failure, right? Your your sense of self-worth should come from doing the right things, not from having the right things happen to you.

John Berry: Well, let’s talk about doing the right things, because as a leader who is creating hundreds of millions of dollars of value in companies, you hit the pause button to go back to Afghanistan. Tell us about that.

France Hoang: Yeah. So, um, are you talking about the work in, uh, 2021? Yeah, yeah. So I didn’t physically go back to Afghanistan, though in many ways that could have been easier. Um, well, look, you know, obviously I’ve talked to you about my my background. Um, I’m a refugee. I was airlifted, I served in Afghanistan, um, in 2009, 2010. We could not have done the things we did if we weren’t, um, working by with and through our Afghan allies. Um, there were. Many, many Afghans that put themselves and their families in harm’s way to support the American soldier on the ground. Right. Which is pretty remarkable if you think about it. Like we ask a lot of things of our soldiers, but we don’t ask the sergeant in the 18th Airborne Corps to to say, look, if you if you serve, your family is going to be in danger, too. That’s literally the choice the Afghans were making when they worked with us. And then the company that I that I was on the founding team of, uh, when I got back, um, one of them was a law firm flew it. The other one, which we haven’t mentioned, is a company called Mag aerospace. We had a great run. We went from 0 to 325 million in revenue in eight years. Um, that company had a number of contracts in Afghanistan, including being the instructors, the trainers for the Special Mission wing. We worked with hundreds of thousands of Afghans. And so anyways, this is all by way of saying I was I’m deeply steeped in the cause that we had in Afghanistan, um, and feel very strongly that we owe something to our Afghan partners. And so when August of 2021 happened and Kabul fell, even before then, um, a number of us, myself included, who had strong ties to Afghanistan, um, wanted to step in and help our Afghan allies.

France Hoang: Right. And me in particular, because my own personal family experience, this really hit home. And so, um, in mid-August of 2021, I got involved with a couple of different organizations, Allied Airlift 21, which is now now part of No One Left Behind Afghanistan Departure Group. And we, um, we were one of dozens, hundreds of organizations that, from halfway around the world, supported our Afghan allies and tried to get them to safety. Um, and then later on, I had this very unique experience of organizing the very first private charter flight out of Afghanistan after the US ended its military and diplomatic presence. And that that three week period is, frankly, some of the most, um. Emotional, stressful, hard experiences of my life. Um, you know, of all the things I’ve been asked to do in combat, I never had to make decisions about a child right or a family right, or which family’s getting on a plane and which one doesn’t. Or, you know, giving directions to a family halfway around the world that if you give the wrong directions, they may be injured or even killed. Um, you know, thousands of us live that in August of 2021. Um, but, you know, tying back to something you mentioned earlier, John, um, it’s one of those things that no matter what happens with my business, my latest business, no matter what happens in my professional life, no one can ever take away the fact that for, um, for a few weeks time, right. I made the difference in the lives of of hundreds, if not thousands.

John Berry: And you continue to make the difference. And that’s that’s what’s so amazing. Every company you start, everything you build changes lives. And the one thing that is on the verge of changing all of our lives is I tell us about Buddha lie because my team has been blown away with this product.

France Hoang: No thanks, John, and thanks. Thanks for being part of the Bootle family, being an early adopter. Uh, thanks for your leadership. Uh, frankly, folks like you are going to be you’re at the vanguard of this AI revolution, and not because you’re simply saying, oh, this technology is amazing. Let’s adopt it because you are being thoughtful about the adoption of the technology and what it actually takes. So there’s a saying, I’ve been saying a lot. I’ll say it here as well. I actually isn’t the answer, but it will be part of the solution. And here’s what I mean by that. Ai by itself doesn’t do anything like ChatGPT is not going to answer a question just sitting there by itself, right? An agent, an AI agent is going to do anything until someone gives it instructions. So I think there’s an overemphasis right now on the technology, probably because it’s technologists who are excited about it. And look, I’m one of them, right? Like I’m literally building an AI company. I could geek out on this forever. That being said, I realize I’m the exception and not the rule, and I’ve I’ve been a part of enough organizations, my previous companies, law firm, my work in Afghanistan. Technology by itself is just an enabler. And really when technology becomes really game changing is when you tie it and you make it connected to people and to knowledge, and that triumvirate AI and humans and knowledge and the collaboration between the three. That’s the future. That’s the future of work. That’s the future of productivity. That’s the future of our society, frankly, in many ways. And so what we built at Buddha AI is the world’s best platform for encouraging collaboration and innovation by uniting people in AI and knowledge. And so that’s what I’m that’s my current passion. Um, I feel like I’m helping people and organizations every day by the tools we produce, and we know that because we get that feedback. But I’m excited about the future. And, you know, this, this exploring this world of collaborative AI.

John Berry: Well, you have this pursuit of excellence in everything. And as we were discussing a different AI tool for legal, you said, you know, that produces B minus work. And at my law firm, we do A-plus work only. And if I’m the leader, what’s the standard? I’m setting, I am setting the A-plus standard. And so I’m not going to deploy something that’s going to give them B minus work and then tell my team to build it up from there. One of the quickest routes to failures is deciding you don’t want to be the best, that you want to be mediocre, that you want to get by. And what you’ve done is you’ve set high standards and everything. And as my my team has worked with you, I’m blown away with how you’ve built this collaborative yet safe AI product that it’s not just about like me or my leaders learning AI. It’s about how my team can learn AI in real time by collaborating. We’re not only learning AI, we are learning teamwork skills. So it’s an amazing product. And the point is this. The point is. You took a huge risk on this several years ago. Now everybody’s talking about it, but you’re so far ahead of the game. You saw the future. A true visionary doesn’t just see the future, but creates it. And I admire your dedication. What was it that drew you to AI in the first place?

France Hoang: Yeah, I, I really, um, I believe in the power of collaboration. Right. And, you know, you were you served in the military with me. You know, technology is an enabler, right? Like, but, you know, a weapon system, a sensor isn’t going to do anything by itself. But boy, when you combine that with, with a well trained person and you combine that with information, intelligence, the know how the situational awareness amazing things can happen. Well, um, Steve Jobs once said that computers are a bicycle for the mind. Well, generative AI is like a motorcycle for the mind, right? Like you can you can go so fast so far in that the problem is we don’t know where we want to go. Right? And most people don’t know how to ride a motorcycle yet. Frankly, most people are barely, you know, barely comfortable riding a bicycle at this point. And so, um, I love that I can do so many things. I love even more seeing how people can collaborate with each other better because of AI. And so that’s what we set out doing. And, you know, you brought up the, the the A plus B minus, um, saying I teach a lot, which is if you can’t produce an A plus product without generative AI, you’re not going to produce it only with generative AI. And the difference is, you know, AI gets this to B, B minus. It takes a human being with expertise and experience. It’s why I it’s why lawyers are not going to be replaced by AI anytime soon.

John Berry: Yeah, lawyers won’t be replaced, but the mediocre ones will as my as my prediction.

France Hoang: Yeah, I think you’re right. Well, and I think what it’s going to happen is just like when people get more tools and they get comfortable with them, right then they’re more educated, they’re more aware, and frankly, their expectations go higher. I think people are going to expect more out of the field, lol. So now I’m going to put on my lawyer hat as well. I think lawyers, this is a wake up call for us, right? Like we can’t just say I’m a lawyer. I got 25 years of experience. Um, and you know, I deserve $1,000 an hour. And Bill and the client would just say, oh, whatever. Doctors have experienced this in spades already. Uh, my wife’s a physician, and and, you know, what happens now is mothers will come in and they’ve done their internet research, right? They they know the drugs, they know the the symptoms. They’ll have this super well educated discussion lawyers that’s coming for us. Right. Our clients are going to be like, hey, I talked to ChatGPT about this case, right? I you know, I took the brief you wrote. I had it analyzed by Claude. Three I have some concerns and questions. You’re like, whoa. Uh, two years ago, you just signed off on this brief, right? Or you just signed off on this on this, uh, settlement. Like, what’s happening? This is coming for us, right? People are going to get educated and they’re going to use these tools in a collaborative way. And AI generative AI allows all of us to have a team of assistants that are experts in areas that we aren’t and helping us. And so that’s going to change the way we interact with our professionals.

John Berry: Well, and this is as we interact with our teams. Right. And this is the one thing I really like about boodle. Years ago, we switched our accounting software to something that was pretty primitive, to something that was high tech. And at the time we had a fractional CFO and it wasn’t working. She’s like, John, I don’t think you understand. Your team is going from riding a bicycle to hopping into a Ferrari. Like, unless there’s collaboration, you’re not going to get there. And it really is that that collaboration with that technology is so important. I know that because I made the mistake. So when you started talking us through that, I’m like, oh yeah, that’s this sounds familiar. I’ve made this mistake before, but it is. It is so crucial that that lesson that we learn over and over again, which is that we can get the best technology, but if we can’t implement with our team and and from the lowest, you know, from the lowest private to the to the to the four star general, they all have to be able to work on that system and we’ve seen the military struggle through that as we come up with new systems. You know, remember in Arco, everyone would always say, you’d say, well, um, where’s where’s that PowerPoint? Oh, it’s in the share drive, right. It was this, this, this rat’s nest of of different files, and you could never find anything. And, you know, we had to learn to work together. So I love that your approach to AI. Now, when it come to the part where we talk about the after action review, the best example of leadership you’ve ever seen and the worst, you don’t have to name names, but you can give examples and it can even be you. But, uh, as a leader, what have you seen to be the best leadership that maybe formed who you are today, and the worst leadership that prevented you from doing something stupid? Uh, in the past?

France Hoang: Yeah. No, that’s that’s a great question. You know, one of the things we were taught at West Point is you can learn something from every leader. Like if the leader is a great leader, then you’re going to say, look, there’s there’s examples of things I want to put in my kit bag and I want to emulate in the future. And if they’re not a great leader. They’re a bad leader, a toxic leader. Then you know what you don’t want. And so every every leadership position you’re in and every leader you have is an opportunity for you to better as a leader, whether it’s a good leader or a bad leader. So I think that’s a this is a great question. Um, you know, I think worst example of leadership. I think we’ve all experienced this, right. The leaders who are like, do as I say and not as I do. And people see through that in a heartbeat. And, you know, I have too many unfortunate examples, uh, of that. Um, but, you know, leaders we should know, right? I mean, every leader should know, but obviously they don’t because they wouldn’t otherwise they wouldn’t act this way. Your subordinates pay more attention to what you do than what you say, right? They you can say all the right things, but then what do you actually do? And so, you know, I’ve, you know, I’ve unfortunately been in, in military units, um, in the past where there’s leaders who behave that way.

France Hoang: Right. Um, and they thought that for whatever reason, their subordinates would not, would not see that. They absolutely see through that. Right. Uh, on the other end of the spectrum, you know, there there’s magnificent leaders who. Not only do what they say right, they go above and beyond right, and they hold themselves to a higher standard. And, you know, they’re the kind of leaders who just inspire the best in other people. Right? And you’re you’re stumbling over backwards. Um, you know, there’s, you know, there’s been combat leaders that I served under. Um, you know, they were that. Absolutely. They’re like that statue at Benning, right? Follow me. Like they’re whatever the the hardest task was to be done. They were right there. Right? And they. And they didn’t ask you to do anything you wouldn’t do. They wouldn’t ask you to do anything they couldn’t do themselves or they haven’t done themselves. And so those leaders inspire, you know, the best out of people.

John Berry: So as a leader. You decide. And I love I love the saying and I heard it from you the first time. I’ve heard it many times since then. But you decide whether this is chapter three or this is the end of the book. And as a leader, how do you decide what’s the next chapter that you’re going to take the team on that next journey? Right. Whether something bad happens or something great happens, how do you choose the next chapter? That you will. Right?

France Hoang: Yeah. Yeah it is. That is a tough question. You know, there are three things that, you know, a CEO needs to do, right? You need to hire the right people. You need to make sure there’s enough money in the bank. And you got to give purpose, direction and motivation and a vision for your company. Uh, the frankly, the first two are easy compared to the third one. Right. Um, I don’t think there’s a single right answer for every leader. I am a more consensus based style leader, right? I want my people involved in decision making because I want them to have a sense of ownership. I want them to feel this isn’t Francis company. This is our company. Right? Bootle is our company. And so I want people’s input. But ultimately, the end of the day, you have to make a decision, right? And you have to let people know that I hear you. But here’s the direction. Am I going follow me. And then you’re the first one into that breach. And so I think, you know, it’s a mixture, John. Right. Of of experience, um, of hard knocks. Right. And frankly of gut at the end of the day. Um, but I think as leaders, we have to make those calls. We, our subordinates want us to make those calls. Our subordinates want us to have confidence when we make those calls. Um, because if we don’t believe it, they can’t believe it.

John Berry: So I want to dive deeper into that recipe for success, based on a blog that you wrote recently about what it takes to succeed. Because I have people come to me all the time, oh, I got this great idea. And that’s 1%. So give us the breakdown.

France Hoang: Yeah, if you ask me all the time, like, what’s the recipe for a successful a startup? And this, this recipe could be applied to other things too, I realize. So I always tell people it’s 1% idea, 49% team and 50% execution and 100% grit. So here’s the breakdown, um, 1% idea. The idea, ironically enough, to a lot of people, is the least important part of this, right? Why? Because it’s going to change. Because it’s the easiest part. Like, John, you and I could sit down, have a beer, and I guarantee you by the end of tonight, we would have the idea for ten, 15 great companies like legitimate, valid companies. That’s it though. It’s just an idea, right? An idea means nothing until it is, you know, implemented. And to implement it, you need the right team. Right? So that’s why I say it’s 49% is is the team. And it can’t be just any team. It has to be the right team for that idea. Right? Obviously if you’re trying to build a car, you hired a bunch of lumberjacks. You’re, you know, your idea of a car is not going to go anywhere. So you got to pick the right team to the idea. That being said, idea plus team is only 50% of the equation, right? The other 50% is execution. And that’s where this gets hard, right? That’s where leadership comes in. That’s where grit comes in. That’s where you’ve got to be willing to fail, and you’ve got to be iterative and you got to learn. And that’s where you got you can’t lie to yourself, but you have to have confidence at the same time. Um, that that other 50%, that’s the hard work of being an entrepreneur and being a leader. And that’s why it requires 100% grit and commitment throughout. So that that’s my formula for a successful startup.

John Berry: So last question for a veteran that wants to follow your path, how do I find a mentor like Frank Huang?

France Hoang: Yeah. Just ask frankly. Um, I mean, one of the great things about being, uh, a veteran entrepreneur, uh, especially in the last 15 years, there’s an ecosystem out there. There’s there’s people who are now investors. There’s there’s CEOs who have been successful. There are advisors, there’s incubators and accelerators. There’s there’s programs like the one we met at. Right. The CEO circle, uh, from Bunker Labs, now part of the Syracuse Ivmf program. There’s lots of resources out there. And so business, right, is a contact sport. So go out there and contact people and just be honest. I’m think about being an entrepreneur. Can I get 15 minutes of your time to talk about entrepreneurship? That’s it. That’s all you have to do. I never say no to an entrepreneur who’s a veteran who reaches out to me for 15 minutes of time. Now, do you know, do I mentor all of them? Absolutely not. Obviously. You know, we have to pick and choose where we spend our time. But that’s how you start the conversation. And there’s probably you could probably do a whole nother podcast, John, on finding good mentors. But, um, the bottom line is it happens naturally, right? There are people who you gravitate towards and gravitate towards you, and they just become part of the fabric of your journey. And I’ve been very fortunate to have any number of those.

John Berry: Well, thank you for being so generous with your time. Uh, for those of you that want to learn more about boodleAI or France, you can learn about him on LinkedIn France. We’ll have all your contact information in the show notes. But what’s the best way for people to learn more about you and Buda I yeah.

France Hoang: So boodleAI, come sign up. Um, it’s free to try. You know, if you have a team that is dabbling with generative AI, you’ve got some newbies, you’ve got some experienced folks, and you’re ready to supercharge and accelerate your. Journey for your organization tribe Sky. You can also find me on LinkedIn. I’m the only France letter Q Huang Huang. Reach out, I will respond.

John Berry: Thank you so much. And if you’ve got time for one more question, I would I would ask this, which is for the veterans out there that left. And now they’re stuck in a job somewhere and they’re deciding, should I become an entrepreneur? Should I do something different? I’ve been out of the military for a couple of years. I feel bored, I feel stuck. How do you know?

France Hoang: Yeah, I think there’s a bigger question there. Right? Which is the journey of what’s going to what’s going to bring you a sense of purpose and fulfillment and how do you find success. But to your specific question, right. Um, here’s the question I always ask people when they say, should I become an entrepreneur? I always ask them. Is there something you love enough to fail at? Because if the answer to that is yes, then you’ve got enough passion and enough fire in the belly to be a successful entrepreneur, because you’re going in with the attitude that, you know what, I’m most likely going to fail at this, but I still want to do it anyways. Then your heart and your your heart and your gut are in the right place for entrepreneurship.

John Berry: Thank you for joining us today on veteran LED, where we pursue our mission of promoting veteran leadership in business, strengthening the veteran community, and getting veterans all of the benefits that they earn. If you know a leader who should be on the veteran led podcast, report to our online community by searching at Veteran Led on your favorite social channels and posting in the comments, we want to hear how your military challenges prepared you to lead your industry or community, and we will let the world know. And of course, hit subscribe and join me next time on Veteran Led.



Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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