Celebrating 25 Years of Resilience & Collaboration:

An Interview
with Gary Pudles

Gary Pudles, President & CEO

As we mark the 25th anniversary of AnswerNet, we can’t help but look back on the exhilarating ride that started with a small company and led us to become a major player in the ever-changing world of telecommunications and BPO.

Today, we sat down with our President & CEO for an exclusive interview to celebrate the past, embrace the present, and eagerly peek into the exciting future of AnswerNet.

Q: Looking back at AnswerNet’s growth & evolution, what were the keys to creating the company culture?

GP: What happens in any business is culture happens either intentionally or not. Now, in a company like ours, there could be multiple cultures, and there really were. Back in late 2000s, around 2008, we moved some people from California into the corporate office and one of them was a Plus1. She came into my office one day and said, “You have to figure out a way to let people feel and see the company culture here in the corporate office because it really is very different than the culture in the individual offices.”

It was at that point when we started to think about culture. Around this same time I met a guy named Vern Hornish. Vern had a couple of tools to build an intentional culture. One of those tools I talk about is the “Mission to Mars.” Ultimately, what I used to say is I want to be the nicest big company in the industry, because the call center industry is often known as a place where people go to sit in large cattle offices, and I didn’t want to be like that.

Then we went through the “Mission to Mars” process and found out it was what I had always hoped it would be. Around that culture triumvirate are the things we put into place that really enforce our culture: AnswerNetCARES, the Achievement Series, and The Buzz. So the idea is to not only create those cultural processes, but to actually live the culture.

AnswerNet Corporate Office, Willow Grove, PA

Q: When considering AnswerNet’s story through Covid, what are you most proud of?

GP: What I am most proud of is that it showed our superpower for speed. We were onboarding hundreds of people a month. During this time, we were onboarding, offboarding, moving, and changing. We actually saved companies! What Covid-19 did for us was that it highlighted AnswerNet’s ability to maneuver and execute quickly, while at the same time, being very supporting of organizations that really needed us for our expertise and entrepreneurial vision.

There were many other things I was proud of during the pandemic – not because they were necessarily unique to Covid, but that they demonstrated to the world what I’ve always known is great about AnswerNet. For example, there are so many people in this company that work so tirelessly. There were times where I had to call somebody’s spouse to tell them to unplug the computer because they contracted Covid and they would crawl to their computer. There were times when people were working 20-hour days to make sure that we were properly staffed on a project because they wanted to succeed, they wanted the company to succeed!

I was really proud of the team because we were trying to figure out how to professionally deliver remote services at the same time we’re delivering services and helping these companies and governmental entities. So, there really were a lot of great moments during Covid. Personally, I would say that it pushed me harder than I could have ever been pushed before.

Q: When you envision AnswerNet’s future, what do you see?

GP: Well, we all know about AI, we all know about Chat GPT, we all know about bots, all of that stuff. But here’s the deal, even with that great technology, this is the same conversation answering services and contact centers have been having forever. People want to deal with people. No matter what, people want to feel they’re having a conversation with another human being, someone with empathy, someone who understands their challenges.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for these technologies, but going all the way back… the answering machine… why would you need to take a message for a person when you could do an answering machine? Then there’s the dot-com crash. A lot of it was caused by many of those technology companies just not understanding they still had to pay for customer service. They still had to pay for humans to do work. So yes, we have new technologies that allow us to give and get information at an unbelievable, and unheard of, rate in years past.

Where we are in my opinion… businesses will always need to communicate with the public, their employees,  and their customers. The amount and speed of that communication is accelerating. If you have a major problem, you better get in front of it fast! You better have people waiting to handle those calls. In fact, one of AnswerNet’s secret weapons is, and always has been, speed.

Q: Finally, 25 years in business is a long time. As our President & CEO, how has AnswerNet affected your life personally?

GP: It’s been very consistent over these 25 years. Not everyone knows this, but my father declared bankruptcy a few times when I was young. We came from a place where my friend’s parents drove the “company truck,” they worked at the local retailer. I remember getting my driver’s license, going through the toll booth, and running into my little league coach who was taking the tolls. That was his job. He was a great guy.

It’s also funny because when my father (who at one time was the smallest shareholder of the company) came to one of our meetings — after spending some time with our employees, he immediately said to me, “I get it now, Gary. I completely understand why this business speaks to you, because these are the people you grew up with. The folks who work for this company are the same people you grew up with.” In terms of where my goals and dreams were, I learned a long time ago that if I put my ego to the door, I could easily find the pennies that most people didn’t want. But if I ran fast enough, I could pick up enough of those pennies and turn them into dollars pretty fast.

You know, I often say there are a lot of people who are way smarter than me. There are. What my career has been about is not necessarily being a great innovator. It’s about being good at taking very strong traditional businesses and brands and helping them as they adjust to new technological realities.

What has AnswerNet done? What we’ve always done… expertly adapt and change to deal with the new realities.