Small Giants Community

March 15, 2023

Growing with Purpose Podcast: Give a Sh*t with Carl Erickson

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On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Carl Erickson, the recently retired Executive Chairman of Atomic Object, a design and development software consultancy he co-founded in 2001.

Previously a tenured professor at Grand Valley State University, he enjoyed teaching, but didn’t so much appreciate the affinity in academia for sticking to the status quo. So, when a former student asked him to help manage a team for a startup, Carl took a sabbatical, and eventually resigned, to pursue the new opportunity. The innovation happening in such a new industry was thrilling. When that startup didn’t make it, Carl took the ashes of that business and created Atomic Object. 

Carl takes pride in having formed a team of longstanding Atoms who have helped him to shape the company from the early years into what it is today (their first intern, Mike Marsiglia, is now a co-CEO of the company). And part of that is due to Carl’s self regard, combined with his lack of business training - unburdened, he simply created a company that he wanted to work at. 

Tune in for this episode as Carl and Paul discuss Atomic’s handcrafted employee ownership structure, how moving states as a child shaped Carl’s personality, and the humbling lessons he’s learned on the company’s aspirational journey to becoming 100 years old. 


Show Notes: 

  • Choosing an employee ownership structure that made sense for a young team.

  • Two Atoms are always better than one.
  •  “I'm very willing to learn from anybody, regardless of their age.”

  • “One of our business strategies is that culture is our strategy.”


Book that Inspired Carl:
Low Anthropology by David Zahl


Listen to Carl's story below:

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About Small Giants Community

Our Purpose is to identify, connect and develop purpose-driven leaders. The Small Giants Community is a designated L3C organization, a hybrid between a for-profit and a nonprofit entity that prioritizes mission and social purpose. Passionate, purposeful business leaders from around the world come to us to train and develop future leaders in their organizations, connect with like-hearted peers, and learn how to run a values-driven business. Whether you’re a budding leader who wants to grow or a founder/CEO looking for new business best friends, there’s a place for you here.