IAM649- Founder Helps Nursing Homes Get Proper Care

Podcast Interview with Stephen Deason

Stephen Deason is the Founder and CEO of The OPARasa Group, a Social Enterprise building worth in Recovery. Mr. Deason was previously CEO of GRYYT, a Socially Conscious MarTech firm, and has held C-level positions in three other technology companies. Stephen is an active volunteer who serves as a director on three nonprofit boards and on the advisory boards of two startup technology firms. Mr. Deason holds both an MBA and an MSc. in Accounting from Emory University, a BSc. in Mathematics from UAB, and is ABD-PhD in Business, also from Emory University’s Laney Graduate School.

  • CEO Hack: Sticky notes
  • CEO Nugget: What's important is the other person
  • CEO Defined: Willingness to step up to bear the responsibility of what the organization has to do, servant leader, coach





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Intro 0:02

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of. This is the I AM CEO Podcast.

Gresham Harkless 0:29

Hello. Hello. Hello, this is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today Stephen Deason of The OPARasa Group. Stephen, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Stephen Deason 0:39

Thank you very much, Gresh. I really appreciate being on here.

Gresham Harkless 0:42

No problem super excited to have you on and what I wanted to do, which is read a little bit more about Stephen so you can hear about all the awesome things that he's doing. Stephen is the founder and CEO of The OPARasa Group, a social enterprise building worth and recovery. Mr. Deason was previously CEO of GRYYT, a Socially Conscious MarTech firm, and has held C-level positions in three other technology companies. Stephen is an active volunteer who serves as a director on three nonprofit boards and on the advisory boards of two startup technology firms. Mr. Deason holds an MBA and MSc in accounting from Emory University a BSc in mathematics from UAB and an ABD PhD in business. Also from Emory University’s Laney Graduate School. Stephen, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

[restrict paid=”true”]

Stephen Deason 1:25

I am delighted to be here. Yes.

Gresham Harkless 1:27

Awesome. Yes, definitely, definitely. It's definitely an alphabet soup with all the phenomenal things that you've been able to accomplish in school. But I wanted to start everything off with what I call your CEO story to hear a little bit more about what led you to get started with your business.

Stephen Deason 1:42

Thank you very much. Great. And you know, it's interesting. So I'll start by just saying what OPARasa stands for, because it is kind of an unusual name. And it's even more alphabet soup. Well, yet oppa, of course, is the Greek word it means to celebrate life. And it turns out, it also has a dual meaning it means watch out for the things that trip you up or the things that cause you problems. And rasa is Sanskrit for the essence. And as you just said, we're a social enterprise that helps people build worth and recovery. And watching out for the things that trip you up while celebrating life is the essence of recovery for all of us. And we believe that everybody is in recovery from something in their lives, almost all of us can relate to each other through our struggles. And so one of the things that we try to relate to people through just like Brene Brown says it's our wounds that connect us is we try to go find the wounds and the difficulties that people have experienced.

And also those amazing deep strengths, those deep rivers of strength that people have had in their lives that have helped them overcome some of the struggles. My personal struggles have been with severe complex, post-traumatic stress syndrome. Some had a pretty difficult childhood in some areas, led to alcohol addiction, drug addiction, you know, some overachievement in some areas and some significant underachievement and others. And so through sharing, those challenges and the strengths that have helped me overcome those, and through working through those, we believe that we can use what we think is the greatest change agent ever created by mankind to engender social change. And that is capitalism. I'll pause right there for a moment.

Gresham Harkless 3:20

No, I definitely appreciate you for talking about, you know, everything you've gone through. But I think that as you said, and as you touched on is that when we sometimes share our struggles or difficulties, things that we're going through, I think it helps to connect us as you say so eloquently because I think it definitely corrects me if I'm wrong. I believe that whenever you go through struggles or go through difficult moments you feel by yourself and you feel like there's no one attorney like there's no kind of light at the end of the tunnel. So that's why I appreciate you for one sharing ever for to like kind of reaching and building this organization to help out so many people through capitalism, as you talked about.

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Stephen Deason 3:53

Oh, my God, I thank you. Thank you for saying that. And yeah, it's loneliness isolation, right? There's been a great TED talk recently, gone drew a blank on the guy's name, but it says everything we know about addiction is wrong. And we know that the opposite of addiction isn't sobriety, we have a really good sense that the opposite of addiction is connection. But addiction, social isolation and disenfranchisement, and marginalization of different populations of people, all of those things create isolation. And when we feel isolated and alone, to your point, we are extremely vulnerable as human beings.

And when we pause and we realize that I'm human, and you're human, and the whole process of being human is one of in some sense, being experiencing pain and joy and love and making mistakes and standing up from those and dusting ourselves off and getting back onto our feet. When we recognize that we're all consistently going through those processes. And we let go of judgment, and we let go of you know, possession and want and then suddenly we have this ability to like read We create transformational moments in people's lives.

Gresham Harkless 5:03

No, yeah. No, I absolutely love that. And, you know, I think that, as you said, you know, being human, and sometimes we forget, like, not it's not that person or this person that has wounds, we all have wounds. And I think that, as you said, with the quote yet that is what connects us in recognizing that and seeing that, I think it makes us more human to be able to connect with one another, because we all have wounds, we are not alone. And I think that in those dark moments, a lot of times you need to be reminded of that. So I appreciate you for you know, talking about that and increasing that. But I appreciate you even more for helping to provide a solution for that. And I wanted to hear I guess a little bit more about our awesome group, you take us through exactly what you're doing for the people you work with, and how exactly that serves the world.

Stephen Deason 5:45

Right. So the the entire thesis that underlies this, so that OPA, the OPA stands for other's purposes and attitudes. So we focus on the needs of others, we have our own deep-seated purpose, and we do everything with a good grateful attitude, right? And why that's so important is because we are a purpose-driven organization, we believe that purpose-driven organizations have a significant advantage in the marketplace, providing just all of the general things that you have around you. So whether it's whether it's painting, house cleaning, or more complex tasks, like printing, digital media and marketing, or software development, if we are purpose-driven about what we're doing, we have an advantage. And that advantage may be small and very incremental at first. But as Einstein said, the greatest power in the known universe is compound interest. And the compound interest on being purpose-driven means that, you know, we have very low turnover, we have exceptional employee loyalty and exceptional employee morale.

And people like to do business with companies, where the employees are glad to be there every day because we know in everything that we do that not only are we serving our customers, but we're also helping to save people's lives. And so the OPA Rasik group is a holding company. And within it, we have, for instance, a staffing firm and we do medical staffing. Now we don't take care of when addicts and staff come into the hospitals, that's not the goal, the goal is to go about our day, with the same purpose-driven approach to helping nursing homes get the correct nurses in that we go about when we look at trying to make certain that a young person who has been struggling in their life gets the proper care and treatment that they need. So everything that we do is kind of wrapped around, you know, it's about heart, it's about authenticity, it's about connecting the heart and the mind.

Gresham Harkless 7:28

it's very, very fair, above fair, if I would definitely say that. And I truly appreciate that. Because I think so many times, especially in this day and age, I think there are more and more options for consumers or people to support. And I think when you do have that, I don't know if some people call it the triple bottom line where you actually have a reason for what you're doing. You're mission-driven, you have that purpose. I think it allows people to not just choose something for their products and services, but choose, choose it for what it stands for. And when you're able to kind of make that association with your dollars as well, too. You get to make those decisions, you get to support those things, you get to really feel like you are making the world a better place. I commend you for being able to do that.

Stephen Deason 8:03

Thank you. Yeah, no, we. So you're what you're talking about, they're kind of the B Corp model, the triple bottom line, we don't yet have an environmental approach to what we're doing, we'll probably add it over the next year or two. Right now we're just a double bottom line effect so we've created equivalence between net income. So when our choice is between driving profit and driving social good, we weigh those things equally, in our mind, okay, so it doesn't, so we have to make a profit. If we don't make a profit, of course, we don't have enough money to do the things that we need to do, you know, put food over put food on people's tables and roof over their heads. But at the same time, we want to make sure that we're always considering what is the social impact around marginalized and disenfranchised populations that we're having.

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Gresham Harkless 8:47

Thank you I appreciate you for making that distinguished comment just because yeah, you're absolutely right. Having that at the table is again, something that you at least would would like to be able to know that our organization is considering. So I appreciate you guys for doing that. So I want to ask you now when I call your secret sauce, and this could be for you personally or your organization. But what do you feel kind of sets you guys apart and makes you unique?

Stephen Deason 9:08

You know, the fact that we're purpose-driven? And for me personally, it's, wow, I'm gonna get real transparent and vulnerable with you here. Right. So one of the things that I recognized a few years back and it's been quite a few years now is that I'm an addict. My choice is not over whether I'm an addict or not, my choice is over what I get addicted to. And so when I learned to try to be addicted to balance, I was not very good at being addicted to balance. So I try to lean things toward being addicted to helping other people to be of service to giving my life away. And I try to surround myself you know, like attracts like and the Law of Attraction actually works.

One of the things that we do is we try to embed that concept throughout our organization so that everybody here we hire for attitude, we retain for attitude, we reward on attitude. And those are the things that really, really matter to us. And we think that's our secret sauce. What I believe, when, when I look at my personal secret sauce, it's networking. You got to get out there, and meet other people who believe what you do because there are a lot of people in this country and in this world. And you know, a lot of them will take life from you, and never give it back. And a lot of them will give you will give you so much more in five minutes than you ever thought you could get in a lifetime from somebody. Right? It's just some beautiful stuff out there.

Gresham Harkless 10:36

I definitely appreciate that. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So that could be like an app or book or habit that you have. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Stephen Deason 10:47

I'm constantly surrounded by It's a yellow rule. Notepad is sticky notes. Right? And it's just, I mean, like I've been doing Scrum since before Scrum was cool. And, you know, and what I mean by that is like, I just my walls are covered in sticky notes, like, you know, I pull them down and throw them in the trash because it makes me feel good about it. And I'm constantly, I have three yellow notepads here, and I've got my different topics on each of those. And that way I can switch my brain around. It's getting it out of the computer, because every now and then, you know, just writing it and doodling about it really matters.

Gresham Harkless 11:19

Awesome. So now I want to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. So that could be like a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. Or if you can happen to a time machine. What would you tell your younger business self?

Stephen Deason 11:28

You're not that important? Right? What is important? Is the other person?

Gresham Harkless 11:33

That's powerful. Yeah, it makes so much sense. And so I wanted to ask you now for my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're all gonna have different, quote-unquote, CEOs on the show. So Stephen, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Stephen Deason 11:45

You know, that's, that's a really deep question on a lot of different levels. And I'll summarize it kind of like this, it means, it means being willing to step up and bear the weight of the responsibility of making certain that an organization does the things that it needs to do to provide for the owners, and the members and the constituents in that organization. And it means in some sense, taking ownership with the idea that I have to be ruthless with my time and with my life. And then I have to be a combination of a servant leader, a guide, and sometimes sometimes a cheerleader and a coach. And I have to figure out how to be the best me I can be at those things all the time.

Gresham Harkless 12:29

That's very powerful. And, I love it, because I think that it speaks to what we kind of talked about, you know, as a whole today is just how important the mission is. And I think as a CEO, or leader, or whatever title we might give ourselves or have, it's so important to have that mission and be able to call back into that. When you are trying not to be the captain make sure you're steering people not actually driving the ship. It makes and calls on you to be your best self and so many different avenues, whether it be a cheerleader, or kicking the butt, or you know, whatever you need to do to make the thing happen. But you know, and you want to do that, because you have that strong mission.

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Stephen Deason 13:02

Well, I'll just I'll, I mean, I recognize we're closing up on time. But I want to bring this up as you watch. I'm a huge fan of college football coaches, and I'm a particular fan of Nick Saban. One of the reasons I like Nick Saban so much is his focus not only on the process but also on how much heart he brings to the game. You know, the thing that always strikes me about him as you watch him when his team is doing really, really well, it's when he's the most critical, right? He's yelling and screaming, and out there on the field drawing sideline flags when he's up by 40 points in the fourth quarter with three minutes left, and he's still coaching like he never quits. And when they're down, when they are just getting destroyed, and the team is falling apart, he is out there swinging their boys in you know, talking to him about the thing. Come on, let's get this done. Right. And it's that mind shift that you have to have to be successful, is what's called what is called for, for me in this specific situation, right now, not what do I want to be? But what does my team need me to be?

Gresham Harkless 14:06

Yeah, no, I love that. And I'm a huge sports fan. And you know, Nick Saban is obviously one of the greatest coaches not the greatest coach in college football. And just to kind of see him be able to flip that switch and understand he's providing what's needed because he understands what the mission is. And I think you have to be able to be those different people and be able to be kind of malleable, like water, to understand exactly what you need to do to be able to make things happen. So I appreciate you for giving that example, and I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is pass you the mic so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you want to let our readers and listeners know and then of course, how best they can get on view and find out about all the awesome things you guys are doing.

Stephen Deason 14:41

Well, obviously I would be remiss if I didn't sort of throw an advertisement or ad versus advertisement out there. However you want to throw it out in the bread, but it's you know, open Our non-profit side is o p a r a s And then our staffing organization is I would love it if people would check, check us out, and feel free to reach out to me, it's Steven at is my email address and, you know, give me feedback. Tell me, you know, tell me if you think we're doing a good job or a bad job on things, and I think I'll kind of close with this.

This is a shocking statistic. By September of this year Gresh, we will lose more young people to opioid overdoses, than died in the entire Vietnam War is the entire seven years of the Vietnam War. And, and we're doing something about it. I don't know if it's the right thing or the wrong thing or something in the middle, but we are doing something about it. And I think it matters a lot. It matters a lot to our employees. And it matters a lot to the parents of some of these kids. And it matters a lot to those kids. So thank you for having me on. Thank you for your heart and for what you're doing. I really just think I am CEO is an amazing, amazing opportunity. And as we were talking about earlier, I love what you're doing.

Gresham Harkless 15:56

Thank you so much, Stephen. And we will definitely have the links and information in the show notes for you, everybody to follow up with you and connect with you. But I definitely appreciate you for taking action. I think so many times we can sit on the sidelines and we can say, oh, we should be doing X, Y, Z or A B, and C but I appreciate you for carrying the torch. That's true leadership in my eyes, to be able to say this is an issue. This is something that's going on that's affecting those families, the kids, and obviously the world as a whole and I'm going to do something about it. So I appreciate you for doing that.

Outro 16:21

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes Google Play and everywhere you listen to podcasts, SUBSCRIBE, and leave us a five-star rating grab CEO gear at This has been the I AM CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

[fusebox transcript]


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This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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