Erin Hatzikostas

Founder & CEO at b Authentic Inc

Talent Development

Education: BBA, Western Michigan University - MBA, University of Connecticut
Hartford, CT, USA


Erin Hatzikostas is a former Corporate CEO turned Professional Pot-Stirrer.

Recently called “An up-and-coming Mel Robbins” by the Founder of The Keynote Shop, Erin Hatzikostas is an internationally-recognized leader on the impact of authenticity in the workplace.

The CEO and founder of b Authentic inc, Erin is a global keynote speaker, the best-selling author of You Do You(ish), the co-host of the podcast, b Cause Work Doesn’t Have to Suck, and coach-sultant. Her TEDx Talk was one of the Top 20 globally most viewed TEDx Talks released in 2021.

Her talks have reached hundreds of thousands of people and her thought leadership has been featured on ABC, CBS and published in Business Insider, Fast Company, Well+Good, among several others. Her company also conducted a national study on the impact of authenticity in the workplace.



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Best Story

I have an Uncle Bob. I imagine you might have your own version of an “Uncle Bob.”

Mine is a mashup of two Seinfeld icons. He acts like Kramer but is short like George Costanza.

Growing up though, that never held him back. In high school he was a three-sport athlete and was even an all-state catcher. What he lacked in size, he overcame with speed. When his son, Matthew, was born, Uncle Bob couldn’t wait to become Matthew’s coach.

Although Matthew played just about every sport invented, if you ask Uncle Bob what his proudest coaching moment was, he’ll tell you some version of this story:

It was the annual Easter Egg Hunt at the Library House in Elk Rapids. Matthew was two years old, and it was his first hunt. I was determined to coach him to be the best damn Easter egg hunter the town had ever seen. Everyone was lined up ¬– parents and children, Easter baskets in hand. The energy in the air was electric. There was a shit ton of candy to be had, and every parent wanted their kid to “win.” Now, Matthew was a bit undersized, so I knew it was my first test as his coach.

I leaned down to Matthew and said, “See all of those Easter eggs right there?” (pointing to the sea of colorful eggs just twenty feet ahead of us). Matthew nodded with excitement. “Now Matthew, see that tree WAY off in the distance?” Matthew nodded again. “When they say ‘go’ I want you to run as fast as you can. And I don’t want you to stop until you get to that tree. When you get to that tree, I want you to grab as many Easter eggs as you can.”

Three-Two-One-GO! The kids all took off running, their parents yelling and cheering them on. And do you know what happened when they all got to that first line of eggs? Every little body dropped as they scrambled to pick up a couple of eggs before the kids next to them got the rest. Every kid did this. Except Matthew.

Matthew listened to me. While all the kids’ heads were down, Matthew was running and running and running … and running. He ran until he got to that big oak tree way off in the distance, just like I had told him. As soon as he got there, he dropped to the ground and scooped and scooped and scooped up Easter eggs. That little kid had more Easter eggs than he could fit in his basket. I haven’t had a prouder coaching moment since that day.

I tell you this story, because I am Uncle Bob, and you are Matthew. It’s time for you to go on your own Easter Egg Hunt. All those other kids, competing for that first line of Easter eggs, that’s what you’ve been doing at work. You’ve been working so damn hard, fighting for those Easter eggs among a sea of others.

You keep running to the same line. You’re using the same strategies for success as everyone else, which largely involves running and dropping hard and fast for the eggs that are in front of you. If you take only one key strategy away with you from our time together, I hope it’s this: It’s time to start doing things your own way.

Origin Story

In 1994, Erin’s roommate came home from her college class and told Erin something that would change her life forever. Excited to help Erin finally figure out where she should point her future, Amy said, “Erin! I’ve found the career for you. It’s high pay, low stress, and you just have to be good at math. And you’re the only person I know that’s good at math. It’s called…an Actuary.”

Now, Erin, being the go-getter (and naïve as hell) she was, headed straight to the library the next day. Somewhere up on the 4th floor, she found a “book” about Actuaries. Well, it didn’t really say much about what an Actuary was; it was just this beige booklet that listed all the companies that hired Actuaries along with their address and phone number (yes people, no website or emails back in the olden days!)

So, with the excitement a 5-year-old might have on their first trip to the dentist, Erin set off to get an internship as a high-paid, low-stressed Actuary. After swindling her way into Aetna’s esteemed Actuarial program, Erin left her Midwestern, Michigan roots for the big city of Hartford, Connecticut.

In just a few years of working and taking seven of the requisite Actuarial exams, she became the proud owner of seven Actuarial exam failures. After graduating second in her high school class and always being a bit of a smarty pants, she found herself on the bottom floor of the Actuarial profession.

And although she wanted to ring the neck of the automated b**** that kept telling her she had FAILED after each exam, she realized she wasn’t really the right Myers Briggs profile for the profession anyway. She decided to remain at Aetna, and she successfully bobbed and weaved her way into some big-girl roles over the years (often throwing on her glasses to appear a bit older and wiser than she felt.)

After taking on several different roles, in 2015 she was leading Strategy and Product for one of Aetna’s subsidiary companies, PayFlex. One Friday she got a call she’ll never forget.

Her boss: This is kind of heavy for a Friday, but I’ve decided to leave the company, and I want to know if it’s ok for me to recommend you as the next COO.

Erin: [doing the “Compromise Calculation” for about 5 hot seconds] No thank you.

He, of course, didn’t immediately take “no” for an answer. And after kicking things around for a bit, she agreed to think about it over the weekend.

That weekend she sought out the "answer.” Except, guess what? There was no “answer.” After synthesizing all the advice she received, it finally hit her like a 2x4 to her oversized forehead:

You shouldn’t not do something because you hate the way it was done before. Instead, do it your own way.

She realized that the reason she said “No thank you” wasn’t that she didn’t think she was smart enough or could do the job well. The reason she said “no” was that she was worried about having to enter this sort of club…this mold of an executive that she didn’t want to be.

But she realized, all the things she feared were things that were likely in her control – her ego growing, her calendar overflowing, her home-life shitshowing, and her personality potentially even blowing. But what if she did the job, but did it her own way? Could she have great success, without selling out?

One year later, she not only survived as the COO, but she was also promoted to be the CEO. She had started to crush her career, without compromising everything else – her family, her health, or her soul. And not only had she avoided this evil “club,” but she also had incredible success.

In the three years she led PayFlex as their CEO, the company went from flat year-over-year earnings to tripling them. Not to mention, employee engagement and culture scores skyrocketed. How?

Erin decided to play a different game than most other executives. Instead of conforming, she actually used authenticity as her secret weapon to success. And not some passive, free-wheelin’, walk into work like you’re at your friend’s pool party. She used authenticity not as a permission, but as a POWER.

Amazing things happened. People started to flock to her company so they could work for a “genuine” leader. Critical negotiations went their way after she replaced a typical cat-and-mouse game with a “tell it like it is” discussion. Executives started to notice and trust her and the organization, as she offered up stories and transparency into their challenges that many other leaders instead disguised with buzzwords and propaganda.

In the Fall of 2018, she decided to leave what was arguably a dream job. After over 20 years in the corporate world, she led a storybook turnaround, and then she decided to walk away from it all.

Driven both by a disgust at how fake the working world had become and an excitement that she had proved that authenticity isn’t just a nice-to-have but rather a weapon that can bring people and companies out of their miserable vortex, she set out to change the workplace forever.​

Erin is now an internationally recognized leader in the impact of authenticity in the workplace. She is the founder of b Authentic Inc, where she’s leading a movement to eradicate the workplace of its BS and make it a fundamentally more authentic place.

Example talks

How to Use Authenticity as Your #1 Strategic Advantage

Why is it that despite the proof that companies with engaged and diverse workforces perform exponentially better, we can’t seem to truly crack these nuts?" Erin will inspire you with a clear business case for authenticity and its power to be the difference maker.

Erin talks about (and demonstrates!) authenticity and Authentic Leadership in a way you’ve never heard before. She’ll reframe how you think about the word “authenticity” itself (it is NOT synonymous with “being yourself” or “transparency”), share her Six Principles of Strategic Authenticity framework, and her proprietary national research that quantifies the impact Authentic Leadership can have on your company…and your career.

In the end, authenticity is tangible, and it’s also work. Because it’s so easy to flow down the inauthentic river that is gushing in business today, Erin’s tangible , practical, and authentic advice will give leaders the stepping stones (and life vest) they need to start swimming in the other direction and into a beautiful oasis of success!

Leaving this presentation, you will:

- Gain a better understanding of what authenticity really is and is not.
- Understand the proven impact authenticity can have on companies and their bottom line.
- Be empowered that authentic leadership can come from the top down AND the bottom up.
- Learn a practical framework (H.U.M.A.N.S) you can use to put authenticity into motion immediately.
- Have a stitch in your side from laughing!

The 50% Rule: Stop Comparing and Start Competing in a League of Your Own

What’s the hidden secret behind people who are self-propelled to create extraordinary innovation, capture widespread attention, and have a blast while doing it? They do half.
They don’t work harder, and no, they don’t half-arse things. Instead, they use The 50% Rule to stop comparing to everyone else or trying to do fancy, expensive things to innovate. Instead, they leverage The 50% Rule to compete in a league of their own. 

In this talk, Erin will bring this Rule to life through tangible and inspiring stories of people and companies that successfully used The 50% Rule to innovate, stand out, and have massive success. You'll also walk through The 50% Rule JIGSAW Puzzle framework, the 6 key principles you and your teams can use to activate The 50% Rule and go from underdog status to unmatched success!

Leaving this presentation, you will:

- Understand how Hamilton, The Savannah Bananas, Weird Al, and others all used The 50% Rule to go from underdog status to unmatched success.
- Recognize Sleeprunning Syndrome and how it’s plaguing your team and their ability to move forward powerfully.
- Be able to also implement The 50% Rule as a central component of your leadership strategy.
- The 50% Rule JIGSAW Framework to help you remember and activate the Rule to its fullest.
- Three experiments you can take back to your team to start playing, and innovating, with the Rule.

Once Upon a Sale: How to Use Authenticity as Your New Sales Playbook

You do not have to be authentic to make a sale, but you do have to reduce your prospect's Zero Moments of Truth down to zero. And authenticity is the most effective (and least exhausting) way to do that.

In this talk, Erin will talk about what Zero Moments of Truth (ZMOT) are and the requirements it places on every client sale you hope to make. She'll help you understand why in the olden days, sales required so many golf outings, steak dinners, and popcorn tins. Hint: ZMOT requirements. She'll then give you a more modern playbook to avoid all that pomp and circumstances and use authenticity as your ZMOT speed pass.

But the talk is much more than theory, she'll provide you with her proprietary research, the Six Principles of Strategic Authenticity (H.U.M.A.N.S.) framework, and three "starter plays" to help you start building a new, more modern, sales playbook.

Leaving this presentation, you will:

- Understand ZMOT requirements and why these are so critical to resolve.
- The three more modern alternatives to help you reduce ZMOT to zero (sans steak dinners.)
- How the H.U.M.A.N.S. framework can give you tangible actions to be more authentic.
- Understand the components (and power) of crafting an Intriguing Intro, and how it helps you make a stand-out first connection with clients and prospects.
- Have a starting playbook to experiment and build upon to crush your goals!