Howard Brodsky has started 26 companies, four nonprofits and has been recognized around the world for these achievements, as well as for giving back. One of his standout experiences was being a national judge for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year program because it led him to think about things in a slightly different ways.

At the Boston Smart Business Dealmakers Conference, Brodsky, the founder of CCA Global Partners, a groundbreaking $14 billion company, spoke one-on-one with Smart Business Chief Content Officer Dustin Klein about the common traits of the some of the world's most successful entrepreneurs he met through that program, as well as the outsized impact delivering the unexpected can yield for a business.

Below is a transcript of an excerpt from that conversation, slightly edited for readability.

Yeah, well, of all the interesting things, when I walked in the room, I met Brian Pierce, who's was head of the program for the United States. And Brian, just a dear friend, I'm so happy to see you again. And so, it was a thrill for me. I was a regional judge, I was very fortunate to be a national winner.

And then I became a national judge. And for those that aren't familiar with the entrepreneur of the year program, I call it, it's the Oscars of business. I don't think there's a person that you would recognize in the business world that has not won the entrepreneur year event, whether it's in technology, real estate, retail — you know, Howard Schultz, from Starbucks to Arthur Blank from Home Depot, you know, Reed Hoffman, you know, every big name that you can think of, has won.

Being a national judge was one of the best experiences in my life was very fortunate for five years to be part of it. And you meet the true incredible visionaries and leaders.

Over a period of time, I tried to look and say, 'Boy, what was some of the common characteristics of these leaders?' Because these are the people that have really set the benchmark globally in their business, and it's now global, the entrepreneurial program in countries all over the world.

What I really looked at, I said there were some common characteristics that really went across all of them. One was, they were all visionaries. You know, they didn't want to just grow a business. They didn't want to start a business. They were on a mission, and had a vision to change an industry. It wasn't about money. It wasn't about being the richest guy in the world — they maybe ended up being there, but it wasn't about that. They really want to change an industry.

Number two, they had a great tolerance for risk. Enormous tolerance, that many of them had failures, in their early careers. Fifty percent were in business before they were 30 years old. But you know, Winston Churchill once said success is going from failure to failure with great enthusiasm. And these people had a failure just didn't stop it.

I think the third characteristic was that, wherever they climbed to the top of the mountain, there was another mountain in the horizon that they saw. There was never that top of the mountain was just where they were at that point because it wasn't about being there. They constantly had a new vision, new place, a new mountain to climb. They were never quite where they always wanted to be. It was that just incredible drive. It's not about power. And it certainly was not about money. It was about that need. There was a mission, there was a vision that they had not done yet.

And the other characteristic — and it's how Dustin and I ended up talking and meeting each other — I found that a lot of them understood how to deliver the unexpected. And let me explain how I think that applies to every single person in this room. I'll tell you, where it first even sort of dawned in my mind what it is and what's the difference between doing something that's unexpected, and doing world-class service. And I think there's a huge difference, because I think world-class service today is the price of entry.

We live in a society where there's too much of everything. There are too many lawyers — I hate to say somebody's here — but they are too many bankers — sorry. In every business, there's too many of everything except your family doctor. But there's too many of everything. We live in a world there's just too much capacity, too much retail capacity. There's too much.

So how do you separate yourself from everybody else? It dawned on me once, we had a convention for our company in Long Beach, California. We were flying out — we have offices in New Hampshire, close by, and in St. Louis and a couple of places. Our New Hampshire office we were coming to Boston. JetBlue had nonstop service from Boston to Long Beach.

There was a group of about 50 people in the morning going and another 50 people in the afternoon going to the convention. I was in the morning one. It's normally about a six-hour flight to the West Coast. As we're getting on the plane, the stewardess turned to me, 'You know, I hope you brought some extra food because it's gonna be an extra-long flight.' I always bring my food and never trust the airline. So I did have, but about an hour later, after we took off, the pilot came on and he said, 'You know, I just want to tell you, as you can see, the plane is full. And we have a tremendous headwind going to the West Coast. Unfortunately, we don't have enough fuel and enough time to go nonstop like we planned. We have to stop. We got diverted by air traffic control to go to Minneapolis, stop and refuel.'

He said, 'I know this has added another two and a half hours on between the headwinds and the refueling.' And he said, 'Look, I'm gonna give everybody a $25 credit and a free movie.'

It wasn't his problem and he was trying to be accommodating in some fashion. The afternoon group came, the group got on the plane, about an hour and a half into the pilot got on and said, 'You know, I just want to tell you, we have headwinds, full plane, cannot fly with the amount of fuel we have to the West Coast. Air traffic control has diverted us to Denver.' And everybody, goes, 'Oh.' You know, the typical thing.

Then about an hour later, the pilot came on. He said, 'You know, I've been thinking about it. If I was going to be on a flight for eight hours, instead of six hours or something, first of all, I'd be hungry, and I'd be upset.' And he said, 'You know, I go to Denver quite frequently. And there's a Pizza Hut right near the airport. I've just radioed into the Pizza Hut. I happen to know them there. And we can't get off the plane because of security. But I just bought 25 pizzas to be delivered to the plane. And I've ordered some variety of pizzas, and I ordered some French fries and some other things.' And the plane burst out in applause.

Now, just think about it. The pizza probably cost him $2 a person. Think about the cost. The first one spent $25 gift certificate and a free movie. The second one paid $2. When everybody got to our convention — we had like 3,000 people there — the people on the first flight were asked how was your flight, they said, 'Oh my gosh, it was long. It was longer than expected. We had to stop Minneapolis.' Nobody said, 'There was a free movie, etc. The second [group] said, 'You wouldn't believe what the pilots did. You would not believe. And everybody there — there were 3,000 people — knew what the pilot did.

The next day in USA Today there was an article about what the pilot did. Now I call that unexpected. And great companies know the difference.