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A bright future Featured

10:49am EDT August 29, 2006
Anne Chambers believes there are two essential ingredients to success — a strong focus on results and finding your niche.

The CEO of RED, a marketing and production company, has done both by using Direct Response Television — commercials that allow consumers to directly respond to the advertiser — to serve companies such as Procter & Gamble. Chambers previously worked for that company for 10 years before it sold its in-house production company and she bought it.

“I saw a great deal of potential in this company as a full-service ad agency,” she says.

RED’s annual capitalized billings are $80 million and growing.

Smart Business spoke with Chambers about leadership, finding and retaining the best employees, and maintaining a life/work balance

What makes a great leader?
I am a strong believer in the concept of servant leadership. Being a support person to a strong team is the sign of a true leader.

Some managers make the mistake of feeling threatened by the talented people working for them. That’s the wrong attitude. If you want to move forward, you must surround yourself with dynamic people.

Give them the tools and authority to do their job. Real empowerment is rare, because many leaders cannot relinquish control and have problems trusting their staff. You won’t get the best out of people with this kind of attitude.

The other essential quality of a leader is imagination. While the day-to-day work is getting done, someone needs to be looking down the road.

The best managers are forward-thinkers with wild imaginations, but are pragmatic. It’s difficult to find the right balance.

How do you hire and retain the best employees?
Since we started in 2001, we have not had a single person resign. This is an accomplishment; however, I am realistic.

We have a young staff, and there will come a time when they need to explore other options. My hope is that if they decide to go somewhere else, they will come back as more rounded and seasoned employees.

Turnover is not something we want, but it is not necessarily a negative thing.

One thing we try to do with our staff is allow them to bring their whole self to work. We acknowledge that everyone has a full life, and work is part of that life.

We are more likely to retain people if we let them grow in creative ways. For example, our creative director absolutely loves music. Knowing this is his passion was the catalyst for us to pilot a new music TV show. It’s all about finding what really excites your employees and getting outside the box.

How do you stay motivated and maintain balance in your life?
I love business — the challenge and the people I interact with. This keeps me in a positive place. Our company’s legal name is Bright Future Partners. My husband, Cliff, and I adopted our daughter from China in 1995. Her mother had named her Chang, which means ‘bright future.’ We named her Annie Chang and named our companies Bright Future in keeping with our mission.

What keeps me going is doing my part to make a brighter future for everyone the business touches — our employees, customers and vendors. I believe there is more to running a business than revenue and profit.

You need to give back. We donate 10 percent of our after-tax profits every year to charitable agencies.

How will you continue to grow your company?
In this business — probably more so than others - you must reinvent yourself continually. That is one big challenge of working in a highly creative field.

We are always seeking new ways to reach consumers and grab their attention. It is a two-step process: First you must create your brand fans, then the challenge is keeping them connected. This applies to the advertising business and all others.

It sounds simple, but the execution determines ultimate success of the organization.

I am proud of our progress thus far; however, I can’t become complacent. Every business will experience peaks and valleys. The key is to prepare for them by managing cash flow.

Many businesses fail due to lack of capital during hard times. It is essential to have a plan for managing fluctuations, along with a great relationship with your bank.

Banks are certainly familiar with peaks and valleys of business, but they also must understand your specific business, and that is the responsibility of the business owner.

HOW TO REACH: RED, (513) 772-1020 or www.redbeyond.com