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How Dan Smith plans to make things go at GSW Worldwide Featured

8:01pm EDT May 31, 2011
How Dan Smith plans to make things go at GSW Worldwide

Dan Smith has learned a lot from his father about how to be a better leader. But it’s not all business when they speak by phone several times a week.

“We’ll talk about everything,” says Smith, new president of Columbus operations for GSW Worldwide. “Fun things, sports things, a little bit of work but a nice balance.”

It’s a similar sense of balance that Smith infuses into the way he communicates as leader of the 350-employee health care advertising agency.

“He used to tell me if you’re spending as much time listening to something as you are communicating it, that’s how you’re going to learn and advance the organization and get a broader set of views,” Smith says.

Here’s how Smith has quickly meshed with employees in his new role.

What is your primary role as company president?

Represent the organization as to what its purposes are and the way it’s supposed to behave. You go to some of the responsibilities that the position holds, at least in our office, it’s to lead and develop an annual business plan and execute that. I do wake up each week, each month, each day thinking about how I’m going to contribute toward and then how our leadership team is going to contribute toward the annual plan we put in place to drive growth, to surprise and delight our existing clients and bring new clients to our organization. It starts to move toward where you’re trying to move toward impacting three or four really critical success factors that you think are really important for your agency to be successful based off the objectives you set for the year. It sounds simple. But the leader has to be one that is indirectly working and guiding the plan that is in place and doing it by example.

How do you put your stamp on the business?

It would be a mistake or almost a bit selfish for me to place a stamp or marker on the business just to change. The change that you put forward has to be purposeful. Not change for change sake, but change to do something that is positive for the organization. You have to look back to where we are. I don’t think GSW needs big changes right now. We had a very successful 2010. We need to grow from that and capitalize on where we are, but we’re coming from a position of strength. My initial view will be to continue to advance what’s already been a high-performing organization. Be consistent with the plan we have in place. My role will be to apply my time and focus the leadership against three or four key things and deliver against those. The change part of it has to come naturally.

How do you stay in touch with your people?

As we intensify around mobile and constant communication, there’s a greater push to be speaking and directing information. We’re not taking as much time as we could to listen and formulate great thoughts and directions. You see all the cars in the parking lot and you realize you have some deeper accountability to helping guide as a team everybody that comes to work every day. It’s important to communicate and explain to the broader employee base leadership changes, new and modified roles and responsibilities, as well as identify the organization’s priorities for the year. How you do that is really dependent on the size of the organization. Remain visible and accessible to the staff. The announcement is one vehicle that should be used. But it shouldn’t stop there. It’s just the beginning.

Company Facts

City: Columbus

Founded: 1977

Size: About 350 employees

About Smith: I’m a Buckeye to the core, huge Ohio State fan. Columbus is home. I’ve raised two boys here, and they love it, and this is just a fantastic place to live. I love its location and what it has to offer. It’s kind of a hidden gem.

How to reach: (614) 848-4848