In the months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the company now known as Marketing Informatics was taking in less than $15,000 a month in revenue. But when Bob Massie closes the book on 2006, the company’s founder and CEO expects revenue to top out at more than $30 million with 100 employees. Massie credits a culture of teamwork and camaraderie for the direct marketing company’s turnaround the 10 employees Massie had at the time of the crisis were willing to miss paychecks and do whatever they could to turn the company around. Smart Business spoke with Massie about how finding the right employees to create a seasoned people stew can help you conquer any challenge.
Find your way as a leader. I like thinking of myself as the head of the family more than an autocrat. It’s not self-conscious. It’s who I am as a person and how I have had to learn to function in this job given my personality. (But) to say I use that style would intimate that I have some self-conscious choice in that effort.
When you grow at the rate that we’ve been growing, it’s almost like there is something new every week that I’ve got to learn, or some new hat that I’ve got to find and make fit my head.
I certainly understand what drives people to be looking at manuals on leadership and different theories about it all. But if you put somebody else’s clothes on, you’re always going to feel like a pretender. Everybody that’s conscientious wants to grow into a capable and respected leader. Sometimes, you’ve got to try those different outfits on and take a piece of it here and a piece of another one there until you finally come to grips with who you are.
If you use those things to avoid coming to grips with who you are, it probably delays you becoming the leader you want to be.
Be consistent. The role of the CEO is utterly critical, but I don’t think the CEO can take him or herself that seriously. If there isn’t an entity, in this case the CEO, defining the objective and rallying the troops with the resources that they need, you can’t win the battle.
It is defining the objective, giving the resources, rallying the troops, making the decisions that need to be made on any kind of an enterprise and essentially facilitating the process so the troops can be successful at what they are doing.
I have to know where we’re going. I can’t decide today that we have one objective and tomorrow that we have got another one just because we had some opportunity come along that might essentially double our growth or give us a 50 percent hit.
Be adaptable. There has to be a consistent objective for the organization and a consistent rallying of the troops and provision of everything that needs to be done.
In a growth company, one of the big challenges is making sure the financial resources are available, making sure that the kind of new people being injected into the organization are right for the people stew that you have brewing.
One CEO could succeed in one setting and fail in another. In a very rapidly growing company, every six months, you have got a different people stew. Make sure the resources and the people coming in to that stew are as appropriate as possible to the mix and that they are the most capable, bright, competent people that we can possibly afford to put in the mix.
Don’t try to do it all. I have delegated all internal authority to the president of the company. I remind myself every day that we have one CEO and we have one president, and the two of them don’t need to be doing each other’s jobs.
If I was a CEO and I was reporting to an owner, it would be a whole different environment. I can accept the investment of resources that won’t pay off for three years, where a CEO that reported to an owner or board may need to have a resource paying off in three months.
I have the unique opportunity of being both owner and CEO rather than being CEO and president. I can inject my own values, my own personal long-term vision and have it coincide identically with the vision for the company.
If you’re anything above 10 or 15 people, and you’re both president and CEO, you have a fool for an owner.
I don’t think one person can do both jobs in an organization that is anything other than stagnant. You cannot be a visionary ambassador to the banking industry, to your main customers and to your professional industry and effectively administrate all of the dynamics and responsibilities of a growing organization internally.
We could not, in any stretch of the imagination, have grown 100 percent a year for four years if I was president and CEO. One of those two roles is going to fall on its face.
Big companies divide these responsibilities out of the sheer practicality that if they don’t do it, they will not be able to report shareholder value back to Wall Street. What makes somebody think that at a small level, they can be what Wall Street demands?
Don’t believe the hype. If you have the right mix of folks together that are better than you and that complement you and that both offset your weaknesses and enhance your strengths, then you end up looking pretty good. Just be careful not to drink the Kool-Aid about how good you really are.
A leader is not a leader in a vacuum. One person in one group of people will have a completely different level of success as that same person in another group of people because there are entirely different social and political dynamics that go on.
Have a culture of collaboration that is held together with a chain of command and accountability structure. People know what’s expected of them, have the resources that they need, have the respect they deserve and thoroughly enjoy this journey we’re on together. That’s the goal.
We don’t always make it that way. But if you aim at nothing, you hit it every time.
HOW TO REACH: Marketing Informatics, (877) 788-4440 or www.marketinginformatics.com