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Balancing act Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2007
Being the head of a business means that you are always chasing success but never quite reaching it, says Kirsten Mangers, CEO and co-founder of WebVisible.

“You should never put your head on a pillow at the end of the day believing you have done everything you possibly could,” Mangers says. “You should put your head on a pillow at the end of the day saying, ‘I really nailed that one. But boy, what could we have done differently?’”

That philosophy has helped the advertising firm grow from eight employees in 2001 to 32 today, with revenue growing from $4.4 million in 2005 to $10.1 million in 2006 and a projected $15 million to $17 million in 2007. Smart Business spoke with Mangers about building a strong culture and setting clear benchmarks for success.

Q: How do you define good leadership?

There is no such thing as leadership if you don’t have a good team. The true style is really a matter of taking the time needed to develop teams that simply work well together. You don’t hire positions. You truly hire people.

Look for not only the resume read but that chemistry or that sparkle in one’s eye that says they are going to expect more of themselves than I ever could.

Try and utilize the human aspect of it combined with the resume, and then your own personal experience, which says that in every exposure in the corporate world, there is an experience that gets filed away. It could be good, bad or indifferent. Try to emulate the behaviors of the excellent leaders you’ve had the privilege of working with or for.

Run from those things you found to be not so favorable and change them. Have passion and conviction and be able to instill those values in the people you work with to make sure that they feel the same way.

Q: How do you build a culture to fit that style?

Maintain a culture of communication and balance. We have an extraordinary amount of responsibilities in our life. The day-to-day juggling and the challenges that presents mean that a person could easily be happy at home but not at work, or happy at work and not at home.

In order to achieve that balance, we make it very clear and key here that family comes first. We all have responsibilities outside of the office. One doesn’t have to question if one needs to go to a doctor’s appointment, a football game or an awards ceremony.

You are instilling a set of values, corporate ethics and the way you approach your job. They feel that organic responsibility to not only be there for themselves, their company and their family, but for their colleagues and their peer group.

That really comes from being extremely clear on vision and extremely articulate in that vision. It also comes from a balance of admitting your strengths, hiring to your weaknesses and very clearly making sure you are not spending an inordinate amount of time in any one aspect of the business in the moment.

Q: How do you find the right employees?

We have always used a cocktail of word-of-mouth, past experience and excellent recruiting firms. Recruiting firms that are not the standard, but those who get to know you and your company culture. Those who get to know the psychological aspects of your business and leadership, not just the core and intrinsic values of the business or the model itself.

The key is that there is no such thing as perfection. There is no such thing as somebody who knows every single aspect of a job.

When we’re looking at recruiting, everybody in our building is a critical member of the team. There is no such thing as a senior person or what one might refer to as one of the worker bees.

Everybody’s job is unique, important and a valid part of the machine that makes us hum. I believe in asking a tremendous amount of questions based on the true business experiences and life experiences. Look for that person who has an unyielding desire to learn.

Q: What is one key to managing fast growth?

We are all human, and humans like cause and effect. We like deliverable dates. We like to know what is expected of us.

The human road map is actually what everybody finds very secure around here. We all know what’s expected of us. We all know what time frame we need to deliver it.

Work backward. Say, ‘At this point in time, June 1, 2007, I would like this customer to be at this revenue benchmark.’ Working backward from that point, you can then ascertain what needs to occur on a month-over-month basis and what benchmarks need to be put in place to get to that end game.

HOW TO REACH: WebVisible, www.webvisible.com or (949) 579-2007