Lessons I’ve Learned as a CEO

I recently wrote a piece about the key lessons I’ve learned as a CEO. I thought it might also make an interesting blog post. I welcome any feedback or insights gleaned from your own professional journeys.

Over the course of the past 35 years, I have run two successful agencies. The first was Middleberg + Associates,  a top 20 PR shop I sold to Havas Worldwide in 2000. My current firm is Laundry Service, a mid-sized converged media agency. Here are five recommendations I’d like to share with you:

  1. Surround yourself with people smarter than you, and help them achieve their true potential. Never tolerate mediocre talent. The role of the CEO is to allow everyone to shine. If people aren’t cutting it, follow your instincts and make a change. You’ll be doing the firm and the employee a favor.
  2. Be completely honest, and hold everyone in your firm to the same standard. Agencies, like marriages, are built on trust and respect. There is never a reason to yell at an employee. Be strong and compassionate, but remember to have fun.
  3. There is no substitute for hard work, but that doesn’t mean agencies should be sweatshops. It does, however, mean that you and your staff need to do your homework and know your clients’ businesses inside and out.
  4. Build the agency brand, but remember to also brand yourself. An agency and its CEO should stand for something – a way of doing business, an area of expertise, or a particular skill set. Do something special and do it continually. This includes original research, seminars and industry events. Be a leader in your field. Clients and employees are attracted to winners, so make yourself one.
  5. Clients come first. I always say in order to grow, you must maintain your client base. Every new client represents growth, but if you lose a client, then add a client, you’re standing still. At the end of the day, your objective is to help clients grow their business. Never lose sight of that goal.

These tips may sound simple, but they require dedication and hard work. Keep them in your back pocket – regardless of your industry – and your business will thrive. Being a CEO requires many skill sets, but the most important one is your people skills.