Leaders Perception Magazine is currently running an interview series called – Leadership in Times of Crisis
Today, we had the opportunity to interview Kent Lewis who is a Founderat pdxMindShare.
Meet Kent Lewis, a digital pioneer and entrepreneur with an impressive career in digital marketing and agency leadership. As the founder of pdxMindShare, a prominent professional networking group and online career community, Kent has been recognized for his strategic direction and contributions to the industry. Learn about his transformative journey as a business owner, his insights on effective team management, and the importance of measuring what matters in business.
Interviewee Name: Kent Lewis
Kent Lewis’s favourite quote: “Stay close to the money.” – Tom Greime
Thank you so much for joining us today! Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your backstory?
Kent Lewis : I’m a digital pioneer and entrepreneur who regularly speaks, is frequently quoted by industry media and writes for publications including Portland Business Journal Leadership Trust, Inc and SmartBrief. I’m Founder of pdxMindShare, Portland’s premier professional networking group and online career community. Previously Chief Marketing Officer at Deksia, I was responsible for the overall strategic direction of marketing and lead generation. As President of Anvil Media, Inc., I was responsible for managing operations, marketing and sales. Under my leadership, Anvil received the following honors: Inc. 5000: Fastest growing private companies, Oregon Business Magazine 100 Best Places to Work and Portland Business Journal’s Corporate Philanthropy Award and Oregon’s Most Admired Companies.
I left a Portland-area public relations agency in 1996 to start my digital marketing career. In 1997, I built and managed my first search engine marketing (SEM) team at a full-service marketing agency. I departed in 1999 to co-found the first of two agencies, Wave Rock, and emailROI in 2002. In 2006, I co-founded SEMpdx, a trade organization for SEM professionals. In 2008. I created Formic Media, an SMB-focused agency which later merged with Anvil. Although I’ve worked at 10 agencies, I did take on roles as Director of Marketing at goodguys.com, and CMO for ToneCommand. Since 2000, I’ve been an adjunct professor at Portland State University and a volunteer for SMART Reading. In 2007, I joined Entrepreneurs’ Organization. I regularly advise startups and sit on advisory boards for companies like Maury’s Hive Tea, CareSpace.AI and PacificWRO.
Could you please share a specific crisis situation you’ve faced as a leader and walk us through the strategies you employed to navigate through it successfully? What were the key decisions and actions you took, and what were the outcomes or lessons learned from that experience?
Kent Lewis : In 2013, I’d been running my agency with a dozen or more employees for over a decade. While we’d achieved record revenue and growth the preceding 5 years, I found myself disconnected from my team, clients and business. I was, in fact, miserable. Since I couldn’t quit as owner, I decided I needed to take action. I wrote and shared a Credo with my team and gave them 72 hours to sign the document, which implied a commitment to a new and improved Anvil Media. Half the team quit within a week and the rest departed over the coming months. The Credo became a magnet, repelling long-time employees (some who were with me a decade) and attracting new, engaged team members. I quickly reconnected with my clients and fell back in love with the business. Although we weathered 100% employee turnover for two years, we ended up with a passionate, committed and growth-minded team, engaged clients and strong profits. A decade later, I sold my highly efficient and respected agency to a Midwest firm.
From your observations, what common mistakes or pitfalls have you seen leaders fall into during a crisis?
Kent Lewis : 1. Inspect, do not expect: Although I’ve been a member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (www.eopdx.org) for more than a decade, I’m sometimes slow to learn lessons in business. One business measurement lesson I learned the hard way was how to effectively measure my team’s performance. Early in my career as a manager, the conventional wisdom (that many still swear by today) was to hire smart people and get out of the way. I got the first part right (hiring smart people), but I did not follow through to ensure they knew how to do their job and had the support they needed to be successful. Most importantly, I managed by instinct and perception, which became deadly. Years later, my mentor advised me to inspect, not expect. I immediately instituted a weekly status update, including goals for the coming week and an update on goals from the previous week. It has helped me appreciate what my executive team can accomplish, where they need support and how often they get side-tracked by unanticipated emergencies. My only expectation nowadays is that my team will update me on a weekly basis. Inspect the rest.
2. Measure what matters: A related lesson to measuring what you manage is to measure what matters. This insight hit me like a truck back in 1996, when my healthcare client based in Alabama asked me to provide weekly traffic reports for their website at the end of each week. For a month or two I faithfully faxed the Excel chart to my client (yep, old school), without a peep. One Friday afternoon, I decided to skip faxing it, figuring I’d send it Monday morning, since they didn’t seem to care. I was wrong. The following Monday morning, I arrived to a handful of emails and angry voicemails wondering where the traffic report was, as the executive team and board relied on that data. I then realized that this relatively simple “vanity” metric mattered deeply to my client and I’d underestimated that reality. I diligently reported the site traffic data for the remainder of my interaction with that client, but also used it as an opportunity to expand the discussion to include additional metrics that may also provide insights into the company’s health and future growth opportunities.
Leaders Perception would like to thank Kent Lewis and pdxMindShare for the time dedicated to completing this interview and sharing their valuable insights with our readers!
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