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7 Questions with Ford Austin
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7 Questions with Ford Austin
Name: Ford Austin
Current title: President
Current organisation: APCO Oil Corporation
With his background in media, Ford Austin is a proud member of the Producers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild and more. In 2007, he worked as Vice President of Original Content for WonderHowTo.com with founders Stephen Chao and Mike Goedecke; An internet company where he was one of the first 5 employees that boasts 11 million users today. After that, he was hired as President of the Film Division for Santeon Group, Inc. where he developed the first digital distribution platform with crowdfunding and distribution built into the model and secured a partnership with Radioactive Giant for distribution in 52 million households and 200 million handheld devices worldwide. He has produced, directed or collaborated on over 100 Motion Pictures, 15 of which have qualified for the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences [Oscars]. Ford has produced feature films for clients including: Lions Gate Entertainment, CBS Paramount, Netflix, Amazon, Time Warner Laemmle Theaters, Verizon FIOS, Walmart, Best Buy & Fry’s. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre from Oklahoma City University and an MFA from Temple University.
In 2011, Ford Austin was in a catastrophic motor vehicle accident in Los Angeles. Doctors gave him a 1% chance of survival and told him he would most likely never walk again. Paralyzed from nerve-crush injuries, and suffering life-changing internal injuries, Austin endured. After 30 plus surgeries, 3 years in and out of hospitals from coast to coast, $7.5 million in hospital bills, amazing medical care, and the dedication and support of his wife, he went back to work in the entertainment industry and resumed playing tennis in the United States Tennis Association where he was ranked #32 in Southern California Men’s 3.5 Doubles. When Ford returned to acting, he was mentored and guided by Oscar Winner Martin Landau, whom he met when he became a lifetime member of the prestigious Actor’s Studio.
Ford has proudly taken over the family business of APCO Oil Corporation and continues to act in and produce motion pictures under the Ford Austin Company.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The most challenging aspect of running my family office corporation is managing legacy investments as we pursue future opportunities. At first glance it might seem as though a new venture or industry is not in line with our historical identity or approach, but if you look deeper with your predictive senses, one will see the opportunity is a good fit. Then you have to convince the entire organization you are correct.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was handed the reins of our family office by default as the previous generation retired. The opportunity presented itself as, you can run the family office or we can outsource everything to a very expensive individual thereby creating another barrier for you to fully understand what APCO Oil is doing while you’re out playing croquet.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My days start with personal time at one of our estate homes discussing the current projects through phone calls and zoom meetings. Throughout the middle of the day, I manage our projects from our family office headquarters or on location. The end of the day is spent planning and setting up the rest of the week's meetings.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
In February 2020, we were forced to close a retail APCO location due to COVID. I was forced to make a difficult decision to furlough 24 employees of my APCO Corporation in order that we could strengthen the remaining employees and prepare for the end of the pandemic when we could expand again. Being the leader of the organization forced me to carry a large amount of emotions for everyone.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman is the best book I’ve read about humanity. The reason the book is so powerful is that it teaches us people are inherently kind. After learning that my corporation’s most valuable asset is it’s human workforce, this book led me to acquire a greater understanding of everyone I employ.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
By hiring excellent management teams whom I can scale up as my organization grows, I’m able to groom great leaders who not only reach a hand up as they move forward, but also teach a hand behind them to help train the next individual or team.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Everyone matters at APCO. In the early days of our relaunch of the brand, one of my new executives came to me with promises of handling everything on my behalf to allow me to go out into the world for our expansion. A year later, I discovered that person had completely dropped the ball and nearly drove our entire initiative of rebranding into the ditch. One of our family partners stepped in to restructure a significant portion of the family office. We were in as much turmoil as a company could be at the beginning of 2020. I was faced with a personal family legacy of being the one to create everything because it all rests on the shoulders of the President. It has taken a year but now APCO is strong again and we have the most amazing executive team we’ve had for 2 generations. It’s exciting to face a moment of turmoil and struggle through it to bring the organization back to a better position than it was in at the time I took the lead.