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7 Questions with Andrew Olsen
7 Questions with Andrew Olsen
Name: Andrew Olsen
Current title: President
Current organisation: Altus Marketing
Andrew has spent 20+ years crafting winning marketing and fundraising campaigns for nonprofits. Andrew leads Altus Marketing to deliver maximum value and revenue growth for our partners. He’s also a two-time best-selling author and host of The Rainmaker Fundraising Podcast.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
The biggest challenge, and most important aspect of leading any company is finding and developing great talent. It's often more difficult for small and medium companies because you can't always compete with the comp, benefits, and other incentives available in large companies. That's where your (individual and corporate) vision comes into play to increase the value that helps you bring in and retain the best people in your industry.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
My career trajectory stretches 20+ years. There were two constants that got me where I am today. First, other people opened doors and guided me along the way to greater responsibility and new opportunities. Second, I worked incredibly hard -- often taking on extra and/or "out of scope" projects to prove my value on an ongoing basis.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Up by 4:30 am, often getting a 5k in before 6 am. Then I prepare for the day and am typically in the office by 7 am. First part of my day is for prep and to do my most important task-related work. Mid-day consists of meetings, key client conversations, sales calls and staff coaching conversations. Afternoons are typically consumed with meetings. I try to end my day between 5 pm and 7 pm, depending on the day. Then I'm off to soccer practices and games with my kids on most afternoons/evenings.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Toxic employees rarely improve their behavior. Act faster than you're comfortable with to remove them before they destroy your organization.
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?
Crucial Conversations. This book taught me how to have difficult conversations without destroying people in the process, and how to approach those hard conversations from a perspective of creating a win for all parties involved.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
Hire the best people, looking for culture alignment and attitude. Train them well. Bring emerging leaders along with you on a journey, and invest in them daily. Invest in their career growth, training, personal development, and in them as humans (that means outside of work too). Give your emerging leaders wide latitude, allow them to test and try new things without the fear that failure means loss of credibility or their job. Create an environment where people know that failure is part of the learning process and that taking risks is valued and encouraged.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
I recently had a member of our team share with me that the culture we've built is something he's never experienced in his 30+ year career, and that he's never been in a company where leaders actually cared for their people. That's more valuable to an organization that sales or profit growth -- because those things will come from a culture where people feel valued and cared for.