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7 Questions with Marc Lefton
7 Questions with Marc Lefton
Name: Marc Lefton
Current title: Senior Partner
Current organisation: Northarc Media
Award winning creative director and strategist
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
Running an advertising agency means we are intimately involved in the day to day businesses of several clients in different industries. We have to balance revenue goals and staffing with the reality that when you grow, you don't just simply plug in new people and it just works. Sustained growth requires a cultural fit to ensure that we meet our client's passions with our own. Therefore, recruiting and building a remote native culture is our biggest priority as well as the fit we have with the types of businesses we represent.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
After 25 years in NYC, I didn't want to live there anymore with all that goes with the expense and stress of a big city. I moved to a small city in Florida to be closer to my mom and discovered a burgeoning entrepreneurial community that had both the talent and resources to support me as I grew from a one person consultant into an agency.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
That's the one thing about working remotely is that I prefer not to have a structure. And it took me many years of getting the "shoulds" out of my internal monolog. "I should be working now." "I should be resting now." has now become "I feel like working now." Our company culture promotes a flexible schedule. While we have a daily standup, and urgent requests like any other agency, the flexibility to work longer term projects around inspiration is important.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I believe in servant leadership. My main goal is to unstick anyone on my team who needs anything. The worst qualities I've seen in agencies is someone who holds up others by putting their priorities first. I want to make sure everyone has the information and permission they need to move forward.
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?
Tribal Leadership is one of my favorites. It rates organization's psychology from 1-5 based on a number of behaviors and attributes and gives advice on how to move from one level to the next. Ever since, I've immediately identified where another leader is in their evolution and found it much easier to make progress.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
We don't have an "approval" process, but rather a "permission" process. We give everyone the ability to take on more than their current level of experience to grow. We trust those we hire to make the best decisions and advise and make adjustments where needed vs. requiring a complex process to get rather simple things done.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
I was heading downtown to see some friends late one Friday night when I received an urgent text from a client. "Marc, can you please remove the post about crystal meth ASAP!?!?"
Crystal meth? My first instinct was our account must have been hacked. Turns out, our client made a mixer for alcoholic beverages. The premiere of the new season of Breaking Bad was airing next week, and our social media manager decided to post an article about "blue crystal meth inspired cocktails."
It was the only time in the many years that I've had a permission process where the client trusts us to make these decisions without them that anything had to be taken down. And the client thought it was funny, just not on brand for them.
We kept the client. No one on our team feared being let go over it. Removing fear from the process meant we did a lot of very fun posts that might have otherwise been analyzed to death in meetings for the sake of one over several years that wasn't a good fit. I'll take that tradeoff any day.