August 4, 2017

Lessons Learned from a New CEO

After more than a decade of managing a marketing communications agency as a partner and chief creative director, making the step up to CEO shouldn’t be that big of a deal, right? I believed this as I prepared to step into the shoes of our retiring CEO, John Hawkins, the agency’s founder and my friend of 30-some years. I didn’t envision much changing—or needing to change—at Aloysius Butler & Clark (AB&C), aside from my carving out a role and asserting my own style. I quickly discovered I was off in this thinking. John retired on December 31, 2016, and before we reached mid-January, my point of view had changed.

Lesson #1: Change is not just a good thing. It’s vital to success. 

The biggest challenge for me has been letting go of my day-to-day responsibilities and allowing our newest partner, Steve Merino, to take ownership of the creative department. For more than 30 years, I had ownership as chief creative director, so it was difficult to take a step back. But once I embraced the transition, it was amazing. I now get to watch Steve take our creative team to new heights, with cutting-edge capabilities and fresh ideas that I never could have imagined 30 years ago. Although I am the CEO, it’s nice to know that I’m never far from the creative department. I still collaborate with our creative teams, add objective insight, help solve problems and work on a handful of client projects. Today, Steve owns the creative department, and I’m excited to see his vision come to life.

Lesson #2: Hang on to what got you there in the first place. 

With any new role comes new responsibilities and new challenges. But there’s one attribute of AB&C that never changes—our emphasis on client relationships. John taught me very early on that if you build real relationships with clients, the work tends to be better, it’s easier to have difficult conversations, the partnerships last longer and it’s more fun for everyone. As CEO, I feel that it’s my responsibility to maintain this agency culture as AB&C continues to grow. This is the reason why I spend a substantial amount of time getting to know our clients better. I want our clients to know that I’m engaged in their business and that AB&C is committed to being a true partner, not just a vendor. A friend, not just a resource.

Lesson #3: Surround yourself with fun, talented people. 

The most unexpected change for me has been managing our agency personnel. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a passionate team of nearly 100 professionals spread across three offices in two states, who are committed to the agency and to our clients. I’m also privileged to have three partners alongside me who are up for any challenge: President Paul Pomeroy, Chief Financial Officer Linda Shopa and Chief Creative Officer Steve Merino. Our leadership team works side by side to maintain John’s legacy and to position AB&C as one of the top agencies in the country.

 Lesson #4: Have fun, buckle up and enjoy the ride.