I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark LaScola, Founder and Managing Principal of ON THE MARK. OTM is celebrating its 29th year in business as one of the industry’s leading consultancy delivering organization redesign solutions. When not traveling on business, Mark makes his home in Phoenix, Arizona USA and London.
1. Can you tell us about your journey to becoming CEO?
In twenty words or less…?! Not quite. Simply, I had the right levels of naivety, denial, support, belief and perseverance to start my own business in 1990. After 29 years in business and over 400 successful redesigns completed, OTM finds itself at near the top of the mountain in terms of leaders in the collaborative organization design consulting space.
2. What is your definition of success?
Three things. Let’s start with the fact that many of our customers are the world’s best brands in their industry and they continue to be successful. I have great employees, who are completely dependent on OTM’s success for their own and their families’ livelihoods. This gives me great joy. Lastly, I have been able to help my own family prosper and to have all that they need. I am very grateful. Not bad for an average kid raised in a blue-collar home.
3. Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
One of the funniest…as you are aware, the name of our company is ON THE MARK. During a sales conference I was facilitating for American Express in the mid-90’s, I was introduced to the audience and a wise-guy salesman yelled from the audience, “it’s a good thing your name wasn’t John…”, as in ON THE JOHN. Of course, not being outwitted, I responded by saying “yes, can you imagine my logo and tag line…” It served to break the ice and be a very successful conference.
4. What failures have you had along the way? How have they led you to success?
I’ve had many set-backs, challenges and disappointments over my 29 years in business. I have three adages that I live and work by:1) Hope for the best and plan for the worst 2) It’s just a problem to be solved 3) Whatever happens, make your customers successful. Living by these has allowed OTM to prosper and for me to persevere through thick and thin. Lastly, I always say to myself, get some sleep, it all looks better in the morning, which is all really about learning from your mistakes, and not making the same ones over and over. Make new ones and persevere… no matter what happens, put one foot in front of the other and solve the issues, make your customers successful and the rest takes care of itself.
5. What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
It’s really simple. We have successfully completed over 400 redesigns on five continents for some of the best brands across industries. Our solution is the industry’s most comprehensive, integrated and completely collaborative, meaning that contrary to large consulting houses, who come in with experts and pretty slide decks that tell you what to do, we offer just the opposite. We believe that for the insightful executive, who knows that if she could just unleash the potential within her business, the answer lies within. We guide a business, its leadership team, and personnel through a comprehensive process from strategy decisions through designing and implementing an entirely new operating model. It is a complete game changer for executives that allows them to really demonstrate that “our people are our most important asset.”
6. Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Always! Here is one: law school admissions are facing deregulation. Law schools are now considering choosing to use other tests besides the LSAT to guide admissions. We are working with a company to compete in this new market. This requires a complete floor-to-ceiling redesign of its operating model. Very exciting.
7. Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is doing to become more sustainable? Can you give an example for each? Sustainability means many things on many levels. Here are four initiatives that OTM is implementing:
1) Hiring and training the next generation of talent. This addresses the company’s longevity.
2) Documenting our solutions in detail and the process of getting it to be IP. Again, this is another way of ensuring business sustainability and growing its value.
3) The development of our organization design app for hand-held devices and its continuous improvements. Moving beyond paper and human-based should be obvious. We are looking at alternative delivery channels and tools to sustain our competitive advantage.
4) Our workforce is virtual and mobile. We have a very small brick and mortar footprint. All of our consulting staff are virtually based.
8. What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
1) Take the time to select the right people. Move quickly to remove those not fitting in or performing. Don’t doubt yourself. Provide lots of feedback to those contributing — demonstrate your appreciation in pragmatic ways for the value they create.
2) Involve them in solving real business issues. Don’t get hung up on who reports to who. Instead, focus on where and who creates real value!
9. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Too many to mention but a few to highlight: My wife, Karin LaScola for her unwavering unconditional support; David Wayne, Brenda Henderson and Rebecca van Marter for their early shaping of my professional self. A heartfelt thank you.
10. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have two smart, courageous, strong daughters who have internalized their mom’s and my work ethics and value for others. One is farming in upstate New York on an organic farm. The other is going into consulting. There are years when we provide scholarships to deserving students in our field. We also provide internships for students to learn about the field. Additionally, when capacity allows, we take on one pro-bono project for a business or non-profit that could never afford our services. What I am most proud of, however, is that I only invest in socially responsible stocks and funds since I started saving for retirement over 30 years ago.
11. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
I have reflected on this question for over 24 hours, and honestly, I cannot think of one thing! I’ve read a ton of literature on starting your own business, management and leadership. I have talked with other business owners, and my own conclusion is it’s just hard work and perseverance.
12. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The one movement: healthcare for all. I believe the majority of our current models of healthcare are wrong and outdated. It’s immoral that as one of the globe’s richest country, we choose to not solve this issue. I will say this, give me 10 people of my choosing and I will solve this.
13. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite is “freedom comes through discipline.” It’s true on all fronts. Consider finances. The less debt you have, the more you save, the more choice you have. Consider a business. As you grow, choose what you want to do well and let go of the rest. After all, a business can’t be good at everything! Consider personal choices. As my daughters grew and matured into teens, they wanted more freedom. My saying to them was, if you want more freedom, you have to demonstrate greater responsibility (discipline). I think they navigated that time of their lives well.