I had the pleasure of interviewing Marshall Morris, a U.S. Army Veteran and iHeartDogs Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer. With a demonstrated history of building profitable world-class companies in the internet industry, Morris has helped create over $60 Million in revenue to date for companies with almost a decade of experience in digital publishing, content, and online media operations.
Chris: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”? Can you tell us about your military background?
I joined the Army Infantry after high school because I wanted to serve my country and had planned to go through college while in. 9/11 happened while I was in basic training and the world completely changed. Shortly thereafter, I was stationed in New York City to protect domestic assets that were supplying our troops in combat overseas.
Chris: What from your time in the military, do you think most prepared you for business?
I would say my training on how to build and be a part of a unit. In the military, the ability to work together cohesively and execute your responsibilities can mean life or death on the battlefield. In training and in real life if someone didn’t execute their responsibilities, everyone paid for it. In business, it is the same even though it is felt in different ways. One thing I have learned is that the organizations that go the farthest and truly do great things do them together with a group of people who are committed to the team.
Chris: How would you define your leadership style?
I am a cheerleader of people. I love people and can see their potential even if they don’t. I truly enjoy challenging people to solve problems and opening their eyes to what they can do if they put their mind to it.
Chris: What are your “6 Leadership Lessons Businesses can learn from military experience? Please share a story or example for each.
- Teamwork makes the dream work. The team environment is unlike anything else. The camaraderie, the support, the encouragement, etc. When you are down, someone pitches in to help bring you up. I’d argue that there is not one person who has done big things, in business or in life, that did it on their own. The collective can do much, much more than one. If you can harness the power of teamwork, nothing is impossible.
- An organization divided upon itself won’t prosper. Everyone must be moving in the same direction at the same pace. A wise man once said that people in organizations are like arrows. When everyone is pointing in their own direction the organization slows to a crawl. When you take those same people and point them in the same direction and set them off, crazy big things happen. Everyone must be on the same page going the same place or there is friction. That friction takes a toll and over time it can completely kill motivation and momentum and causes a lot of internal issues.
- Two is one and one is none. You must always have a backup plan. Adaptability is key. A majority of the time what we planned doesn’t happen. That is the reality of life; you must have a contingency plan or you will be tossed around by uncertainty and chance. In the military there is always a plan B. It is the art of adapting. In our business when we are investing in products or services we always plan multiple routes of attack and multiple angles of execution. If XYZ doesn’t work we can flip to ABC. Most of our success is a result of a subsequent plan, not our original idea. It also allows you to recover or pivot from a potential disaster. We have had products completely fail but because we knew that if they did, we could position them in another place and make sure we covered our costs.
- Leadership is serving others before yourself.The best leaders I had in the military were the ones that looked out for their people more than themselves. They encouraged, motivated and served even from a place of higher rank. As a result, we looked out for them in the same way. One of our sergeants would sit in the lunchroom with us and eat when no other leader did. He didn’t say anything but he was there and would help with what was needed. He was validating us and making our team feel valued. It created a deep loyalty and we would walk through hell and back for that guy. In the same way, when you serve your people more than yourself and make sure their needs are taken care of, it creates organization loyalty that is more powerful than almost anything else. Your people will go to battle for you and thrive doing it, making anything possible.
- What you do speaks louder than what you say. Leadership doesn’t happen in a vacuum. People assign more credibility to what you do than what you say. If you talk about values but behind the scenes are contradicting them through decisions and actions, it destroys your credibility. I think we all have a lot of respect for people, especially nowadays, who walk the talk and believe even in the face of uncertainty. A team who is united behind a leader that they trust and share similar values with is a powerful force today.
- Quick adaptation is the key to survival. One of our core strengths at iHeartdogs.com is our ability to adapt and execute. In the military, this is a core trait of any great commander. Can you take new information, adapt and find a winning strategy that still mirrors your values? There have been multiple times in our business where we have invested a ton of time and money in a specific product and right at launch something critical changes. We find that a component won’t work as planned or we can’t use the name we had invested in marketing. It is extremely easy to just sit in the “this sucks” mindset but we look forward to the next opportunity and adapt quickly. There is a natural “sunk cost” feeling when you have invested so much into it and it can be a disappointment to have to unravel and adapt. We just need to stop, assess, take a breath and forge on. The craziest part of this is that for the most part our adaptations usually end up performing better for us than our original ideas.
Chris: The future of many industries rely heavily on millennials and Gen-Z in regards to consumers and talent. Can you tell us something you or your company is doing to stay ahead with attracting both?
As a company, we have a huge focus on lifestyle. No one wants to plug into a dead end job, with no clarity just for a paycheck. And on the business side of it, that results in organizational decay. Younger generations tend to be turned off by purposeless and mundanes jobs that crush their soul or inhibit their dreams. They want to be a part of something that really resonates and if you can tap into that in a meaningful way they are a force to be reckoned with.
Our lifestyle focus is not the traditional ping pong tables in the office or bean bag lounges. It is giving people a lot of freedom to spend more time with the people they love and enjoying life. We have a few office days and then everyone works remotely. Everything is task or project driven so it is clear if you did it or not. Because of this people are much more productive and they get to really live life for themselves. That resonates with a lot of talent, younger and older, who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves but don’t want to give up what they see as important in their life to get it.
Chris: Can you tell us one person in the world, or in the US whom you would want to sit down and have a drink or cocktail with? He or she might see this. 🙂
Marcus Lemonis. His understanding of business and his ability to see high level and execute that vision is unmatched. I’ll buy the rounds!
Chris Quiocho is a combat veteran and pilot. Millennial leader and CEO of Offland Media, the premier content partner for business aviation. Chris is an insightful and motivational public speaker, and an emerging thought leader for the business aviation industry.
Originally published at medium.com