Play the long game. Don’t listen to the scale shamers. Silicon Valley is obsessed with the concept of scale (“Do you even scale, bro?”) but I think it’s a mistake to chase some kind of immediate hockey stick growth over steady, sustainable long term success. Ultimately, leaders have to see things from a bird’s eye view and understand not only where they want their business to be in 1, 3, 5+ years, but also how today’s processes get their org to those goals.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Marques.
Richard Marques is the chief executive officer of leading content discovery platform, Revcontent. Richard has helped lead the company’s growth and strategy since its founding in 2013. Prior to his appointment as CEO, Marques served as both CMO and COO.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Since I can remember, I always loved advertising and marketing. Instead of watching cartoons on Saturday mornings, I would have my parents put infomercials on TV and I’d watch them for hours. I was lucky to grow up at a time when the internet reached the masses and get to cut my teeth as the internet and digital created business models that hadn’t previously existed. I grew up playing guitar in punk bands, so naturally I wanted to work in the music industry. I did some stints interning for different firms in music, specifically on the monetization and ad partnerships side of streaming music services, which are a nuanced medium of the display advertising we’re all now very familiar with.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
When I first came into my role, we were still very much operating as a startup. You could say that our unspoken mottos were “work fast and break things” and “success cures all wounds” — we’d never even had a formal budget, which is pretty wild for a seven year old company with more than 60 employees! So, some of the first hurdles involved putting together departmental budgets and implementing standard business processes around things like staffing or product development.
It was really about shepherding the company through its transition from a high growth startup into a mature company with long-term goals and strategies. At times, I had to make some hard decisions and sacrifice short term revenue opportunities in order to further our end goals.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
As CEO, you have to understand how each department functions and why it functions that way. I think the fact that I’ve always had the ability to wear different hats and step outside of my job description has helped me in that aspect. I’m also not afraid of asking questions to the point where I’m probably annoying! On the other hand, I am not a micromanager. I believe that, at the end of the day, it’s really about trusting and incentivizing your employees and creating the space for others to lead and take accountability.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Play the long game. Don’t listen to the scale shamers. Silicon Valley is obsessed with the concept of scale (“Do you even scale, bro?”) but I think it’s a mistake to chase some kind of immediate hockey stick growth over steady, sustainable long term success. Ultimately, leaders have to see things from a bird’s eye view and understand not only where they want their business to be in 1, 3, 5+ years, but also how today’s processes get their org to those goals.
- It’s not a contest for who can work the most hours. At the highest position of an org, maintaining a clear head and finding a good work-life balance is not only possible, but a requirement. The more you overburden yourself diving into work all day and night, the more your productivity and effectiveness will suffer as a leader
- When it comes to your calendar — don’t compromise. Now more than ever, it’s critical to maximize discipline in managing your day. There’s an endless queue of Zoom calls to attend to and your work will never be “done”. You have to learn discipline with scheduling and set realistic goals and expectations for yourself.
- Exploit your company’s strengths. There’s no shortage of perceived opportunities that could be pillars for short or long term growth. Allocating fiscal and personnel resources to capture these opportunities can be devastating to your core business. As a lean, boot-strapped organization we have to be extremely disciplined with time and resource management
- In this role, soft skills (like empathy and emotional intelligence) top the list of resources your org needs from your leadership in order to thrive. People will work much harder for someone who they respect and who they know cares about their well being, physical and mental health. Some days will be better than others. Some days will be much worse than others, but when it comes from top down leadership, your team will always want to work with someone who cares more about being real than being right.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
You must cultivate the attitude that time is our most precious resource — and sleep is important. Know when to say no. If you are on Zoom calls all day, when do you have time to get the real work done?
Workplaces become so toxic when employees start competing for who can work the longest hours — and it’s not even productive! The nights that I’ve had to pull all-nighters have always been a result of poor management and miscommunication.
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?
Revcontent’s founder really took me under his wing when I first joined the company. Very early on he trusted me enough to expose me to all different levels of conversations and information and then allowed me a really long leash to be able to interpret it my way and learn to manage on my own.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
As a new father, I find the days go by so quickly. I’m really working on refining work/life balance. I make a point to turn my smart devices off between 5:15 to around 7pm when the baby goes down for the night. I have always made it a point to take 30 minutes for lunch, but with the coronavirus and working from home, it’s become so easy to just work right through lunch. Recently, I’ve been trying to be more mindful about taking a lunch break away from my desk to spend time with my wife and daughter each day.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I hope to foster future leadership and provide the same kind of mentorship and opportunities that I received, to empower the next generation to make better lives for themselves and their families
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
Put your phones down! I would love to help curb society’s dependence on smartphones and social media. I think people need to be more cognizant of the detrimental effect that social media is having on their personal relationships. It is just a distraction and so fleeting.
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