Identify your audience. You should be consistent with your messaging to earn more credibility. Without consist messaging, you might be considered as a person that is using their platform just to express their opinion on things.
As a part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ruben Mejia, Executive Vice President for SportsArt Americas.
Ruben has five years of experience in the fitness industry, previously holding the title of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at SportsArt. Prior to his work at the company, Mejia held leadership roles within the technology and ecommerce spaces. In 2000, after serving four years of active duty in the Army, Mejia began working in the corporate IT and Telecommunications fields for the Department of Defense, launching his career and interest in the technology industry as a whole.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I am the Executive Vice President for SportsArt Americas with more than 24 years of collective experience across the technology, ecommerce and fitness industries. I joined SportsArt four years ago, beginning my career as IT Director, maintaining the technology for SportsArt America to ensure all employee technology was running smoothly. Shortly after, I became the Vice President of Innovation where I implemented internal analytics to make sure employee time was spent more efficiently. Through one of my projects, I saved over 200 work hours a year that could be redirected to more impactful duties. I worked my way to Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at SportsArt where I became more involved working directly with product technology through client installations. As CTO, I worked hard to make SportsArt products and software more user friendly and efficient. I was recently promoted to Executive Vice President in December of 2019, where my focus continues to be on product software and technology. Additionally, in this new role, I am the direct contact for external customers and manage the SportsArt marketing and sales departments.
Prior to my work at the company, I held other leadership roles, including a combined 16+ years in the United States Army and working in the telecommunications industry for the Department of Defense, which launched my career and interest in the technology industry as a whole. After my work in the Army, I worked as an IT operations manager for three years at JustFab, the leading fashion subscription company. With my involvement in the management team, Just Fab went from 150 million dollars to an over 500 million dollars/year e-commerce organization. Today, I work to continue innovating, while also evolving the SportsArt brand. I am dedicated to telling the SportsArt story and expanding to larger markets.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
I have extensive experience in the technology and fitness industries due to the years I worked alongside other industry leaders at innovative companies. My various roles have educated and prepared me in multiple aspects, from leading teams to work in ecommerce. I feel that I am well versed in multiple business areas, however most of my knowledge stems from my work in the fitness technology industry.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One of the most memorable stories happened when I first started at SportsArt. We were at a tradeshow, our largest of the year, and we had hired a company to build the structure of our booth. On the day of setup, our vendor was at a larger booth helping their other customer. We were having a hard time setting everything up, but our vendor was occupied and couldn’t step away to help us.
The team was getting anxious because there was a lot of work to be done, and waiting for the vendor was going to put us way behind schedule. We took a quick break just to regroup and to let our nerves settle. After a few minutes, we polled the group for suggestions and several of our team members came up with great ideas. We broke off into smaller groups, each with their own responsibility, and we were able to figure everything out.
This situation forced us to realize that we were too dependent on the vendor to take care of everything for us. After the trade show, we decided as a team that we needed to be more involved to ensure the show’s success. This realization led us to different solutions for our booth setup, and, eventually, we settled on a new vendor. This new partnership resulted in the team being more involved, a much sharper looking booth, and an overall savings in the amount of money we spent on the booth.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The story I’m about to share is not funny, but I did learn a valuable lesson from it.
While I was in the California Army National Guard, I was sent to a two-week training course at a small base in South Dakota, where we’d spend anywhere between 12 to 16 hours a day training for tactical missions. It was June, and it was HOT.
One of training exercises was to learn how to navigate through the woods without using any sort of digital technology. Because I had done several of these training exercises before, I was paired up with a young soldier who was doing it for the very first time. We were given the coordinates to five markers and we had to find 3 of 5 within a few hours. It was our job to write down the identification numbers of those markers to verify we found the ones.
I made the decision to teach the young soldier a shortcut to finding the markers that always worked for me, but it was very a very sensitive process because one mistake can take you completely off course. I was confident and we went off into the woods.
After finding the third marker, I realized that we made a mistake somewhere and that we were at risk at not finding all our markers in time. The young soldier and I ran back to the starting point and started over from scratch; this time, I decided to use the traditional method of land navigation that was taught by the instructors.
Because our time was limited, we decided to run to each marker stopping only to make sure we were still on the right course and to drink water. After finding our second marker, the young soldier started telling me that he wasn’t feeling well and that he was becoming exhausted. I kept encouraging him to keep charging and that it would be over soon. On our way to the fifth marker, the young soldier told me that he was dizzy and that he was cramping, so we stopped to take a breather. As I examined him closer, I realized that he was suffering from heat exhaustion, so I dropped all my gear and ran back to the instructors to find a medic. The young soldier was treated and he eventually recovered.
I learned two important lessons that day: shortcuts can lead to disaster and listen to your team mates.
Although the shortcut had worked for me before, there can be times where it fails drastically. It is much better overall to take your time to make sure you’re doing a task or project correctly than to cut corners.
I also learned that, as a leader, you can be so caught up in completing the task or project that you completely miss the obvious warnings that your team is giving you. That day, I was so focused on correcting my mistake and finding my markers in the allotted time that I could have seriously injured my battle buddy.
In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
A thought leader is someone who has extensive knowledge in their field and is well respected by their community. They are looked towards to offer advice and wisdom through personal experience in their area of expertise. A thought leader offers comments on trends and ongoing discussions within their industry. A traditional leader works directly with those around them, but isn’t able to offer their knowledge extensively to larger groups of individuals.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
I believe it’s worth investing in thought leaders so multiple experts are able to share their insight and opinions, offering a difference of opinions so that people, companies and industries as a whole can continue to grow and progress.
Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
Thought leaders can help a business grow by building trust through their expertise and wisdom with their community. The more trust a thought leader has from their community the more likely they will see investments being made and a customer base that continues to return.
Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
- Identify your audience. You should be consistent with your messaging to earn more credibility. Without consist messaging, you might be considered as a person that is using their platform just to express their opinion on things.
- Listen. No matter how much research you do, you can’t know everything. The next “big thing” can come from listening to someone who experiences a pain point on a daily basis. Your team members may also provide you with valuable feedback.
- Put in the work. Just like with any other trait or craft, you will get better when you spend more time dedicating to improving it.
- Keep learning. Don’t ever get in the mindset that you know everything because you’ll stop growing and so will your ideas. If your ideas don’t grow, your audience will realize it and you’ll start losing their respect.
- Audit yourself. Take time to find out what is working for you, what is not working, and what can use some improvement. It may be that you will have to ask for constructive criticism from your peers to find out.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
I personally believe that Dr. Trevor Bachmeyer (@smashwerx) is currently doing a fantastic job as a thought leader. In addition to posting workouts that will surely test your limits, he posts videos for workout routines that help improve certain physical ailments like sciatic pain or an injured meniscus. I certainly appreciate his videos more with the older I get.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
I feel that being considered as a thought leader is a badge of honor that can be worn proudly when it is issued to you by your peers. I believe that there are way too many people who consider themselves a “thought leader” based on the number of followers or views that they have. On the other hand, if your message inspires at least one person, you’re a thought leader in my book.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
I would advise other leaders to force themselves to unwind. As a leader, there is always going to be something to do. When I’m starting to feel burnt out, I like to set a cut off time in the afternoon or evening where I stop working. Then, I do something that is not related to work whatsoever. If the weather is right, I like to go to the batting cages because I can zone out on whatever it is I did that day and focus on hitting a ball. In addition to getting a mental break, I get a little workout from it, too. If the day has been particularly frustrating, I can take out my anger on that ball.
You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement, I would encourage people to be good to be better to each other. I’m not saying to buy coffee for the next person in line; rather, lend a helping hand to those in need in a way that you can.
While responding to this question, I thought of a Thai video I often see pop up on my social media channels every now and then (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcruIov45bI). In this video, a gentleman helps water a plant, helps an older lady with her food cart, and, amongst other things, helps a family asking for money to fund a child’s education. The man in the video is doing it just to experience happiness.
I believe that by helping others, we will not only help that person out, but that we will also gain a sense of happiness that will improve our daily routine.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite life lesson quotes is by the artist Michelangelo: “Acora Imparo,” which means I’m still learning. He said this at the age of 87. If an accomplished person — who some say is the greatest influence to Western art — believes that there is still more to learn, I should listen.
I am always open to learning something new and I feel like I learn something new every day. One thing that helps with my learning is a phone call or video call. We have lots of very smart people in our company and they’ve all got lots of experience in their field. By jumping on a call, it is much easier for them to explain to me how something works than to send their explanation via email.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I’d like to sit down with Jessie Graff (@jessiegraffpwr) or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (@therock). Both of these people are extremely successful and they still have time to focus on themselves and their charitable work. I imagine that I could learn a lot from them in one sitting.
How can our readers follow you online?
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