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Tips From The Top: One On One with Rob Schwartz, CEO of TBWAChiatDay New York

Rob Schwartz, CEO of TBWAChiatDay New York and Co-Host of The Disruptor Series Podcast, about his best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Rob: Hmm, well, I think people might be surprised to learn that I’m not a bad harmonica player.

Adam: ​How did you get here? ​What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Rob: Where to begin?! You know, people are sometimes fascinated that I’m a writer — a creative — who became a CEO. Fact is, I failed a lot as a writer. I was a failure as a novelist. I was a failure as a playwright. I was failure as a screenwriter. But all of those failures got me closer to advertising. And once I discovered Madison Avenue, I did everything in my power to hone my craft and serve our clients. The road to success is built by cobblestones of failure.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Rob: My three best tips, let’s see:

1. Effective leaders serve their people. Not the other way around.

2. You’ve got two ears and one mouth. Try to use them proportionately.

3. Learn how to properly use ‘It’s’ and ‘its.’ And while you’re at it: ‘there,’ their,’ and ‘they’re.’

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Rob: I think Confucius said it best: “If he works for you, you work for him.” This is servant leadership. It’s my job as the leader to help the people who work for me to succeed. I find myself really inspired by them and want to help people find their path and succeed on it.

Now, as for going to the next level? I really think there’s power in writing. There’s a simple thing you can do each morning. Write three pages. Not type. Write. It’s a practice from a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. You can start tomorrow morning and write down all the opportunities you see for your company or team. Then write some threats too. So many ideas will emerge. And you’ll know exactly what to focus on.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Rob: Best advice? I heard it from my Grandfather. He was a milkman from Brooklyn back when Brooklyn was more rough and tumble than hipster and trendy. He used to say, “Early to bed. Early to rise. Work like Hell and merchandise.”

Adam: ​What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Rob: I like to connect people. When someone with a skill or talent contacts me, I figure out who might have a need and connect them. It’s the jigsaw puzzle of life. And you know how satisfying it is when you connect pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.

Adam:What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Rob: Hobbies…well, I don’t make furniture or collect model trains. I listen to and read a lot about music. Just listening to a song does something to my brain and body. It’s emotional and chemical and it makes me feel something. I also love how music dominates pop culture. I’m inspired by musicians. The artistry and the magic. And I try to put that into my work. In fact, I’m here to make our clients famous. When I get stuck, I sometimes ask, “what would The Beatles do?”

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