Tell the people you love that you love them and people you appreciate that you appreciate them and be very specific. This open and vulnerable conversation builds community and community makes us all feel more at ease and supported.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Grayson Lafrenz.
Grayson Lafrenz is, CEO of Power Digital Marketing, a tech-enabled digital marketing agency. He specialize in executive management, internet marketing, employee empowerment and sales leadership with decades of experience scaling revenue and profit for industry leading organizations. As CEO, he has scaled the employee base from a team of three to 120+ employees with bi-coastal offices. He is passionate about his business and has an unwavering commitment to mentoring and building up his team.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Iwas born and raised in San Diego, California, then went on to attend the University of Arizona, which led me to starting my professional career in 2007. Despite starting my career during a challenging economic time, for me it was just the normal conditions as I had never been exposed to anything different or more “business friendly”. I think starting my career in 2007 was really impactful for me and made me immune to blaming the economy as an excuse for not getting the job done or the desired result. I started in sales at one of Xerox’s largest and most successful agencies and had early success. During this time my passion grew for digital marketing as I saw there was a collision course between traditional sales and digital marketing that I could harness to get results.
Since leaving my first (and only) corporate job at Xerox back in 2010 when I was 24 years old, I have started more than five companies across SaaS, Ad Tech, and Manufacturing and Professional Services industries. Power Digital (my favorite of the bunch and most successful) was born out of necessity due to a pivot from another company during a very difficult time (see, can you imagine all the amazing things that will come out of the adversity we are facing now). The community at Power Digital and everything our team has accomplished has been a huge gift and is one of the things I am most grateful for as I reflect on my entrepreneurial journey and where I currently find myself during this historic global pandemic.
It’s been an amazing eight year journey since that very challenging time. We now have about 130 full-time employees with the majority based out of our HQ in San Diego. We work with leading brands to help them scale their digital marketing and acquire new customers, while also driving the lifetime value of their current customers.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
My favorite book of all time is “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. I have read this book over five times and just read it again because it is very relevant to the current situation we all find ourselves in.
I believe for all companies we are in a “wartime” and the “Wartime CEO” concept illustrated in the book is exactly the situation I and all of my team is in for their specific roles in the business. I highly recommend that business people, entrepreneurs, executives and more give this book a read right now as it has so many good experience shares and lessons from one of the worlds most successful CEOs and VCs on how he navigated war times like the one we are in.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Our team definitely sees the light at the end of the tunnel and the path for us to weather this storm and come out stronger. Here it is boiled down to five things:
1) Hard Times Can Bond or Break a Team
I have seen this again and again in my life and now is the ultimate time for this. I already see our team picking one another up, being the “anti-DMV” as I like to call it — meaning not being confined to one role within his or her job description — and finding ways to go above and beyond their role to positively impact our business and clients and just supporting one another. I know that our community is getting stronger by the day and our team will be even more bonded and unified as we get through this and that will only make us better in the future.
2) Forced to Find Efficiencies
Over the past few weeks, we have gone line by line through our financials and cost structure to evaluate how to adjust our overhead to match the challenging business climate we are in. This exercise is not only critical for the current pandemic and environment, but also in reality is an exercise we should have done consistently in a great business environment and will serve us well when we come through this. Sometimes it takes that pressure to force your hand to turn over all the stones and be incredibly proactive, which in this case is with our overhead.
3) New Opportunities for Young Leaders and Future Stars
We have already seen leaders on our team step up when we needed them and hit home runs. Makenna Johnson (Director of Influencer Marketing) on our team hit a home run for the business just last week, and sharing that success motivated everyone and showed us we can do exceptional things during this time. Another example of this is with Kendall Canessa who is also on our influencer team. Her role has nothing to do with “new business” but over the past week by conducting above and beyond outreach to brands that she loves and sharing how they can win during this tough time, she’s generated three new sales cycles for us. This initiative and scrappiness is huge for our company and has made her stand out to the Executive team in our organization. People are stepping up and taking on more, which will not only serve them very well in their future careers, but also makes our leadership team more robust and even stronger.
4) Churning Out the “Wrong Type of Customers”
For all companies as you mature, the customers you serve should also mature and that profile improves. For us, that means companies that have strong business models, high integrity and commitment to their obligations, and provides true value to society through their business offering. The ones that don’t have this are less likely to weather the storm, which is very sad, but it means that it will overhaul our customer profile to flush out the wrong type of clients. Firing clients is a really hard pill for companies to swallow but often exactly what they need to take one step back to take three steps forward. Right now this is happening organically and there is value to that after this tough time.
5) Gratitude Over Things We Took for Granted
I think this is the case for humanity in general. I know that I took for granted the little things in life like a walk on the beach, hugging my mom, getting a meal out, having a beer with a buddy after work, team happy hours and so much more. I know that after this, none of us will take this for granted and we will appreciate life more and be a tougher and happier group of humans for it.
Beyond those, the big light at the end of the tunnel is that this has now happened and companies are adjusting. We are already seeing things stabilize as the big waves of adjustments have been made and everyone now knows the reality for the months to come. It’s clear enough now that this is what it is and we have no choice but to execute and battle this battle to our best ability.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Great question and this is something our team has been talking a lot about. It’s not just about us as teammates being “all in” (our 2020 theme) for the company but also for each other. That means helping each other stay mentally and physically strong and clear headed through this and also spiritually in our own ways. Below are five things that we are doing to help one another through that:
1) Tell the people you love that you love them and people you appreciate that you appreciate them and be very specific. This open and vulnerable conversation builds community and community makes us all feel more at ease and supported.
2) Remind the people around you that we are all in this together and that they are not alone. This helps all of us feel supported and part of something bigger.
3) Remind your teammates and community that all we can do is focus on things we can control and for those things, we just need to give it all we can and leave it all on the playing field. That is all we can do and the only way we can judge ourselves, the rest will play out as it should and we need to trust the process.
4) Openly share great news with others — things that make you smile or happy and the positive things that are happening around you. I have seen firsthand other teammates and a family member sharing these things with me and it fills me up like rocket fuel for my mindset. It is easy to do and for the person sharing these great things it feels very good to share those wins and positives as well. Win / Win exercise! A simple joke or funny story works too!
5) Encourage positive activities that are working for you to stay clear headed and happy. For me, this has been writing down the things I am grateful for every morning, taking the dogs for a walk outside, taking some calls throughout the work day outside and doing little projects around the house that have been on my list for a long time amongst other things. Sharing these wins and encouraging others to find theirs is easy and helpful for all.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
1) Walking outside to admire nature and how much space there is, while assuring safe social distance is a great way to destress. It’s so easy to feel cooped up, fresh air and getting out of your day-to-day space helps clear your head.
2) Day dream about the things you love and will do after this. Write down what you are looking forward to once this is all over and use that as a way to drive a positive mindset.
3) Call a friend who is one of the overly positive influences in your life and a glass half full person.
4) Create routine and micro goals for your day so you feel productive.
5) Cook something you love for lunch and focus on fueling yourself with healthy, nutrient-dense foods that will also support your immune system so you can feel good about what you’re putting in your body.
6) Set some fitness goals for the day, put them on a piece of paper and check them off as you accomplish them. Something as simple as 100 pushups, 100 sit ups, 100 lunges or whatever is best for you.
7) Organize yourself. This trick has always worked for me and the people I work with when feeling overwhelmed, anxious or stressed. Simplifying things and breaking them down into smaller bites through an organization session are great ways to make big things that are overwhelming not feel so big.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Treat others the way you want to be treated.” The Golden Rule is simple and works really well. I have been thinking about this more than ever through this because for me as a leader and CEO, now is the time that I need to be better than ever. Now and through this type of adversity is when your true colors as a leader shine through. I want to be able to look back at this historic time and be proud of how I showed up, acted and treated others. This time is the ultimate test and opportunity for me as a leader. It is like the Superbowl of leadership and the biggest stage for a CEO and that is something I am embracing and motivated by.
The other quote I like during this time is the one about how to eat an elephant… one bite at a time. I think the current situation we are in is so big and overwhelming. Simplifying it into baby steps and micro-goals is a great approach to keep heads clear and make complex, big things simple and digestible.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
I have met many great leaders throughout my life who are making positive impacts on their businesses, their team’s lives, and those they surround themselves with. I have also heard so many stories of leaders who don’t show up for their teams or don’t follow the Golden Rule especially now when it is needed more than ever.
If I could start a movement that could turn all of the people who fall into the latter bucket, it would make a positive impact on so many — like a domino effect.
I’d call it “The Superbowl of Leadership,” that begs one question: Will you be proud of how you showed up and lead your team through this global pandemic 20 years from now?
It is easy to be a good and inspirational leader when things are going your way but the true test is when things are hard, frustrating and you have to make the hardest choices. That is the Superbowl of leadership and where we all find ourselves right now. It’s the biggest stage and opportunity to shine!
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
You can also connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/graysonlafrenz/
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!