SD: You made it to the top possibly faster than any other Canadian ever has. Three reasons why?
LS: First, I am Canadian. Because of the smaller market scale, Canadians are required to work across multiple accounts in multiple industries even at the beginning of their careers. Consequently we get more experience and perspective under our belts more quickly than those in larger markets where sheer scale requires a more singular focus.
Second, I zigzagged. Rather than moving up the ranks in a straight line in account management, I zigzagged across many different disciplines and geographies, which I think ultimately made me a more well-rounded candidate to take the helm. For instance, I held positions in account management, strategy, innovation, and growth, in Canada, the US and globally.
Third, I like a dangerous mission. If you have an entrepreneurial orientation the tough challenges tend to be both exciting and great opportunities to prove your mettle and make disproportionately valuable contributions to your organization.
SD: You're now clearly settled in the Big Apple after an incredible run in Canada. What's the biggest difference been for you between a career there versus TO?
LS: For me, the difference is a personal one. I had a dream to live and work in New York and advertising gave me the opportunity to pursue it.
SD: Coming in as a president isn't simple. How did you onboard yourself in the role?
LS: The most important thing when becoming a new leader is to gain the trust of your people and to give them a vision of the future they can believe in and really get behind. Consequently, I spent a lot of time meeting with people in the company to listen and learn, to engage them in the future vision and to help them understand how they can personally play an impact role in helping us get there.
At KBS&P, one of the first things I did was host an American Idol-like competition where everyone in the company was encouraged to pitch their best idea of how to create the agency of the future. Engaging people in the change and giving then a voice helps to galvanize everyone around the mission.
SD: You're running several offices, not just one. Does that translate into more pressure? How does it look if I peek into your calendar?
LS: There is always the potential for more pressure when you expand your responsibilities. The most important thing is to have great leaders in all the offices and empower them to run their businesses. This has made my role outside of New York more the sharing best practices, and coaching role, versus an operational one.
SD: You have a bunch of direct reports. How much time is left to manage up? And be with clients?
LS: KBS&P is an entrepreneurial agency which means that people at all levels jump in and make tangible contributions to client business. There are no overseers. So I spend most of my time working directly on client business. The rest of my time is devoted to agency leadership to ensure our talent and practices are state of the art. Managing up is important to ensure that there is a strong line of communication and a shared vision of the business plan so that there are never unwelcome surprises. But done right this doesn't require too big a time commitment.
SD: What does a Cannes Lion mean to you? Happy with the performance thus far?
LS: For us, the most important success measure is using our creativity to build sustainable, profitable business growth for our clients. That is our greatest worth. But the Cannes Lions are a great celebration of the kind of talent and creativity that help deliver that.
Stefan Danis, reporting for Adnews.com, is CEO of Mandrake and NEXCareer and has published Gobi Runner, a book about overcoming adversity, available at Amazon.