When you grow up in the 80's and early 90's, BRAND's really mattered when thinking about where you'd like to work. My implied assumptions? The bigger the brand, the more career opportunities. So needless to say that was my focus.
While re-building Hustle or Bust, I started thinking about my career and how to represent it via company logos and experiences I've had. So I started pasted in the logos, starting with Kraft Foods and going all the way to present day, PAVERART.
The first portrayal, here it is...
As I looked at the above, the obvious:
The largest company was my first, Kraft Foods, which at the time in 1993 was the country's largest food company. Then it went a bit smaller through 30 some years....
But the portrayal of Kraft at the top left didn't feel right, so I changed it to this...
This one feels right. Kraft was foundational for me, and each successive move I took on either greater or very different experiences. Usually that came with more leadership responsibility. And somewhat coincidentally, the company SIZE became smaller with each career move, which had numerous, and some surprising benefits.
It got me thinking about some basic career things worth considering...
Get to Headquarters AS Early & Often As Possible
It's really not up for debate: There's a massive difference between a field (or work from home) office vs the home-base of headquarters.
All things being equal, you will go further in your career with substantial HQ experience. That's where the decisions tend to get made and senior leaders reside. Promotions tend to happen based not just on results but RELATONSHIPS, and your ability to build senior level relationships increases when you are under the same roof.
BTW, I know COVID has changed many people's view on home vs office. We got Bruno & Mickey (our pugs) during COVID and I certainly understand the quality of life differences, from saving on commute time, etc. They simply don't outweigh the impact of being able to office out of HQ. If your serious about your career, all roads will run through HQ.
Analytics COMBINED With Creative Story-Telling Matters
It still amazes how fundamentally UN-SOUND marketers STILL are. Marketing IS about creativity. But Marketers that aspire to top levels of leadership MUST become ruthlessly analytical and grounded in results that matter to a P&L. PROFITABLE revenue growth. Get grounded in financial analysis. Understand your Finance team. CMO's, you better become with friends with the head of Operations and Finance. Allies matter.
Don't Become The All Too Common Empty Suit
It's Easier To Lead When People Know YOU Can Actually "Do The Work!"
There's nothing worse when members of a team get passed over for a senior role/promotion for an OUTSIDE hire. It tends to be demoralizing. The white knight comes in and is expected to take the team to new levels, while the existing team has no idea what new guy is all about. If your confident (and demonstrate) that you can DO, not just DIRECT, that's the quickest path to earning credibility. The key word here is EARNING credibility, not just assuming it comes to you due to your title.
Have you ever seen a new executive not be able to use a basic spreadsheet? Modify a PowerPoint presentation? It creates giggles all over the place whether you think that's fair or not.
Don't lose your tactical skills. Stay grounded and appreciate the in the trenches work. This is even MORE important if you want to run an ENTIRE business....
Take A Hard Look At OWNERSHIP As Early As Possible: Entrepreneurship via Acquisition
There's no mistaking the facts of capitalism: OWNERSHIP (equity) is where wealth is created. The quicker your able to have a shot at true business ownership, the better. YES, stock options are a form of equity. But I view equity in the context of CONTROLL, who is calling the shots? The more ownership you have, the more control of the business you have.
I'll give you an example. The day I acquired on MY first business, I personally signed up with a PG (personal guarantee) of over $10mm of debt......an amount that FAR exceeded my personal net worth. And guess what? I felt substantially LESS stress the year's prior. Why?
I was in CONTROL. It was MY ship to lead, screw up, or successfully build. For me, that was empowering, and stress reducing.
As it relates to company size, your ownership % (and resulting control) is usually inversely related to company size. That does not mean you want to own the corner pizza shop, just because you CAN own 100%.
There are many businesses out there throwing off significant cash flow, but are too small for the world of Private Equity firms. Here's your opportunity to acquire these businesses, but you want to give this real consideration in your thirties......NOT your 50's.
So back to company size? Could I (or any one individual running the company) ever CONTROL Kraft Foods? Not really. There's a handful of individuals with founder friendly/controlling capability, but it's EXTREMELY RARE.
But you can look small.......and if you actually like the WORK vs teams of support staff around you, control is the payoff.
If your GOOD, not JUST a hard worker, the rewards are within reach.