October 6, 2017

The Simple Truth

By Kathy Leonard, President of Freeman+Leonard

I’ve been reading The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. You’ve likely heard his simple, yet challenging, hiring missive for impacting culture and filling your company with ideal team players: Identify candidates who are, in equal measure, Lencioni says, humble, hungry and smart. Following his posit, people who are humble are not arrogant and do not seek praise for themselves. They are more interested in doing great work than in receiving accolades. Hungry describes people who have an energy and an appetite for more: more work, more opportunity and more responsibility. According to the author, smart describes someone who has emotional intelligence, someone who can “read the room,” and can work well with other people.

As I think about the hiring failures I’ve had – and, sadly, there have been a few – I can generally see, in retrospect, where at least one of the three virtues was missing. Characteristics of ideal team players also seem to predict success in those in commissioned sales roles, people not typically considered team players. Recently we lost an experienced sales person who was smart as a whip and quite humble.  Unfortunately, I now realize she just wasn’t hungry. She lacked the drive, assertiveness and “get-it-done” attitude that could have propelled her to a successful selling career. In another case, we had a recruiter who was hungry, humble and book smart, but he didn’t have the emotional intelligence to understand our culture or connect and become a true member of the team.

I put a lot of stock in Lencioni’s ideal virtues of humble, hungry and smart. Many of our clients administer lengthy personality and aptitude tests in a desperate effort to predict hiring success or failure. Often those tests predict with positive results, yet it seems that just as often they don’t. How much simpler to focus on these three virtues of humble, hungry and smart.

New employees whose values match the company’s adjust to their jobs more quickly, are more satisfied and often have longer tenure. Hiring the right people from the start saves time, money and much frustration for all. When we can ask questions that get at these virtues, and train our hiring managers and decision influencers to do the same, we’re a huge step ahead in developing a successful team that can drive the business needed for a successful company.

Finding Humble:

“I’d really like to know what your last boss would say you need to work on.” Humble people are often not afraid to share their weaknesses or unflattering stories.

Humble people have no issue with giving kudos to others,  Ego-driven people often do.

Finding Hungry:

“What is the hardest, most challenging thing you’ve ever worked on?” Look for stories of joyful sacrifice: not complaining but grateful for the tough experience.

What kind of hours do you work, generally?” A candidate who likes a predictable work schedule and talks a lot about “balance” may not be terribly hungry.

Finding Smart:

“What do you do that others find annoying?” Lencioni says that smart people are neither immune to this nor are they in the dark. They can tell you what about themselves may annoy others and generally moderate these behaviors at work.

“Can you give me an example of demonstrating empathy with a teammate?”  Smart people value empathy.

Finally, the most important question is one you ask yourself. “Would I want to work with this person every day?” Smart candidates will be those you’d enjoy being with. We have been known to ask each other after interviewing a candidate, “Would you want to drink a beer with him,” or “Would you spend a couple of hours over a glass of wine with her.” How you answer these gets to the core of personality and culture fit for your team.

Of course, many data points are collected when making a hiring decision. But occasionally, removing the complications and complexities can reveal simple truths. In this case, the simple truth is that hiring people who display, in equal parts, humble, hungry and smart can be the easier way to building a strong culture and an effective team.

October 3, 2017

The Top 10 Trends Driving Marketing in 2017








Visibility is one aspect of marketing that won’t change — regardless of the year. Marketing before and after a digital transformation revolves around how customers see your business. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do have some informed ideas about what to expect from marketing trends in 2017.

Focus is crucial — and that can be a challenge. The bigger the business, the more diverse the customer base. While data is making it easier to target consumers, it’s a massive undertaking to discern valuable information from the volume of data available. How do you stay focused, create conversations, and increase conversions? It’s a big question, but paying attention to what’s on the horizon can offer insights. Here are 10 trends that I predict for 2017.

Increased focus on customer experience

Customer experience is the heart of marketing for every industry. While it has always been a marketing focus, today’s businesses — at least the successful ones — have embraced customer-centric philosophies to create effective marketing strategies and positive digital transformations.

Engaged and effective measuring: Analytics 2.0

Talk of measuring marketing has been on an endless loop lately. With confessions from Facebook and others about how their data doesn’t tell a complete story, what we do have is less than stellar. Now — and in the upcoming year — measurement will be done with purpose. Expect business objectives to tie back to profit, revenue, customer retention, and satisfaction.

Lean on the new marketing lieutenants: marketing technologists and data scientists

To make the first two trends on our list work, executives must be data-driven. As companies aim to connect email, social media, and paid, owned, and earned marketing strategies (among others), they must incorporate technology needed to implement and support it. Expect Chief Marketing Technologists to lead this initiative — studies show that four out of five enterprises do this already.

Personalized everything

As we work to individualize everything from Coca-Cola cans to shoes, mass customization has transitioned into personalization. For some businesses, this will mean ensuring touch points are specific and individual. For others, it’s simply streamlining the purchasing process and making it more responsive.

Better video content… and more of it

Yes, content is still king, but the kind of content that rules the web is changing. Social content, reviews, blogs, papers, and eBooks are all still crucial aspects of marketing, but video will be the rage moving forward. Considering the success of games like Pokémon Go, expect virtual and augmented reality to take us into the future. Brands that fail to incorporate visuals and videos will be left by the wayside.

More social media marketing

We need to change the way that we think about social media. Social media strategies should market less and sell more. Often, brands use social media to blast highly generic content — content that people are ignoring. Social media should be personalized too, and it’s not too hard to accomplish. Use social media for the frontline marketing of sales and services. Use it to engage with consumers, not blast messages.

Embrace the IoT

The Internet of Things has been in its infancy. In 2017, expect businesses to leverage the power of billions of connected devices — a marketer’s dream. Collecting and making that data useful, though, will be key. Beacons, sensors, edge devices, TVs, clothes, fitness brands, and more are all producing useful data, meaning more opportunities to get closer to the customer. Expect the IoT to transform how we leverage tech and data.

Chatbots and AI go mainstream

Providing positive customer experience and service means leveraging the power of technology. Asking locals for advice on where to eat is good, but they don’t know whether you like spicy food or have a gluten intolerance. Imagine a chatbot who knows your likes, dislikes, and needs and can guide you on where to eat, how to travel, or where to shop. Chatbots can use AI, deep learning, and data crumbs from across the web to understand and guide consumer behavior.

Right-time marketing instead of real-time marketing

Real-time marketing — with eyes out for opportunities to market and score — has been hot the last few years. Think of Oreo’s “Dunking in the Dark” campaign. As we now use data to isolate the best moment to connect with consumers, real-time should switch to right-time.

Prepare for marketing to own digital transformation campaigns

Many are suggesting that CMOs own digital transformation. I staunchly disagree. What CMOs should actually own is the digital transformation “campaign” — the process of showing the market and your teams that a company is transforming. Do this by clearly explaining how these trends, along with digital initiatives, affect consumer experience and how the company is executing it.

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive; save room for the unpredictable and unprecedented. Given last year’s trends and what I see on the horizon, though, this is how we should be planning for the upcoming year.

This article was written by Daniel Newman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Twitter or its affiliates.

June 28, 2017

From Condos and Airplanes to CMO’s, Fractional Lets You Have It All

By Kathy Leonard, President of Freeman+Leonard

I first heard the term fractional when I went to Mexico on vacation about 25 years ago.  A free breakfast and mimosa’s in exchange for a presentation on fractional condominium ownership seemed like a fair exchange and so I enjoyed the bacon and scrambled eggs while learning that even I could afford to own a vacation home in Puerto Vallarta.


Over the years fractional has applied to any number of luxury opportunities for those of us not quite in the upper 1%.  Think NetJets® and Flexjet. Fractional ownership has become a way to access and own things you could not afford without sharing the cost with others.  But, not limited to the upper crust, fractional has become a concept embraced by businesses for much the same reason — the ability to have executive-level talent without incurring the all-in cost of a permanent position.  More importantly than cost, a fractional executive gives a company on-demand access to deep experience and strategic leadership.

The fractional CFO has been popular for quite some time followed by fractional CIOs.  More recently the concept has taken hold in the marketing function with fractional, interim or recurrent CMO’s becoming more in-demand by small to mid-size companies.

Why does a company need a CMO?  After all, didn’t Coca-Cola just fire theirs? The answer to the second question is, in fact, yes.  Coke has shifted its marketing emphasis to growth and has replaced the CMO with a Chief Growth Officer, hired to turn the company into a “growth-oriented and consumer-centered” organization.  Exactly what marketing was always intended to do.  So, whether your emphasis is on marketing communications that drive leads to sales, supporting the sales team with brand awareness and selling materials, or growing the company by highly targeted digital strategies, profit and growth are still the two key measures of success and your sales team and your web site cannot do it alone.  A key component of any business success is getting the selling story into the right hands.  And that’s what your marketing function must accomplish.

Now, given the need for marketing and growth leadership, the question becomes Why a Fractional CMO? Essentially the fractional executive is called in because of a leadership void or to deliver highly specialized strategic planning and solutions. One of the main purposes of a fractional CMO is to interpret the company’s vision and goals and then help the company reach that by directing the internal staff, often more junior and capably executional versus strategic thought leaders.

The value of a fractional CMO is they can provide a deep understanding of the category, the brand, the competitive challenges, the growth opportunities, etc., without being in a full-time, permanent position.  And, it is leadership that can be made affordable for those companies who need big-time leadership at a smaller-time or shall we say, fraction of the cost.

I didn’t buy into fractional ownership of a condo in Mexico some 25 years ago. In retrospect, it was probably a decent investment, as a number of friends who did buy in have enjoyed low-cost vacationing at high-end destinations over the years.  I do buy into the idea of the fractional executive and particularly the fractional CMO for small to mid-size companies looking to add some sophistication to their own growth strategies.  These former corporate CMO’s who provide fractional services are available through a few specialized companies.  Freeman+Leonard is specifically in the business of providing flexible marketing solutions like fractional CMOs to small and mid-size companies across the U.S.


Kathy Leonard is president of Freeman+Leonard, a Dallas-based marketing services company providing talent and project solutions to both corporate clients and agencies. www.freemanleonard.com

April 25, 2017

The Pet-Friendly Workplace

Dogs in ChairsSeveral years ago I made the decision to let our staff bring their dogs to work.  At first it was mainly only one dog, Bailey, who came a few times a week.  Everyone fell in love with Bailey and she is now an institution here.  She is well behaved, doesn’t bark or growl, doesn’t jump on people – most of the time (she is older now) she sleeps in her bed in her owner’s cubicle but she is allowed to roam and visit at will.  Then others started bringing their dogs – not every day but enough to make a positive impact on our environment. 

GabbyBringing dogs to the office has definite benefits:  improved morale as pets bring out our softer sides, increased interaction among departments as staff now have something in common that might not have existed; increased retention if bringing a pet to work is of great importance.

 BaileyThere are rules however.  Dogs must be well behaved meaning no barking or yapping, no jumping up on people, no “accidents” (we do have an outdoor green area for that purpose), no biting (immediate expulsion), no fighting with other dogs.  They must have had their vaccinations and flea treatments.  The dogs that visit our office just love being with their owners and around people so they are a joy.  So far, we don’t have staff with dog allergies, and now we let candidates that we are considering for a position here know that we do bring dogs to the office.   As other issues surface, we will make other rules but so far, the positives have far outweighed the negatives.

I am the only one who has brought a cat to the office and it was not a good experience for either one of us.  Even though cats sleep a lot, many are more timid and less social and can be frightened of a lot of strangers trying to pet them which is what happened with my cat.  I finally had to take him home and his mood immediately changed to happy and purring!

 Many companies are now realizing the benefits of pets in the workplace, but know that there must be proper pooch etiquette and behavior!

Chief Pooch Lover,  










Valerie Freeman |CEO

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