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Marc Lefton: business leadership, hand made report cards, and punk music

In an effort to better ourselves, the fastest means of doing so is to learn how business leaders tick, and what sets them apart. Today, we talk with a tough talking digital expert who has deep roots in his field.

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marc lefton, half fiction

marc lefton, half fiction

Marc Lefton: business leader showcase

Marc Lefton owns a creative-driven digital marketing agency called Half Fiction and is part of the startup team at RentCentives. As a small business owner and leader in New York City, he jokes that he is “good enough at a lot of things which makes me dangerous enough to cobble together whatever needs to be done before I find people more talented than me to do it better.”

Lefton is well known in the ad world as a rebellious figure, a sought after creative, and while you may not see him being a sugary salesman at a trade show, you’ll see his work across the globe from Super Bowl ads to high profile television, print, but in recent years, he has become a prominent figure in the digital advertising and social media world.

Below is an insightful interview with Lefton complete with punk music references:

Walk us through a typical day in your life.

[pl_blockquote pull=”right”]
“No day is ever typical.”
[/pl_blockquote]No day is ever typical. The concept behind Half Fiction is to have these asynchronous groups of “talent pods” which consist of freelancers, teams, and other small agencies that we manage at a strategic level. Running a company like this is very cost-effective for our clients because they’re not paying for unused talent, but sometimes last minute things come up and no one is available, then it means I have to figure out a way to get it done no matter what. When we’re busy, it means I’m wearing a lot of hats.

I’m not a morning person, as I’m doing this interview close to 1am. On any day I might design something, approve copy, send an invoice, attend four meetings while playing “conference call bingo” and come up with a strategy.

Where were you raised? Where all have you lived?

I was raised on Long Island, a place where parents of my generation fled the awful situation in the late 70s in NYC for the suburbs. Being surrounded by three bodies of water and a city everyone is terrified of means most people never leave. But I couldn’t wait to get out and get to the city. I’ve lived all over Brooklyn, mostly, and spent two years in Western Massachusetts.

How did you get into your current career?

[pl_blockquote pull=”right”]
Threatened with parents seeing a bad
report card, “I came up with the bright
idea to design my own report card.”
[/pl_blockquote]I was always a very lazy student and a procrastinator. Somehow I got away with it for most of school because teachers liked me. Each year they would say “Marc, you got away with not turning in most of your homework in 3rd grade, but things will be harder in 4th grade and they won’t stand for it!” But each year, it was really the same thing. When 9th grade rolled around, they really started to count everything a lot harder. And all of a sudden, I’m looking at failing every single class in my first semester of high school. The report card is on its way home. What’s an entrepreneurial 14 year old to do? First thing was to steal the report card out of the mailbox. Then I waited for a while. That was my mistake.

I came up with the bright idea to design my own report card, complete with 95 averages and implausible comments like “outstanding participation in class!” I handed my report card to my parents the day they had already called to get my grades. They were not amused. My mom worked in a small ad agency and started making me go to work with her on school vacations to keep me out of trouble.

I found the art department and they put my new found graphic design skills to use. I was hooked immediately – the first day I was there, I created a headline and saw it in the newspaper the next day. I kept asking questions, and soon I was using their equipment to make my own underground newspaper in high school. They banned it.

My first press release was to the local newspaper about the issue and they wrote a feature story on it. Again, being lazy, I could not afford the School of Visual Arts where I had been accepted and never bothered to have any safety schools. Instead, I got a job working nights at an ad agency making supermarket circulars before I graduated high school. Things went quickly from there. By the time I was 20, I was working on Super Bowl commercials.

What is something unique that you do to balance work and life?

[pl_blockquote pull=”right”]
“I realized that I started putting
everything into these little boxes.”
[/pl_blockquote]I actually decided recently to stop focusing on work life balance at all. I’m going to see how this goes. But I realized that I started putting everything into these little boxes. “It’s the weekend, I need work/life balance so even though I really feel motivated I’m going to blow off this presentation until Monday.” But then, Monday rolls around and I don’t feel like working on it anymore because clients want stuff and I’m hungry and didn’t have any coffee ’cause I’m still in bed answering emails and before I know it, the presentation is late.

Instead, I’m trying to get rid of things I hate to do, so it doesn’t feel like work. And I’m trying to at all costs remove work that is “urgent.” Someone else can deal with that last minute change, the server being down. Once that’s in place, if it’s the weekend and I’m inspired to work, I’ll work. If it’s Tuesday and I want to go see a movie in the middle of the day or go to a museum, then I’ll do that. It doesn’t take much time for me to recharge my batteries, sometimes a few hours. It’s about having the little breaks and being able to do all the things we want to do while making sure the work stuff happens when it needs to.

What keeps you up at night?

Any form of injustice or irrationality. If you’re into Myers-Briggs, I’m an INTJ, which means we actually expect people to make logical sense. If you’re a logical person and I think you’re wrong, I can take you through the problem and hope I can convince you to see things my way. It’s hard for me to understand when someone is irrational or unfair.

If you could spend one day in the life of another industry leader, who would it be?

[pl_blockquote pull=”right”]
“I’m molding my company to be
the ‘Moneyball’ of ad agencies.”
[/pl_blockquote]I would love to be Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s. I’m molding my company to be the “Moneyball” of ad agencies – finding affordable talent that a lot of agencies overlook in order to get some great work. I’m a huge baseball fan, so being able to experience that from that perspective would be amazing.

At age 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was already somewhat immersed in advertising at the time. Back then I’m not sure if I entirely grasped the fact that you could make a career out of advertising. The agency where my mom worked did a lot of local retail stuff, so it didn’t seem like art so much as a technical or craftsman’s job.

It wasn’t until later that it even occurred to me that people came up with concepts for ads. I think at that point I was like “Well, I seem to be good at this, let’s see where this goes.” Someone asked me if I had a five year plan recently. I said, “Five years ago, what I’m doing now (social media) did not exist. Five years before that, what I was doing then (Internet) did not exist. So I try to stay flexible.”

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Despite not having any piercings or tattoos to show for it, I was highly immersed in the local underground punk rock scene throughout the 90s. I owned a punk fanzine that had distribution across the east coast and advertisers from all of the indie punk labels. I got to hang out with the Ramones. And I started one of the first punk websites.

What inspirational quote has stuck with you the longest?

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by [pl_blockquote pull=”right”]
“This quote is the best one
an entrepreneur can live by.”
[/pl_blockquote]dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

This quote is the best one an entrepreneur can live by, because the worse you can do is “fail while daring greatly.” And what great entrepreneur doesn’t fail greatly a few times before getting it?

What advice do you have for Millennials struggling to get a job?

Make your own job. The concept of a job may not last your lifetime. The future of earning a living is in being flexible – a nomad. Never depend on one company for your paycheck.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. stellaremarketing

    November 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    he jokes that he is “good enough at a lot of things which makes me dangerous enough to cobble together whatever needs to be done before I find people more talented than me to do it better.”  Well put! 🙂

  2. Tinu

    November 20, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Okay one of the best AG interviews ever. Love his theory on work – life balance and going to re-test my original every other day schedule again.

  3. Liz

    November 20, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Truer words were never spoken: “Make your own job. The concept of a job may not last your lifetime. The future of earning a living is in being flexible – a nomad. Never depend on one company for your paycheck.” Kudos!

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Business Entrepreneur

15 tips to spot a toxic work environment when interviewing

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Interviewing can be tricky, but this new infographic will help you look for signs of toxicity before, during, and after the interview.

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Person in an interview

When we’re in the process of job hunting, we’re typically looking because we need a change, for multiple reasons. Any interview sparks hope. Because we’re sometimes so willing to make that change, we often put our blinders on in the hopes that whatever comes is the perfect opportunity for us.

With those blinders, however, it can be common to miss some red flags that tell you what you really need to know about the job you may be applying or interviewing for. Luckily, Resume.io is here to help.

They have developed 15 warning signs in their infographic: How to Spot a Toxic Work Environment Before You Take the Job. Let’s dive in and take a look at these.

First, the preparation before the interview. Red flags can shop up from the get-go. Here’s what to look out for before you even meet face-to-face (or over the phone/Zoom).

  1. Vague job description: If there is nothing substantial about the description of the job itself and only buzzwords like “team player,” be on alert.
  2. Negative Glassdoor reviews: These reviews on company culture are worth taking into account. If multiple people have a recurring issue, it’s something to be aware of.
  3. Arranging an interview is taking forever: If they keep you waiting, it’s typically a sign of disorganization. This may not always be the case, but pay attention to how they’re respecting you and your time.
  4. Your arrival comes as a surprise to them: Again, disorganization. This is also displaying a lack of communication in the company.
  5. The interview starts late: See the last sentence of #3. Not only are they disrespecting your time, but they’re displaying a lack of time management.

Now, for the high-pressure situation: During the interview. Here’s what you need to be keeping an eye on (while simultaneously listing your strengths and weaknesses, of course)

  1. Unpreparedness: If the interviewer is scattered and not prepared for your conversation, this may be a sign that they don’t fully understand the tasks and expectations for the job.
  2. Doesn’t get into your skill set: If they don’t ask about your skills, how can they know what you’re bringing to the table?
  3. Rudeness: If the interviewer is rude throughout the interview or is authoritative (either to you or to a panel who may be present,) be on alert. This is just a sign of what’s to come.
  4. Uncommunicative about company values: If it’s different from what’s on their website or they seem spacey about company values, this is a red flag.
  5. Your questions aren’t being answered: If they’re avoiding answering your questions, they may be hiding an aspect of the job – or the company – that they don’t want to reveal.

Finally, the waiting game. Once the interview is complete, here are some less-than-good things to be on the lookout for. Keep in mind that some of these may be hard to gauge seeing that we’re in the middle of a pandemic and many companies haven’t returned to their offices yet:

  1. Brief interview: If the interview was too short, they are either desperate or have already filled the position. Either way, bad.
  2. Quiet workplace: This may be a sign of a lack of teamwork or a tense environment.
  3. No tour: If you don’t get to see the office, again, they may be hiding something.
  4. Offer on the day of interview: Not giving you time to think may be a sign of desperation.
  5. Leaving you waiting: Again, if they leave you waiting on an answer like they did with scheduling, it’s a sign of disorganization and disrespect.

While one of these 15 things happening doesn’t necessarily mean the job is a bust, a few of these things happening may be an indicator to look elsewhere.

 

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Business Entrepreneur

New COVID rules employers need to know to keep staff safe

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) The definition of “close contact” has recently changed and it affects employers and employees. Here’s what we know (for now) and you should too.

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Masked people in meeting, but employers may find it hard to keep safe

If you are an employer, this information is a must know! Recently, the Centers for Disease Control has redefined the term of being in “close contact” with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. This new definition is one that will affect all group settings. The workplace is one of them.

Previously, a “close contact” individual was someone who was within six-feet during a 15-minute period of a person who tested positive for the virus. Now, “close contact” still requires the “within six-feet distance” scenario but broadens the 15 minute window criteria.

The new definition states that someone doesn’t need to have 15 consecutive minutes of interaction with a person who is confirmed to have COVID-19. A cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period can also consider someone as in “close contact”. And, everyone who is in close contact will still need to be tested for the virus and quarantine themselves.

This change goes hand in hand with a recent study published by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The study details that a facility employee at a male correctional facility in Vermont tested positive for COVID-19. The confirmed case was reported to the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) on August 11, 2020.

The correctional officer came in contact with 6 inmates who had arrived from an out-of-state correctional facility on July 28. All the inmates were kept in a quarantine unit and tested for SARS-CoV-2 on that day. On July 29, all their tests came back positive. As a result, the Vermont Department of Corrections (VDOC) and VDH conducted a contact tracing investigation.

During the correctional officer’s eight-hour shift, video surveillance footage showed he only had brief encounters with the inmates. Although they weren’t consecutive, the officer interacted with the inmates for about 17 minutes total. During all encounters, the officer wore a microfiber cloth mask, gown, and goggles. The inmates didn’t always wear a mask. Also, the officer didn’t have any other exposure to people with COVID-19 out of work and hadn’t traveled.

On August 4, the officer started showing COVID-19 symptoms. On August 5, he got tested, and a positive result returned on August 11. Data shows that one of the inmates transmitted the virus to the officer.

So, what does this all mean? The previous and current definition isn’t quite yet set in stone. There is so much more to learn about the virus.

The new “close contact” definition is much broader so people who didn’t fall in this category before, probably do now. If employees are in the office, it is inevitable that they will have some sort of interaction. And, even if coworkers only have a 5-minute long meeting, three 5-minute meetings will still count if there is a case of COVID-19 exposure.

Employees should be informed of these changes to better trace any unfortunate virus cases. And, employers with less than 500 employees who fall under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) will need to “provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19”.

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Business Entrepreneur

Streamline your collaboration and lighten your workload with Lyght

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Ventive is releasing a new collaboration tool that basically combines all your collaboration tools into one.

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Text "A vision brought to Lyght" on a bright background with lightbulb and people in collaboration.

Ventive is a custom software development agency based in Boise, Idaho. Launched in 2014, the startup combines design and engineering to build digital products that will help businesses grow. The company has worked with big names like Aston Martin, Cisco (Broadsoft), HP, Simplot, and Coleman Homes. It has even made the Inc. 5000 List for 3 years in a row. And, as with any business, it faces the same hurdles all small and big companies face: Finding the right tool to help take an idea and turn it into a reality.

In a blog post, Ventive Product Manager Jeff Wheadon wrote that the company has used a variety of tools like JIRA, Toggl, Trello, and Slack to streamline and collaborate on projects. Soon they realized there was not a single tool solution that could help them “go above and beyond for their clients”. So, Ventive decided it was “time to shine a new Lyght on team collaboration” by creating their own tool.

Lyght is an all-inclusive team collaboration tool that removes wasted time used to switch between different communication and management applications. It is designed to Make Work Simple. Make Work Flow.

In the tool, you can create a story for any project you want to build. These stories are designed for a smooth workflow, and you can collaborate with your team in each one. Conversation threads are visible in every story in real-time so everything is organized together. Tasks can be assigned by due dates and time budgets. You can even allocate a certain number of hours to a specific project so you can “determine bottlenecks in your team”.

You can also review the team’s time logs to gain insights on performance. A personalized dashboard lets you see recent activity and time spent across projects. Boards easily display the current state of each assignment. And, Backlogs let you organize and prioritize stories from your custom workflow.

Although Lyght started as an internal management tool for Ventive, the company isn’t just keeping the software for itself.

“After doing some additional market research, we found that there are many other companies across different industries looking for a similar tool that is lightweight and easy to use, yet robust enough to work with their own business processes,” wrote Jeff.

Since its creation, Lyght has gone through 3 iterations. Currently, the company is offering a private beta to entrepreneurs and teams. It plans on implementing the feedback it receives so the tool can “change and flow with the needs of the industry.” According to a Facebook post, Ventive is preparing for a public release of the software later this year.

Lyght brings together task management, collaboration, chat, and time tracking into a single solution. And, if you’d like to give it a try, you can schedule a demo on the company’s website.

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