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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

11 productivity tools for entrepreneurs that work from home

(BUSINESS) We asked remote professionals what some of their favorite (and most necessary) productivity tools were for the home office, and have 11 ideas that you might not have tried yet.

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work from home productivity

Working from home comes with its perks – comfortable pants (sweat pants*), working at your own pace, and not having your boss breathing down your neck are only a few. But staying productive and on-task can be a challenge when the only one watching is you (and your cat [who requires frequent cuddle breaks]).

We asked remote workers how they collaborate, stay on top of their work, and get shit done. Here’s what they said are their most reliable and necessary work-from-home tools:

First, let’s check out collaboration and team productivity tools:

Time Doctor

timedoctor780x433
Manage a remote team? When you need them focused on that time-sensitive report you needed yesterday, we’ve got a solution.

We use our own time tracking tool which we find essential for remote work and remote teams. It has everything you would need to give you an analytics of your workday and managing remote teams,” says Carlo Borja, Online Marketing Head of Time Doctor. This includes real time updates, gentle nudges to get you and your employees back on track, and a free trial run.

Azendoo

azendoo
Stop miscommunication in its tracks.

One of the best tools that we use to keep in contact and make sure everyone stays on task is Azendoo,” says John Andrew Williams, PCC, Founder and Lead Trainer at Academic Life Coaching, “It is an amazing tool that allows you to assign tasks to members of your team, leave comments and messages, and organize everything based on projects. It has truly been the best thing for us to improve our productivity and stay connected when we all work remotely.

RealtimeBoard

realtimeboard
What about brainstorming and collaborating with your team in real time? “RealtimeBoard is an online whiteboard and super simple collaboration service for marketers, developers, designers and creatives worldwide with user list exceeding 675k. It’s frequently used for project management, user experience planning, creative concepts visualization, story mapping, brainstorming, etc,” says Anna Boiarkina, Head of Marketing at RealtimeBoard.

Popular Favorite: Slack

slack780x433
Without question, it is Slack! With our marketing team spread from San
Antonio to San Francisco, Seattle and Madison, we couldn’t do our job
efficiently without this messaging communication tool,
” says Marcia Noyes, Director of Communications with Catalyze, Inc.

Noyes adds, “Before I took the job with Catalyze, I wondered how I could possibly stay on top of the very technical subjects of HIPAA compliance, digital healthcare and cloud computing, but with Slack, it’s easier than email or being there in person at corporate headquarters. I don’t think I could ever go back to being in an office. With this tool and others, I get so much more accomplished without the commute times and interruptions from water cooler talk and discussions about where to go for lunch.”

Now, let’s move on to tools and tips for your health:

A treadmill desk

treadmill desk
Slump no more.

Gretchen Roberts, CEO of Smoky Labs, a B2B digital and inbound marketing agency says that her treadmill desk helps her fight through the afternoon slump. “The endorphins that are released from the walking get me right into a feel-good mood again, same as a conversation and piece of chocolate would.

Not only is it great for you, but it keeps you awake and alert so you can fight the urge to take a “quick nap” right around 3pm. Good weather not required.

Lumbar support

lumbar-support
Then there’s always the issue of your health. We asked Dr. Barbara Bergin, M.D., Board Certified orthopedic surgeon her thoughts on how to best furnish your home office, and she had a few simple ideas that go a long way.

Invest in a good chair, a McKenzie lumbar pillow (because no work chair has the perfect lumbar support), and a drop down tray for your keyboard and mouse. If you have short legs which don’t quite reach the floor, either adjust your chair (which means adjusting everything else) or get some kind of a platform on which to rest your feet. I recommend those old bench step aerobics steps.

These are all suggestions that are easy to implement and positively impact your health (and wallet, when you consider chiropractic visits, massages or even surgery).

And some of our favorites – tools to manage time, data, and communications:

ClockingIT

clockingIT
In a similar fashion to Time Doctor, ClockingIT is a time-tracking application that logs everything you do. This allows you to keep track of how much time you’re really spending on a project (or time spent off-task on a project).

I work from home exclusively as a freelance communications and marketing manager. One of my clients, Simon Slade, CEO of SaleHoo, introduced me to ClockingIT. ClockingIT, a free project management system, is now a tool I can’t work from home without. It provides an easy way for me to log my time on different tasks and communicate project updates to colleagues without sending cumbersome mass emails. I like ClockingIT so much that I’ve created an account separate from SaleHoo’s, just for myself, and I use it to manage my work for other clients as well.

This would be a great tool for freelance designers and writers who need to keep track of time so they can appropriately charge their clients.

Zoho Vault

zoho vault
Throw away the Rolodex. With all of the social media information, websites, passwords, and logins a company might need to remember, there is a better way. Molly Wells, an SEO Analyst with Web301 believes in the power of Zoho.

The one tool that I can’t work at home without is the one that stores our many clients personal information. Links to live websites, production websites, their social media usernames and passwords. All of our own websites logins, social media logins along with all the tools we use. Rather than storing all of these on our server or on pen and paper, we use Zoho Vault. It’s a lifesaver for accessing information while at home or on the go. All of our passwords are all in one place.

Cloze

cloze
Winner for most comprehensive all-in-one freelancing app goes to Cloze, which does… pretty much everything.

As a freelancer, the tool I absolutely can’t live without is Cloze,” explains JC Hammond, “Cloze is a contact management app and website that is perfect for freelancers because it is highly customizable, links email, social, phone and notes in one place, lets you track interactions and statuses of projects, companies, and people and even delivers an informative “Morning Briefing” to help get your day off to a great start.

She thinks one of the most useful tools is the email read receipts and the ability to link with your cell phone provided to track calls. It also schedules and posts social updates to Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and other platforms. Because it’s designed for individual or very small team use, it’s easy to use and a user can efficiently run their entire day from the app.

Uberconference

uberconference
When it comes to phone conferences, meetings and client phone calls, Jessica Oman, Planner-in-Chief at Renegade Planner loves Uberconference.

She says, “As a business plan writer who in 2014 made the transition from leasing an office to working from home, I can say that Skype and Uberconference are the tools I can’t live without! Uberconference is especially wonderful because it easily allows me to record calls, use hold music, and connect with people who either call in from computer or phone. It allows me to have a 1-800 number too. It’s like having a virtual assistant to manage my calls and I love the professional feel of the service.

My Tomatoes

mytomatoes
And finally, a quick and simple idea – a timer. Jessica Velasco, Senior Editor at Chargebacks911 works exclusively from home. She uses the Pomodoro technique of time management: work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, work for 25 more minutes.

She says, “I use My Tomatoes. I like this particular timer because the countdown is shown in my browser tab. I can be working on other things and quickly glance over to see how much time is left. I like to race the clock; see how much I can get accomplished before the timer goes off. I also use it to limit my unproductive moments. Fun things like checking social media must end with the timer dings.”

Got a favorite?

All of these tools are yours for the taking, so why not give them all a shot? Then, even if you’re wearing your most comfortable pants (sweat pants*) – with all of the right tools, you can run your business from home like a boss, and give people the impression that you probably showered today.

*no pants

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Business Entrepreneur

6 entrepreneurial tools for startup productivity

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Whether you’re a small business or startup, improving efficiency means more money and less stress. Here are six tools to help do just that!

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automately net neutrality desktop laptop freelance isps

Truly great entrepreneurs are also well organized and know which tools will help them see their ideas to fruition.

That can be key for getting a startup business off the ground. Good ideas and a strong entrepreneurial spirit aren’t always enough on their own. Sometimes you need the right mix of technology and tools to keep the more mundane and tedious tasks from bogging down your efforts.

Here are six tools almost any entrepreneur can use to help keep productivity high when starting a new business:

Lawtrades: For legal help

For most entrepreneurs, it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but making sure you have your legal ducks in a row is important for any startup. Lawtrades helps with that while trying to keep costs down — music to the ears of any startup business owner.

The service is a legal marketplace of sorts designed specifically for startups and entrepreneurs. It connects business owners with legal professionals that it claims don’t charge “bloated law firm hourly rates.”

Lawtrades offers a number of services, including business formation, employment and labor, contracts and agreements and intellectual property.

Do: For productive meetings

Anyone who has started a business knows that it doesn’t happen without a multitude of meetings. Do is a service that can help make your meetings productive so you can waste as little time as possible.

The app allows you to plan and share an agenda to make sure everyone is on the same page. Other features include the ability to track accountability by showing you which points and/or tasks have been covered.

1Password: For easy password management

Starting a new business likely means starting and managing lots of online accounts. The 1Password app from AgileBits helps you save time by remembering passwords and other information for you.

The app helps you generate strong and unique passwords for your many accounts, and secures them behind one safe password known only by you. The app doesn’t only work for passwords — it can also help remember other information such as credit card numbers, safe combinations or street addresses.

Kanbanize: For product development

If your startup involves a specific product or set of products, Kanbanize helps you develop them with your team without bogging down the process. The software allows you to post and share boards that include product information and progress, and you can choose which people see which information.

For example, if you want to update investors on the status of your product development, you can share certain boards with stakeholders and no one else.

Evernote: For organization

There are many applications available that aim to help team productivity, but Evernote is one of the best.

The software allows you to collaborate with your team all within one workplace, keeping projects and other work together. You can also give feedback on ideas and share notes while syncing the data across computers and phones.

There are many other features as well, including in-app chat functionality and integration with Google Drive.

TaskHusky: For web development

Almost any new business will want some sort of business, but a staff of web designers and developers isn’t always an option for startups. That’s where TaskHusky comes in.

TaskHusky is an on-demand service for small businesses that need help with one-off tasks with the Shopify, Bigcommerce or WordPress platforms. The company has a simple three-step process: You create a task and pre-pay, a TaskHusky team member is assigned the task and gets to work and the task is completed and is sent back for your approval.

The takeaway:

Smart entrepreneurs understand they can’t get everything done on their own when it comes to starting a new business. These six tools may not be everything you need to launch and maintain a startup, but they will go a long way to helping you keep productivity at a high level.

#productivity

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Business Entrepreneur

All the creative services you need are curated in one place

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Curation as a service as a platform? This new company gives you a way to find the creative services you need to get your business up and running.

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creative services curated

Isn’t it easier when everything’s in one place?

That’s why we keep our clothes and shoes in closets, instead of strewn random places like the top of the fridge and the air vents. Usually.

Point is, curation makes everyone’s life 1,000 times better the more it’s implemented. And now, businesses who either need or provide creative services paid via monthly subscription fee can take advantage of a new platform providing that careful selection and categorization.

Flat Monthly Fee is a company that groups creative services such as graphic design, blog writing, video editing, and so forth while including easily found criteria like refund policies and cost per month before you read through a brand profile.

The advantage to small businesses needing to hire out these services is clear. You’re in a spot where you need more than one-off creations, but not quite yet in a place to hire “STAFF staff”, so you log on here, browse around and find a portfolio that suits.

But I’m way more interested in the secondary benefits to smaller-scale creative ventures. Short story short, the rise of this platform could lift YOUR small business boat as a creative individual or small collective. Much like using Unsplash as a portfolio site, an account with FMF seems like it could get your growing business seen by other growing businesses, as well as help garner work for terms of at least 30 days.

As great as this all seems, I do have a few qualms regarding this new-fangled creative industry catalogue.

Firstly, it’s not immediately clear on the website how one’s business gets a profile set up, pushed ahead, or paid for. For now, contacting the site owners directly seems to be the way to go, but it IS odd to me that sliding into their inboxes is the only way to see whether or not you find their terms amenable.

Secondly, it’s pretty obvious that most of the services there now are being run from non-Anglophone countries. Don’t get me wrong, xenophobia and creativity mix just as badly as sad, racist oil and water do. But for jobs that require a certain mother tongue, business owners seeking creative services may be SOL on FMF for the time being.

Because Flat Monthly Fee is a new kid on the block, I’m willing to accept that the training wheels aren’t completely off yet. If we all waited until everything was perfectly streamlined before debuting it, nobody’d get ANYTHING done, ever. As the company finds its way through feedback and new iterations, I figure they’ll get around to making improvements as needed.

For the time being, it still may be worth your time to get in touch with the curators as part of your publicity strategy! Early adoption has its perks. It just means you may have to change a digital diaper now and again.

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