One of the things I enjoy about travel is I am reminded about just how much commerce is taking place around the globe. For Mississippi-based companies, the opportunities are incredible. There are new markets to develop all the time. One of my clients that started right here in Jackson a few years ago is now doing business all over Asia — simply amazing! In 2011, Mississippi exports totaled over $12 billion and accounted for over 52,000 jobs. Mississippi has a great resource for expanding business internationally with the Mississippi World Trade Center. I recently visited with Liza Looser, CEO of The Cirlot Agency, who shares a passion for seeing Mississippi businesses grow and prosper. She is currently the first female president of the Mississippi World Trade Center and is a strong advocate for the work that executive director Barbara Travis and her team are doing at the organization.
Liza’s story is inspirational. A graduate of Mississippi University of Women and Harvard Business School, Liza began her career as an advertising account executive with The Clarion Ledger. She went on to work for an advertising agency and as communications director for the state’s Republican Party. In 1984, she began The Cirlot Agency with a $78 tax return check. Four years later she met and married her husband, Rick Looser, who joined the firm as president/COO. The firm has grown and prospered and, in 2012, achieved a goal of opening an office in Washington, D.C. The Cirlot Agency is known as one of the top three communications firms for defense-related companies in the country and represents clients, such as Bell Helicopter and ATK, all over the world. A leader in her company, industry, and community, Liza has accomplished many “firsts,” including being the first female chairman of the board of the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce.
For future leaders, Liza advises that they take a long view of leadership. She notes, “Successful careers take time.” She explained, “It is important to achieve short-term goals, but always have a vision based on long-term objectives.” Liza encourages young leaders to take time to master their craft, and to consider where they want to be in 10, 20 or even 30 years. She said, “Invest the time in researching the companies, people, and places that you want to spend time with during your career.” Liza’s fundamental business philosophy is based on Biblical principles of servant leadership. She was inspired by one of her first clients who ran a major corporation and prayed with his team for wisdom, discernment, blessings, and guidance. As she grew her firm, Liza similarly has regular time for that kind of prayer. She also shared that the book, Management by Proverbs, by Michael Zigarelli, has had a big impact on her leadership.
Liza’s passion for Mississippi business is evidenced in the Mississippi Believe It! campaign that the agency developed during its 20th-anniversary celebration as a gift to the state. This campaign has generated over $40 million in media exposure nationally and even internationally. Today, Liza continues to serve in a variety of leadership positions trying to elevate Mississippi and its businesses. As noted above, one her of real passions these days is the opportunity to expand internationally. “I have a passion to help Mississippi-based corporations reach the next level,” she said. “That includes international expansion to bring cash flow and profits into the state with the end result of money staying in the State of Mississippi.” That is why she invests the time in the Mississippi World Trade Center to help that organization grow and reach new audiences of business leaders in the state. From my exposure to the organization, I agree that its work to help organizations strategically expand overseas is a huge asset. I appreciate the work that Liza is doing to help make our state better.
Up Close With Liza Looser
Title: CEO, The Cirlot Agency
Favorite Books: ”All nine of Jill Conner Browne’s Sweet Potato Queen books”
First Job: ”When I was 12 years old, Trent Lott was running for office for the first time and I remember volunteering for him. I went door to door handing out brochures and yard signs. My first real job, however, was at Burnham’s drugstore working as a cashier and ‘soda jerk.’”
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “One of my proudest moments was when we were contacted by NATO to help the citizens of Bosnia by giving them a voice to hold their government accountable for removing land mines and rebuilding infrastructure so they could move back into their homes after the war.”