One of the biggest challenges for any leader is staying in control of the organization’s “product.” Depending on the type of organization, the “’product” may be an actual physical product, service, or some combination of the two. In a hyper-competitive and transparent marketplace, maintaining the quality of your product can mean the difference between success and failure. I recently interviewed Sarah Lofton, CEO of Lofton Advertising, who noted, “No matter who you employ to do your work, you are your brand and you are ultimately responsible.” Lofton makes a great point. As leaders, we are ultimately responsible for the products of our organizations, and we need to be proactive and vigilant in striving for excellence.
Lofton has a great perspective and significant experience on this issue. She grew up in Houston, Texas, and went to college in Tucson at the University of Arizona where she received a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Eller College of Management. Lofton began her professional career back in Houston with Easterly & Company where she started their advertising department and investor relations division. She then joined Hill & Knowlton, an international communications firm. In this role, she provided communications support for executives at Compaq Computer Corporation, built and staffed Compaq’s worldwide media relations office, and provided corporate and local community relations support. She also was a key member of the merger communications team that helped develop the communications strategy for one of the largest technology mergers in history between Compaq and Hewlett-Packard. After marrying John Lofton from Brookhaven, she moved to Mississippi and worked with GodwinGroup as vice president of account management before opening her own advertising firm in 2009.
She credits Michael Cappellas, former CEO of Compaq, with influencing her own leadership style. Lofton shared, “I learned from him what it takes to be a leader — and that is considering yourself one of your people and letting them know that they are an integral part of making your company run; without them there would be no company.” She noted that he was always accessible to his employees and that his leadership style put his people’s well-being first, which ultimately resulted in the merger with HP that saved many jobs. Lofton also believes that one of the keys to leadership is “maintaining the highest quality of standards staying in control of your product and being instrumental in the planning, implementing, directing and reassessing of your product or service.”
Lofton’s advice for future leaders is to treat others as you would yourself and to help others get to where you are or where they would like to be. She also believes in getting involved in the community and finding meaningful ways to contribute. She practices what she preaches on this, and she is the current chairman of the board of the Madison County Business League. Lofton said, “In this role, I have the opportunity to help the league unite business leaders with elected and appointed officials to encourage economic development and quality of life for Madison County.” She is also an advocate of continuous learning and noted the fast pace of change in our society and with social marketing in particular. She also encourages future leaders to have the courage to go out on their own. Lofton’s new company has grown significantly since she took her own advice and formed her firm three years ago.
As leaders, we would be wise to continue to focus on the quality and standard of our “product.”
Our actions in this regard speak louder than our words. We build our reputations one satisfied customer at a time. Based on the success she has enjoyed, it appears that Lofton is doing a good job of managing her product and building a loyal customer base.
Up Close With … Sarah Lofton
Title: CEO of Lofton Advertising
Favorite Books: Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins; The Stranger by Albert Camus; Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead and Gutsy Girls Do by Kate White; Unbroken by Lauren Hillendbrand; The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
First Job: Babysitting in junior high, waitressing in high school.
Favorite Media Resources: MBJ for local news, New York Times for national news, and Wikipedia for all else
Proudest Moment as a Leader: Building a business model to allow a small agency, like mine, to successfully handle a $1 million advertising campaign in three months exceeding my client’s expectations.
Martin Willoughby, a business lawyer in Jackson, is a regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. Willoughby can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.
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