Jacob Leffler is Co-Founder and President of The Basement. Jacob Leffler is a thought leader, influencer, and risk taker, and Jacob has provided the vision and energy that has inspired the creation of The Basement. Jacob Leffler joins other leading CEOs and Founders taking part in our Leader Roundtable Interview Series.The DotCom Magazine editorial team has awarded The Basement as an Impact Company of 2019, and we are delighted to have Jacob join us for our Leader Round Table Interview. The Basement story is very interesting, and we are very excited to not only interview Jacob, but also put Jacob through our popular speed round as well!
Jacob, thank so much for taking the time out of your busy day for this interview, and answering some questions about leadership, your vision, and your passion.
1. Can you describe what the “elevator pitch” for The Basement is?
Yes, The Basement is an integrated agency that studies our clients’ data to uncover market insights which enable strategic, targeted and effective marketing and advertising campaigns.
2. Many of our readers are just starting to build a company. What advice can you give CEO’s just starting out regarding keeping a company moving forward, and please tell us the key to your company’s success?
Advice to CEO’s just starting out, wow, where to start…retain a focus on delivering for your clients/customers, and prioritize the alignment of delivering value for your clients/customers along with your internal organizational values and culture. If you create that standard, that alignment, early in the company’s life, and work to grow that standard with the company, you will be well positioned as the company matures. That provides a great boundary for growth. That prioritization and alignment has been a key to our company’s success. It helps us find, deliver value for, and retain great clients and it provides the same direction for finding, hiring and retaining superb staff.
3. For other entrepreneurs seeking to build a business as successful as yours, what advice can you give them when times get a little challenging?
Don’t be so in love with your business and your offering, that you cannot see it for what it really is, esp. in the eyes of your market. In other words, don’t lose objective sight of the value you are providing, or not providing, the market, and never stop improving the delivery of that value. Remaining objective in the review of your business will help you find those opportunities for improvement. Having an honest relationship with clients/customers, one where they feel safe to offer honest dialog and feedback, and have an earnest belief that you are going to do what’s best for them, will provide tremendous guidance for your organization.
4. How important is the commitment to client satisfaction at The Basement, and how do you make sure your customers will become raving fans of your company?
The commitment to client satisfaction is extremely important at The Basement. We view client satisfaction very similarly to how we view personal relationship satisfaction. Both the client and The Basement have investment in the relationship. We both have to be honest. We both have to collaborate. Neither one wants to be abused, rather we want to push each other to success in a healthy and open way.
Delivering learning and results honestly, consistently and intentionally for our clients with every engagement is how we earn our fans. Setting realistic expectations founded in data and fact, working earnestly to improve over a period of time and continuous improvement, long term, has earned us fans and more importantly, years-long relationships with multiple clients. Fans are great, but if someone, or an organization really appreciates you/your business they will pay you for the value you provide, year after year, and that is the ultimate business compliment.
5. What is the one thing The Basement does to have great communication with their customers?
The one thing we do to have great communication with our clients is, and we established very early in the company’s culture (like day one early), that the client can never feel like they have to work to get us to participate in an exchange. We are ready for them, attentive, collaborative and responsive when they need us. A primary tactic that has helped accomplish this year after year, is the established policies on how to communicate with clients, speed of response, and the platforms we utilize for this communication. They are very clear and every staffer is trained on these from day one.
6. In today’s fast changing business environment, what do you do to keep up with the changes?
What do you read to stay abreast of things? What I do to keep up with the changes is less important than what it is that our client-serving staff does to keep up with changes. The business will not grow if it only relies on the CEO or President to “keep up.” Scale is created when the leadership, the management and departmental teams “keep up.” There are many ways to do this, but each department has their part of the business that evolves, and that evolution is shared routinely throughout the year, in either daily article sharing, weekly meetings, company cultural events, our integration days, etc. “Keeping up” is ingrained in our culture. It is second nature at The Basement because our industry is ever evolving, therefore we must be in alignment with that evolution. A business is an organic creature, if it isn’t growing and evolving, it’s dying. I read numerous trade (more than just marketing and advertising) newsletters off and on, throughout the year, every day, all year. I also engage with staff to learn from their learnings, and we all are free to question each other without hurt feelings or fear of reprimand. That is key. No ego, just curiosity. One of our core culture statements is “Stay Curious.”
7. What is your “Why”? Why do you get up in the morning, and how do you keep yourself at peak performance to lead The Basement?
Well, quite literally I get up in the morning because God hasn’t pulled my card yet. My why is, in this order, faith, family, business and bullsh!t. Everything on that list is easy to understand except for maybe bullsh!t. That is all of the white noise that surrounds our lives. I keep myself in peak performance to lead The Basement by remaining mindful and aware of life priorities, and acting on the first three as much as possible, and the last one as little as possible. For me “peak performance” is more of a mental state, and a mentally healthy place. It is gratifying and I am grateful we’ve made it this far and continue growing. The increased maturity of the business makes continuing risk-taking a more acceptable and stable proposition, provides a healthy perspective for growth which, I believe, when measured, is necessary in business, and it alleviates much of the pressure of the entire enterprise.
8. Can you recommend a book that has had an influence in your career? How did it influence you?
There have been many. I read scripture pretty much everyday, in small doses, as God did not bless me with a long attention span. When I get asked this type of question I always have a hard time singling out one (book, movie, song, etc.). One business book I routinely recommend to staff is The E-Myth, by Michael Gerber. I don’t really even like the style of storytelling in the book, but the lessons are so good and real that it is a must read for any one starting their own business, or business people progressing in their careers to the point where they have responsibilities for other people and P & L.
9. When communicating with your staff, can you tell us the most important thing you do so that they are able to carry out the objectives that you set forth at The Basement?
The most important thing I do is help them understand we are measuring pretty much every aspect of this business, and what that measurement to them. How can we work with our clients in this way if we do not do it ourselves? It makes us smarter, more effective and more efficient. It will make the staff better, smarter and more effective. It has up to this point.
10. In one sentence, can you give some advice to fellow entrepreneurs wishing to build a company as exciting as The Basement?
Books are great, mentors are great, industry intelligence is great, research is great, partners, staff, etc is all great – leverage them all as much as possible, but never believe that there is anyone out there who is going to do anything for you that you cannot and will not do for yourself. You will own whatever outcome you get. Think about that long and hard before you ever start the process. That was more than one sentence, but good advice none the less.
We would like to have some fun and do a “First Reaction” round with you!
We will ask you ten more questions that we want you to answer in just one to three words only. Here you go!
1. In three words or less, What makes a successful CEO?
Persistence, intentional servitude
2. Describe your business in one word?
3. Describe your customers in one word?
4. What one attribute do you look for when hiring an employee?
Open to learn new things
5. What is the one word you want your customers to say about your company?
6. In three words or less, describe your passion?
Sometimes too much
7. In three words or less, describe what it takes to be successful?
Persistent, Focused, Confident
8. In three words or less, describe your first year in business at The Basement?
Lean and mean
9. In three words or less, describe how running a successful company has changed you?
Somewhat nicer pants
10. What is the one word that you believe has the most power in the English Language?
Jacob Leffler , Thank you so much for sitting down with us at our DotCom Magazine Leader Round Table. We very much appreciate the time you spent helping others learn more about what it takes to be a leader. We hope your interview helps our readers, and we wish you, your family, and of course The Basement, nothing but the best. Thanks again!