Steven Seghers: 5 Ways CEOs Can Take Their Company from Good to Great

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Steven Seghers Hooray Agency

Steven Seghers is the CEO of Hooray Agency. The company is a “globally focused full-service advertising and creative agency.”

Since joining Hooray Agency in 1994, Steven Seghers “has been a key driver in the agency’s success and evolution.”

As an advertising expert, Steven Seghers has gained vast experience working with “high-end brands such as Sony, Starwood Hotels, Pfizer, Hyatt, Montage Hotels, Salamander Resorts, Preferred Hotels & Resorts, and Resorts World Las Vegas.”

Steven Seghers is also a “notable industry insider and marketing expert, especially within the travel, hospitality, and healthcare space.”

This experience and expertise have enabled Steven Seghers to “grow and evolve Hooray Agency, continually pushing the boundaries on what is possible and making Hooray impossible to ignore.”

It was in high school that Steven Seghers discovered his affinity for creativity and technology. He used to work part-time at his father’s office in New York Life.

Likewise, Steven Seghers also “moonlighted audio-visual and production work at a local Orange County California studio.”

During this period, Steven Seghers also learned “a bit of old-school business—or as much as a teenager can absorb while listening to sales agents.”

Later on, Steven Seghers would drop out of college to join the “digital marketing and development agency” founded by his step-father. He would “learn my way from sales to design, advertising, account management, and every position imaginable in between.”

Check out more interviews with marketing experts here.

Go all in. Steven Seghers, Hooray Agency

Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Steven Seghers: When I was in high school, I worked part-time at my father’s office at New York Life and also moonlighted audio-visual and production work at a local Orange County California studio.

It was during this period, that I embraced my potential for creativity, technology, and probably a bit of old-school business — or as much as a teenager can absorb while listening to sales agents.

It was during this time that my step-father, Nick Singer, a man with vision beyond measure, decided to create a digital marketing and development agency — before such company’s really existed.

I was lucky enough to drop out of College, join the company, and learn my way from sales to design, advertising, account management, and every position imaginable in between.

I started with this agency when I was 19-years-old, with a full-set of glorious brown hair, a passion for creativity and the desire to be part of the “90’s digital revolution” (way before Google or Facebook).

I’m proud to say, I’ve maintained my youthful outlook while losing every bit of my beautiful brown hair.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Steven Seghers: Imagine starting a company with services and product solutions that no one knows or cares about.

That was Hooray in the 90’s — a digital agency — before the term had any meaning. Let’s keep in mind, most PCs or Macs at the time had very limited multimedia, and generally appealed to big corporations, gamers, or education.

And while the “web” was starting to emerge as a consumer-facing channel with AOL, Compuserve, and others, it was simply uninspiring and very limited.

After two years, we had struggled to even acquire one client. We were slowly running out of cash. I went deeper into debt) and decided to do something crazy.

Go all in. My drive to succeed outweighed the risks of losing it all — and when you believe in something, it’s worth it to fail, and live with the knowledge that you didn’t hedge against yourself.

One goal. One purpose. One solution at a time.

It was during this period of strain that some of our best work was developed and that’s when our business started to take off.

We decided to focus our efforts on important industry verticals that could benefit the most from our agency services: healthcare and hospitality.

I’m a firm believer that the best leaders embrace failure, surround themselves with the best people, and they are constantly improving and preparing for what’s next.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Steven Seghers: I was doing a photo and video shoot for a resort in the Bahamas.

During the process, I started to argue with the property’s manager about the video narrator and the use of Bahamian local speech and pronunciation.

I forcefully told the property manager that she was wrong, and I was right.

To my horror, she turned out to be the owner’s niece and she was 100% correct about the proper pronunciation.

The relationship ended soon after.

I learned quickly that the customer is and WAS always right — you have to accept that you don’t know everything.

I’m a firm believer that the best leaders embrace failure, surround themselves with the best people, and they are constantly improving and preparing for what’s next.

Jerome Knyszewski: What are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

Steven Seghers:

  1. Hire the best (way better than yourself): finding passionate, smart, ambitious, engaged, and diverse talent is critical to the success of any company.The team you hire should fit your culture and your brand ethos, and they should bring something totally different to the organization.

    Two of my most senior executives started at our company at the very lowest levels of management and worked their way up to senior VPs.

    I want to hire people that see no ceilings for themselves and would gladly take the leadership mantle.

  2. Get out of your industry (and comfort zone): the difference between a good fast car and a sports car is a mere 1 or 2 seconds (from 0–60), so going from good to great is about the small things and not necessarily the big things.I have consistently found that by looking outside your own field of expertise, you can find new ways to thinking, evolving, improving, or innovating.
    Every company should look for inspiration in new, and unexpected areas.

    A great example for us is learning from the hospitality industry, the art of customer service and how to provide “5-star” service in everything we do.

  3. Create imperatives (not a mission statement): change begins with saying what you want to change and why.I think great company’s focus on establishing clearly defined imperatives for their team. In turn, this becomes a rallying cry for executives, managers, and front-line employees.

    It’s human nature to want to be part of something, and when the entire organization is working on the same set of imperatives, then it allows for sweeping changes to occur.

    What are your imperatives? How are you living up to them?

    When we were doing work for Pfizer, one of the CEO’s imperatives was to become “a trusted and reliable source of public health information.”

As part of this imperative we helped them create a major consumer facing campaign that put Pfizer in the hearts and minds of the customer (via health and wellness resources).

In turn, Pfizer started to be recognized more than a drug manufacture, but a true resource for being healthy and staying healthy.

  1. Build a great brand (loved and admired): beyond a logo, the company’s brand should be the defining set of experiences, visuals, and memories that drive employee value, external marketing, and turn customers into valued ambassadors.

If you close your eyes, and think about your favorite brands, you will probably see a logo, a color, or perhaps an experience that forever changed your perception of that company.

Great companies have great brands.

Southwest Airlines is a great example.

They have an admired brand, because their ideals are matched by their employees, their operations, and their bottom line success, which is why one of their brand marks showcases a heart as the center of their brand — — if you can create a brand that is loved, then you are truly GREAT!

  1. Embrace failure (innovation culture): creating a culture that embraces failure in a positive and productive way will help your company break new ground.

This is a tough one for many professionals, but the reality is that failure is a pathway to moving to higher results.

If every decision you make is based solely on a safety net, how are you going to leapfrog your competition and create new solutions?

You must be willing to try new things and accept failure as a part of that necessity.

Nearly every great invention over the past 150 years was built, bent, and created out of trial, error, and optimization.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Henry Ford, and he basically said that if he did what the customer wanted, then he would have built a faster horse and carriage.

Instead, he embraced new opportunities (and failed a lot) but opened up an entirely new industry.

Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business or consider having a social impact angle?

Steven Seghers: Human beings are driven by emotion. Period. When you look at the motivating factors for employees or consumers, very few put salary or price as the number one consideration.

Why is that?

It’s because we all want to be part of something meaningful, so if your company embraces a social cause, community engagement, philanthropy, or some other form of personal connectivity, it shows real authenticity and makes the company (or brand), feel tangible and important.

All that said, the purpose that your company chooses needs to be true to your culture, brand foundation, and should never come across as self-serving or overly prescriptive.

Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

Steven Seghers: To increase conversion rates, you must improve the customer experience.

It’s truly that simple, and that complex.

By adapting the customer journey, through better customer service, enhanced visuals/audio, interactive content or displays, etc., you will see your conversion rates go up significantly.

Depending on your business this will involve two factors.

One, for digital or ecommerce businesses this is all about the user-experience, content curation, and adapting offers or products in a compelling manner (think Amazon).

Two, for brick and mortal businesses, this is about customer engagement, pathways, and ensuring that you simplify the customer engagement.

In both cases, the key to increasing conversion is creating and adapting a customer experience that feels personal and rewards the customer for converting into a sale.

In most cases, company’s fail to make the customer feel great about their purchase at the point of transaction.

If you can close that loop, you will see your conversion numbers climb dramatically.

To increase conversion rates, you must improve the customer experience. Steven Seghers

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

Steven Seghers: Be true to yourself. Period.

If you position your company as the pinnacle of customer service, then your experience should be perfectly aligned to meet that lofty foundation.

Trust is lost when brands overpromise and underdeliver.

Companies that focus on cornerstone success items (and do it really well, such as In-N-Out burger) are the ones that benefit the most from positive reviews and have the trust and credibility factor.

What is your business or product promise?

What should the customer remember about you? How are you living up to it?

Does every employee understand how to deliver it perfectly, every single day? (think Chick-fil-A, and their quality of customer service, how they make you feel).

If you can answer those questions, then the reputation and trust will be following naturally.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Steven Seghers: Please link up with me LinkedIn or email me anytime at seghers@hooray.agency.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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