5 on the 5th Interview: Mark Schaefer
I had followed Mark Schaefer for a while on Twitter and read his blog before I gathered the courage to comment, tweet back and finally consult with him. Man I’m sure glad I did! Mark is a man of his word – he is one of the rare, grounded, servant-centered people in the social media industry. If you ever get the chance to do a consulting session with him, it’s worth every penny. I feel fortunate to count him as one of my friends.
When I decided to start this series, Mark was one of the first people I thought of and contacted. I’m extremely honored to have him on the blog for this interview.
Name: Mark Schaefer
Title: Executive Director
Company: Schaefer Marketing Solutions
Twitter handle: @markwschaefer
Question 1: Why did you choose to work in this industry?
I was a journalism major but took some marketing classes late in my career and kind of fell in love with it. I started out in PR and then enterprise sales before finally moving into marketing. To me, marketing is the front lines of business. You are innovating with products, services and strategies to fight, fight, fight for customer relevance and connection. I cannot imagine a more exciting and dynamic career.
Question 2: How do you keep continuing your education and staying up on all the latest trends and changes?
Teaching grad school classes really keeps me on my toes. If I don’t stay up to the minute with trends and developments I am going to get nailed by these smart students! There are three ways I stay on top of things — FIrst, I write a book every year. So I am constantly doing research and learning to present the latest ideas and advice. Second, I read a number of blogs plus the tech sections of The Wall Street Journal and New York Times every day. Third, the act of consistent blogging requires that you know what you are talking about, so you have to constantly be studying and researching.
Question 3: What do you love the most about working in your industry? What bothers you the most?
The best thing about my job is having the chance to meet people who love my blog all over the world. It is so exciting to connect with people online and then have the chance to see them in real life. Absolutely love having new friends all over the world. From the blog, I literally have friends in every city!
The worst part about this business is the lack of ethics and accountability. The web presents the perfect situation for unethical people to succeed: 1) They can manufacture “social proof” to make themselves look legitimate and important and 2) people generally don’t look deeply enough into these folks to figure out they are charlatans. It doesn’t impact me directly because I can stay centered and just do my work but it really casts a pall on the whole industry when some of the most famous names in the business are crooks and fakes. I find the whole thing bizarre.
Question 4: What is the hardest situation you’ve encountered in your business and how did you handle it?
I’ve had a long career so certainly have a lot of stories to pull from! I’ve had a lot of bad situations in business but only one that was unresolvable.
Late in my career I came up against an unethical boss. Really a horrible man. He put me in situations where I was expected to do unethical business practices. It got to the point where even the company lawyers were after him and trying to find a way to get rid of him. I just could not be in a situation that was counter to my personal values (and even the law!) and had to find a way out. As far as I can remember, this was the only really bad situation that eventually did not work out in a positive way. He was an immovable object!
On a lighter note, I once accidentally pushed “Publish” instead of “save” on a blog post that I never intended to run. By the time I realized my error it had already attracted 30 comments and ended up being one of my most popular posts!
Question 5: What is the best business advice you’ve been given and why has it stayed with you?
In graduate school I studied under Peter Drucker, probably the most acclaimed business consultant and author in history. He taught by the Harvard case study method and would pound into us that leadership does not mean having all the right answers. It means asking the right questions. I think this advice has helped me so much as a consultant and a writer. I think the success of my blog can be attributed to asking the right questions!
One for the road…
Bonus: If you could come back to life as any person from the history, who would it be?
One of my heros is the American scientist, author, statesman and patriot Benjamin Franklin. I think it would be fascinating to be part of that revolutionary time. The people he got to meet and the adventures he had were amazing. I really admire his endless sense of curiosity, his intellectual capacity and his sense of humor! He was also a man who knew how to ask the right questions!
The takeaway from Mark’s interview? Ask the right questions 🙂