Empathy, Disruption and the Economy

I believe the No. 1 trait of a great leader is empathy. This is especially true now.

What most notably stands out about your leadership style or what is an example of leadership success you can share with our readers?

I believe the No. 1 trait of a great leader is empathy. This is especially true now, when we’re all dealing with the devastating impacts of a global pandemic and political and financial uncertainty. As a fairly young CEO, I feel a great responsibility to empower our team members to grow professionally. While my title is CEO, I really view my role as a coach. Fortunately, I’ve learned from both good and bad coaches, and being a father has also helped me develop a nurturing coaching style. I aspire to be like my own coaches, who provide encouragement, but also continue to challenge me to do better.

I believe I have been most successful helping my team with conflict resolution. Often in business, we tell people what they want to hear but not what needs to be said. I try to facilitate conversations that are deeper, open and transparent. Conflicts are going to happen, and there will be failures. No matter how uncomfortable, it’s important to discuss conflicts, and the best way to do that is with respect and authenticity.

What impact has COVID-19 or the disruptions of the past 18 months had on you as a leader?

We’ve all been changed profoundly by this pandemic, but I have been encouraged by the resiliency that I have witnessed, particularly among our team members. We’ve certainly had our share of challenges as we tried to navigate this new world, but we’ve been forced to come up with creative solutions.

For example, at the onset of the pandemic, we had to quickly shift to animation and using stock footage instead of shooting due to COVID restrictions and stay-at-home orders. We learned to pivot quickly to keep our clients’ voices in the market while still staying sensitive and relevant to the times. The way we create content is different now, too, due to changes in media consumption. There’s a greater emphasis on social media and creating bite-sized content.

But even more important than operational challenges, I was most concerned about the well-being of our employees. We went from having a vibrant office to working remotely, and I knew many team members were struggling with isolation. Our leadership team spent more time checking in on team members and we tried to keep connected with fun, virtual events. We also offered free counseling to employees — something we continue today.

What do you feel we can be doing as a business community to empower economic growth here?

Despite so many challenges that this pandemic created, I think we have been doing a great job in so many sectors. We’re recovering jobs faster than most states, and I was encouraged by the recent Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity report, which predicts more than 700,000 jobs will be created by 2030.

I also think we can do a better job of fostering more partnerships and collaborations among entrepreneurs. In many ways, entrepreneurs are the engine of economic development. We can do a better job of finding more ways to support their innovation, whether that’s through more angel venture capital, startup incubators, simplifying local regulations or other efforts.

I’d like to see Phoenix become known as a creative, collaborative community, similar to Austin, Nashville and Los Angeles. We’re gaining steam, but I think we can do more to engage and spark these collaborations.

What is new and notable for your company’s near future that will impact our economy?

We’ve been hyper-focused on growth, and we’re proud to include multiple Fortune 1000 companies in our roster of clients. Our organic growth outside of Arizona allows us to hire more people in Arizona, and we’re already planning for a more than 30% increase in job creation in 2022.

Last year, Matt Owens and I created a holdings company, OH, with the goal of offering the world’s biggest brands speed, value and results.

Our OH family of companies consists of award-winning, inclusive national agencies, including OH Partners, an Inc. 500/5000 company and full-service advertising agency; Nomadic, a national digital creative agency; Matter Films, a creative and production film company; OH Predictive Insights, a highly regarded market research firm; OH Strategic Communications, a strategic communications and public affairs powerhouse; and OH Adaptive, a dynamic firm that provides highly customized strategic marketing services.

We work with many notable brands in diverse categories, such as gaming, tourism and hospitality, entertainment, healthcare and consumer packaged goods. All our clients contribute to the economy through significant media buys and other marketing investments.

OH is growing, and we’re currently seeking other specialized agencies to join our OH family.

Scott Harkey

Entrepreneur & Podcaster

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