#StandApart Marketer Profile: Mark Szabo

Mark-009You have to scroll along way down Mark Szabo’s well-stocked LinkedIn profile before you find out he’s a lawyer. And a musician. And a sailor. And a PhD candidate. Not to mention an in-demand strategy consultant and, most recently, Vice-President at digital marketing powerhouse, Karo Group.

Yet, if you ask him, he’s more likely to call himself unfocussed and attention deficient than a renaissance man. But that’s exactly the kind of fast-forward relentlessness that’s shaped him into the superstar agency leader (with Rolex-worthy record) that he is today.

With a succession of top roles from Critical Mass to MacLaren McCann under his belt, Szabo has been recognized for his part in award-wining creative for luxury brands like Mercedes Benz and Rolex as well as the likes of TELUS, General Motors, GM Goodwrench and the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

An always-entertaining tweeter and prolific writer and speaker, Szabo was kind enough to spend some time with us post-Calgary Stampede to discuss his #StandApart factor:

 

Describe your current role in 140 characters or less…

For execs whose vision is getting lost at the implementation phase, I break the logjam and design buy-in with staff and customers.

One word that best describes how you work.

Collaborative

What is your “Superpower”? (What is the one thing you do you do better than most?)

I seem to be able to get people with diverse perspectives to find common ground on which they can agree to move forward.

Intentionality or Happenstance?  Which has played a greater role in building your career path?

Intentionstance! I look for opportunities around me and gravitate to the ones where I will add the most value; help the most people. I find when I focus on helping the most people, everything else falls into place.

When I think about how much I have to do, it’s a burden. When I re-frame thinking as how I’m going to help others, the day becomes a real joy.

Where does your motivation come from?  Does motivation come easy for you or is it work/discipline to sustain it?

You can do exactly the same thing and feel differently about it, depending on how you think about it. When I approach my day thinking about how much I have to do, it’s a burden. When I re-frame thinking about the exact same tasks as how I’m going to help others, the day becomes a real joy.

How has your motivation worked for you?  Has your motivation ever worked against you? Have you ever had to wrestle with your motivation?

Motivation isn’t a problem for me as long as I have a clear mandate to act, I know I’m helping someone, and it fits my skills. But if any of these goes awry, I find it very difficult to make the effort. When I’m in a position of leadership, these are the three things I try to make sure are in place for the team members, because it makes for an energizing workplace.

Have you ever watched someone sabotage his or her own career? If so, how?

The biggest challenge I see is people who forget that all business is people business, and if you burn bridges word travels very fast. You don’t have to make everyone happy – that’s a recipe for disaster – but you need to always be referable.

Motivation isn’t a problem for me as long as I have a clear mandate to act, I know I’m helping someone, and it fits my skills.

Why did you make the educational choices you did and what would you recommend for others on this front?

I don’t recommend my approach to anyone. I love learning just for the sake of it, and I got way too many degrees, because I enjoyed the process. Weird, right? But it’s that combination that enables me to speak lots of different “languages,” so I can relate to different people.

When you look back over your career to date, what are you most proud of?

Those moments when I pass along something I’ve learned to a team member, and when the light bulb goes off for clients who were struggling to make sense of a complex challenge.

You’re interviewing a candidate and there’s no doubt, they’ve got it. What ingredients were you looking for? When it comes to hiring, what does you/your organization consider the special sauce?

I look for confidence, an assertive (not aggressive) attitude, and a sense of passion and excitement for what they’ll be doing. If that’s missing, they’re just going through the motions.

You don’t have to make everyone happy – that’s a recipe for disaster – but you need to always be referable.

Describe the best team you’ve ever led – one that was ‘firing on all cylinders’ – what made that team #StandApart?

It would’ve been the Critical Mass team that looked after the Rolex digital marketing business. That team was at the top of their game professionally in each of the disciplines, they worked well together despite being in several different cities & time zones, and they were very passionate about their work. It was an honour to lead them.

How “LinkedIn” are you? Do you use it?  What role has networking played in your career?

Linked In is essentially an online resume, and clients use it to vet you and your organization.

This question was passed on from our last #StandApart Marketer, Shafiq Jamal, Vice-President at Edelman Vancouver: What do you think builds character?

Falling and getting back up again. Actually, I think character – at least partially – gets instilled at a pretty young age. Your family is such a huge influence on those core “me” values: what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s useful and what’s not.  Then, it’s up to you to apply that learning to the ups and downs of daily life. Yep, that’s it: at the end of the day, character is all about what you learn and how you apply it.

If you could put one question on the list for our next #StandApart Marketer profile, what would it be? What do you want to know?

How has your industry changed in the last 3 years due to digital technology?