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Garrett Garcia: Five Things Business Leaders Can Do To Create A Fantastic Work Culture

I tend to categorize the traits of good leaders as opposed to the things they can do to lead. If your character is sound, then ALL the things you do as a leader will create the culture. For me, those traits are Collaborative, Committed, Courageous, Culturally Intelligent, Curious and Cognizant.

As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Garrett Garcia.

Garrett Garcia was advertising agency PPK’s second employee to join the original founding members in 2005 as an Account Executive, and since then, he has helped the agency grow tenfold. Garrett now holds the role of President, leading agency operations, guiding its vision and mission and maintaining a healthy business strategy. His strategic guidance has helped lead PPK to some major wins in the Southeast, including the Florida Lottery, the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball, Tires Plus Total Car Care and Pinch A Penny Pools. After almost 22 years in the creative and advertising industry, Garrett has borrowed from his larger agency experience to help shape the trajectory of PPK’s steady growth.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As someone who changed majors more often than his t-shirts in college, I truly struggled to figure out “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Let’s put it this way, I began my studies at the University of Georgia as a Physics major! Fast forward to my last semester of college in UGA’s Business School, I enrolled in my very first marketing class. My professor, an ex-Exec at Coca-Cola for many years, had worked most of his early career at some of the country’s largest ad agencies. He introduced me, for the first time, to all the things an ad agency did beyond just “making commercials” as I had assumed. From that moment, I knew that advertising was what I wanted to do for a living, and after landing a job at Tampa’s largest agency a few months after graduating, I never looked back.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I’d have to say that the entirety of my transition into my current role as President has been interesting in and of itself. Although I was officially promoted in January 2022, my transition began in early 2020, and navigating my way through the early stages of my leadership position while simultaneously leading our agency into, and through, a global pandemic hasn’t been without its share of challenges. Trying to settle into my role, and maintain balance amongst our staff, all while protecting (and growing) revenue presents a litany of life and career lessons. But, I’m proud to say that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and both myself and the agency have emerged stronger than ever.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The most exciting projects I’m currently working on are those centered around making our agency an even better place to work — and an even better partner to work with. These include initiatives to cultivate an even richer, more fulfilling culture and inclusive environment for our employees while adding to our arsenal of skill sets and technologies to service our brand partners at a higher level.

Ok, let’s jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

Simply put, I believe that too many companies value profits over people. And now more than ever before the workforce is banding together with a collective voice and power to proclaim that they “don’t have to put up with it anymore.” People are prioritizing themselves, their mental health and their families far more than ever before — and rightfully so. This reprioritization has led many to seek new opportunities that are both more fulfilling and offer more balance and flexibility.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

An unhappy workforce will cause a high dose of all three of these things, but they don’t all happen at once. If left unchecked, a toxic or unhealthy workplace will first cause employee health to decline. Once that happens, productivity begins to take a sharp nosedive, which of course has a cumulative effect on the company’s bottom line. When productivity and profitability are affected, the only way to course correct is to go back and fix the root issue of employee health and wellbeing.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

I tend to categorize the traits of good leaders as opposed to the things they can do to lead. If your character is sound, then ALL the things you do as a leader will create the culture. For me, those traits are Collaborative, Committed, Courageous, Culturally Intelligent, Curious and Cognizant.

I would be hard-pressed to give a singular example, but collectively I believe that leading an agency with these qualities is no different than leading a championship sports team as a team captain. You need to live and breathe the singular vision of your team and embody an unwavering commitment to steering that team towards its collective mission and goals — day in and day out. The team needs to know that you have their backs the same way you expect them all to have yours. And when things get tough, the team needs to see its leader face adversity head-on with poise and resolve. These are the things that create a solid company culture.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

As cliche as it sounds, I do believe that more companies need to make more decisions through the lens of people over profits, and the rest will follow.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

As stated in a previous answer, I lead as if I were the captain of a championship-caliber professional sports team. Fostering collaboration, constantly looking for coaching moments, rewarding successes, building off failures, having each others’ backs and picking each other up and dusting each other off when any one of us falls — all while working towards a collective vision and common goal.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My advertising career began in Account Management. I got my first job in advertising after really only knowing “what advertising was” for less than a year’s time, so to say I fumbled my way through my first few months in the business would be a profound understatement. My Director at the time, Jared Scott, was instrumental in not only me learning the ins and outs of the business, but he afforded me the opportunity to emulate the ways in which he managed the cross-functional teams and process — a skill that is critical to becoming a successful account manager. It was from there that I grew my knowledge of process and the “big picture” that allowed me to excel in my later role(s) in agency operations.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I work very hard to spread good, through local charitable giving in the form of both volunteer time and financial contributions. I believe it’s critically important to help those closest to home first, and therefore most of my time and money is spent supporting causes that our business supports — Metropolitan Ministries, National Pediatric Cancer Foundation and The Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Outside of these efforts, I also donate my time to the local Little League as a manager as well as act as a mentor to college marketing students across several major universities and colleges throughout Florida.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I don’t really consider myself a “quotes person,” but one that I’ve always liked was Theodore Roosevelt’s famous “speak softly and carry a big stick.” I feel like this applies to my leadership style because I’d prefer to let my actions do all the talking for me. Talk is cheap, especially in business. I want the things I do to be what determines my legacy.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would love to inspire a movement of equal treatment — but I don’t necessarily mean that in the sense that many use the phrase. My parents, who were both incredibly hard-working, blue-collar individuals, taught me as a young man to treat everyone exactly the same, regardless of whether they were the janitor or the CEO. If everyone started thinking, and acting, with this mentality as a priority, the world as we know it would change overnight.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!

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