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5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a CEO: With Marshall Williams

“Fail fast and know when to get out.”
I had the pleasure to interview Marshall Williams. Marshall is the CEO of Ad Results Media, and specializes in influencer audio/digital in which products or services are recommended by credible, influential audio personalities. Ad Results Media is the largest purchaser of podcast advertising in the world, leveraging strong relationships within podcasting, AM-FM radio, network radio and satellite radio to connect advertisers with the world’s most high-profile news, sports and entertainment creators.

What is your “backstory”?

My backstory is heavily rooted in radio. I saw a shift in the industry firsthand as it transitioned from being owned by a number of different people and companies to a consolidated group of owners and shows. More and more content started to sound exactly the same — same shows, same music, same stories. I saw an opportunity to shake up this uniformity through advertising. I was determined to find that untapped space that called for advertising innovation and stumbled upon an article about the first traditional radio host that produced his own commercial podcast, giving listeners the freedom of on-demand programming. That was definitely a lightbulb moment for me — understanding the power of consumer freedom and the possibility of expanding the advertising menu through quality endorsement content in an always-available, on-demand fashion. Ad Results Media is grounded in the holistic understanding of the interaction between consumer touch points and the power of endorsement radio. Now the largest podcast ad agency in the world, we’ve quickly realized that podcasts are in the beginning stages of an advertising paradigm shift.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

I’ve been fortunate to meet radio gurus like Dan Patrick and Fred Rogers from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the most compelling person that will always stick with me would have to be Paul Harvey, a radio broadcaster for the ABC Radio Networks, famous for his “The Rest of the Story” segments and one of the original radio endorsers for General Motors. Paul was so captivating that he could hold you with his silence…in anticipation of what he would say next. I’ll never forget this meeting we were in where he was asked, “Mr. Harvey, you’re getting up in years. As your son prepares to take over, will he be able to carry on the legacy you’ve built?” Harvey paused, then answered, “I do advertising for General Motors and have for years. Just as they improve their car models year after year, so have I.” That’s a line I’ll never forget. It’s all about innovation.

Are you working on any meaningful non-profit projects? How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We’re always very excited to invest back into local communities in partnership with our clients. We’ve worked on multiple campaigns with The Boys and Girls Club of America and local charities, but one that stands out was a pro bono ad campaign we helped run with a non-profit theater in Atlanta. The theater production was put on by recovering AA members and, with our help, they put on their most successful production, selling out tickets which in-return helped pay for an unexpected second show and even more ticket sales.

Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

We make it a point to help our employees. With our headquarters based in Houston, Hurricane Harvey and the 50 inches of rain it delivered in three days meant they needed our help then more than ever. With thousands of flooded homes, lost cars, and lives turned upside down, we started a Go Fund Me campaign, encouraging employees, clients and our networks to help the Houston community. Together, we raised just over $56,000 and involved friends and business partners help our people get back to their day-to-day lives. We were able to help buy new cars, and completely replace a young woman’s wardrobe who had to evacuate with only the clothes on her back. It meant everything to be able to bring some good to an otherwise devastating situation.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. When you discover something that might possibly have merit — pursue it aggressively in spite of the noise you might hear.
  2. Ronald Reagan said, “You’d be surprised how much you can get done as long as it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.” If it’s a good idea, it doesn’t matter whose idea it is. If it’s the right thing to do, run with it. And celebrate your team’s great thinking.
  3. Check your ego at the door. No matter what, we’re in the business of doing the right thing. Period. So if you mess up, ask for help and make it right.
  4. Hire good people and enable their success by providing them with the right resources to do their job well. Watch/monitor their progress and provide feedback so they learn, improve and grow as a professional.
  5. Fail fast and know when to get out.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

I’ve always been a big fan of Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines. Herb built his company on simple mantras like: take chances, be nimble, and let your people do what they do best. He hired great people and make decisions that kept those main concepts at the very core of his business. For Ad Results Media, we try new things and pivot where necessary, like Southwest, but we’re in the business of providing results, so everything we do revolves around just that.


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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.
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