Sean Reilly, CEO of Lamar Advertising, was the guest speaker at BRAC’s Monthly Lunch in February. Reilly gave the audience a first-hand account of the great history behind Lamar Advertising and how the company grew to be the most valuable out-of-home company in the world. While telling stories of Lamar’s history, Reilly offered bits of advice for businesses and professionals to succeed in their endeavors. Check out the five pieces of advice that stuck with us.
Know What You’re Good At
“We’ve been tempted at Lamar to get into other things like radio, like towers, like TV, and we always say ‘no.’ We do advertising, we do it well, and that’s all we’re going to do.”
Reilly’s father briefly had a stint in the radio business in Pensacola in the 1950s, but ultimately knew that the billboard business was proving to be highly profitable and it’s what was succeeding. Reilly stresses the importance of focusing on what your company is good at and developing and focusing on that skill until you are the best that you can possibly be.
There’s Always a Little Bit of Luck
In the early 1900s, Charles Lamar and Charlie Cole, who together owned an opera house and a posting company, flipped a coin to decide who would get the Pensacola Opera House and who would get the Pensacola Posting Company. Luckily, Charles Lamar lost the flip and received the posting company that would later become Lamar Advertising Company.
“Anybody that ever tells you that it was their own hard work 100 percent doesn’t acknowledge that every now and again you get a little lucky.”
Reilly says that this attitude not only shortchanges employees, suppliers and customers, but also ignores the fact that sometime luck has a little more to do with your success than you think.
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Disruptive
According to Reilly, during and after the recession of 2008, many businesses stopped investing in their people, in their product, and in their inventory, and it started showing. However, Lamar decided to double down and invest in productivity, training, buying more companies and new products. The biggest product to come out of this time period was the digital billboard.
The introduction of the digital billboard gave a more dynamic product to their customers, but it was a difficult decision for Lamar to make. Not only was it expensive, but it was also essentially cannibalizing the company’s existing product. Lamar had to take a chance of introducing a disruptive product that could in return hurt its own business.
We all know, however, it did the opposite.
“History is replete with companies that didn’t make it because they were afraid to embrace disruptive technology.”
Treat Others Like You Want to Be Treated
Even though this is a philosophy often associated with kindergarten lessons and religious beliefs, Reilly believes there is something valuable that occurs when people treat their subordinates, bosses, coworkers and anyone else as they wish to be treated by others.
“I have found that by simply keeping that in mind, most business issues go away. And for the most part, you don’t get into business trouble to begin with.”
Leave It Better than You Found It
“You can leave lots of things better than you found it. You can leave a company better than you found it. You can leave a customer relationship better than you found it. And most importantly, you can leave your community better than you found it.”
Reilly pointed out that the advertising business only exists because the community allows it to exist. He believes that since the community allows advertising to exist as a part of the landscape, Lamar is obligated to give back, and he encourages all businesses to leave their companies and communities a little better than they found it.