The Leadership Lattice: Art Zeile
The Leadership Lattice, an interview series designed to cultivate conversation about building strong leadership in the public and private sector, presents: Art Zeile, CEO and Co-Founder of Hosting.com. Art was also the CEO and Co-Founder of INFLOW. You can view the video of this interview by going to www.executivelattice.com and going to The Leadership Lattice.
How would you differentiate between what it takes to be a great leader in a start-up vs. an established, large company?
I've been involved in both large companies and now three startups. The entrepreneur CEO has to be passionate about sales and their product. You are the chief salesperson. You also have to have risk tolerance. A $50,000 decision in a startup can have very significant implications where in a large company, it can be just a drop in the bucket. The entrepreneur has to be comfortable in their ability to make those risk filled decisions and ultimately has to make good decisions each and every time. There isn't much margin for error.
How has building Hosting.com been different from building Inflow?
We built Inflow in my basement, organically; it was a pure startup. At hosting.com we are acquiring companies to build a national platform quickly. It has taken us 2.5 years to reach the point that took seven years at Inflow. With that has come a different set of issues. First and foremost, culture. At inflow, we hired everyone, so building culture was easier. We could hire people for culture and value fit. At Hosting, we spend a great deal of time merging and combining the DNA of all of the companies.
What's your approach to leadership?
I view myself as the Chief Talent Officer of the company. I spend my time making sure I have surrounded myself with people who are more talented than I am in each functional area. Joel Daly, my COO, and I have a goal of building 50 C-level executives over the course of our careers. We constantly look to give our people more responsibility and through that are constantly forcing them up a learning curve. Joel and I believe that this company exists as a team. Joel and I share and office and always have. We visibly show people that all functions have to work together seamlessly.
What were some important leadership lessons for you?
Through the downturns we have learned that we need to build in a safe harbor where we are self reliant and can continue to run the company through those times. The second lesson has been that people want to work for you because they believe in your values. They want to work for a team that they can trust. Values transcend the business model.
How did the Air Force help you prepare for your career today?
The Air Force taught me about honesty and that has become a key differentiator. In the Air Force Academy, the honor code was ingrained in us as Cadets. When I left the Academy, and entered active duty in the Air Force, that honor code remained intact. . But once I made it to the commercial sector it was not necessarily intact. We have been able to maintain that same value system of honesty and integrity in our companies. Our clients trust us to be honest and be responsible and forthright with both our success and failures and this has served us well.
Tell me about an important mentor?
My boss in the Air Force, a Brigadier General, could tell me that I hadn't done my best work but could also build and maintain a bond of friendship. Positive accountability is a unique skill.
How do you motivate your team?
We seek out people who are looking for more responsibility and want to grow in their careers. We offer the environment where people can make mistakes and learn without fear. We also focus on them as people and their families. We want to make this a place where people want to come to work.
How do you hire?
We subscribe to a philosophy of top grading. Top Grading is a book written by Colorado author Brad Smart. We ask people to get detailed about their career path, the decisions they made, how they would grade their own performance and how they think their supervisor would grade them. We want a holistic view of the entire person. Beyond that, I focus on people's strengths. I want to be sure to put people into a role that takes advantage of those strengths.
What other qualities are you trying to get at in the interview?
We look for passion, intellect and if a candidate was a point person on an accomplishment rather than an innocent bystander and lastly how they work within a team.