John Hall, CEO, Influence & Co.
#72 Forbes’ “America’s Most Promising Companies”
John Hall is one of the most powerful people in media who you’ve never met. He’s the master mind behind Influence and Co. Forbes recently listed them as one of “America’s Most Promising Companies.” If you want to be a thought leader, John is the gatekeeper. When meeting John in person you’d never know the power this one man can wield. He’s filled with humility, and charming reverence. Get him on a stage, and he will rock you to the core. John and his team are at the tip of the “thought leader” wave. Surfing the edge where the wave of new and compelling is breaking. Crashing down on old, and dusty they are trailblazers. John has been a speaker at two Westchester Digital Summit’s. He’s an impressive executive for sure. He’s an even more impressive person. Balancing a start up that is exploding on the scene, traveling the country speaking and raising a brand new baby at home. Forbes says Influence & Co, is “one of the largest suppliers of expert content to media outlets.” John was recently named by the publication as one of the 10 Keynote Speakers Who Will Keep You Ahead of Digital Marketing Trends. There’s a new world order, and it looks like John Hall. I’m honored to welcome him to the pages of my blog.
Chris Dessi: You’re a father, a CEO, and you have a weekly column at Forbes and Inc.com. Where do you find the time? What’s your rhythm? When do you go to bed, work out, wake up?
John Hall: I typically work from home from 8 to 10 in the morning, and then I head into the office. I work there until 5 when I head home to spend time with my family and play with my daughter. I try to get more work done around 8 in the evening, and I get to sleep around 11 p.m.
Chris Dessi: You’ve been at the helm of Influence & Co. for four years now. You’re still a young man, but you’re an obvious success. When did you first consider yourself a success?
John Hall: I’m actually still working on it. I look at my success in several different areas and continuously grade myself on what I can do better. Nobody’s perfect, and there’s always going to be something you can do better.
We all have different perceptions of success and ways to measure how we’re living up to the success we desire for ourselves. I recently wrote an article about success for Forbes, and in it, I talk about seven main standards of success I believe every leader should strive to excel at. I regularly grade myself in each of these areas to hold myself accountable and strive for personal success.
Chris Dessi: What mindset helps to make you successful?
John Hall: The most successful people I know don’t act like they’ve got it all figured out. They have the mindset that it’s OK to admit you could have handled something differently and that you can always improve. Having a mindset like that is very helpful.
Chris Dessi: What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
John Hall: Being a father to my daughter has been the greatest accomplishment of my life.
Chris Dessi: How do you define success?
John Hall: I get more in-depth about this in my Forbes article that I mentioned above, but I use seven key standards to measure myself and my success. I believe that being successful means having a healthy relationship with yourself where you challenge yourself personally and professionally but you also realize that you’re not perfect.
Success means having a gratifying family life in which you treat the people who are most important to you like they’re most important to you. It means being financially comfortable and in good mental and physical health. Success is having a fulfilling career and career path, genuine respect for others, and general contentment with your lifestyle.
Chris Dessi: What impact, if any, has Web 2.0 had on your success? To put it another way, would Influence & Co. be successful without social media?
John Hall: Social media is one of the biggest amplifiers of content, and it certainly is a piece of our success, but Influence & Co. would still be successful without it. The expertise that exists within a company and its leaders is extremely valuable, and creating content from that expertise that can be distributed to the right audience is vital. Producing and distributing that content would still be important with our without social media.
Chris Dessi: How important is it for executives (no matter what level) to have a thriving personal digital brand identity? Students? Entrepreneurs?
John Hall: A strong brand identity is important for each of the above. Your brand identity is one of your greatest assets, and it’s what will drive opportunities to you and to the company you represent. As long as you build and maintain a strong, positive brand for yourself, there will always be opportunities for you — whether you’re an experienced executive, an entrepreneur getting your business of the ground, or a student just starting out.
Chris Dessi: I love reading all the content you generate. It’s high quality, informative, and not sales heavy. How important is it for other CEOs to follow your lead and generate valuable content in their industries? Can they survive in our modern era without being content publishers?
John Hall: If you don’t want to give yourself or your company a competitive advantage, then don’t worry about creating content; I’m sure come companies could survive without becoming a content creator and publisher. However, it’s become such an essential part of differentiating your company and leading your industry that I’d highly recommend all business leaders generate valuable thought leadership content.
People want a human connection with a company. They need to trust you and trust your brand, and one of the best ways they can do that is through reading your content. I can tell you from my personal experience that business opportunities consistently come to us at Influence & Co. through my published content. And it not only brings us opportunities, but it makes me a better leader by challenging me to stay ahead of the game.
Chris Dessi: If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?
John Hall: I wouldn’t want to know anything. I like to experience life as it’s thrown at me.
Chris Dessi: If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
John Hall: I wouldn’t change a thing. I was blessed to have great parents.
Chris Dessi: How important is maintaining your health to your success — spiritual and physical? Do you attend church? Meditate? Work out regularly?
John Hall: Maintaining good health is one of the metrics I use in my personal definition of success. It’s such a huge part of success because it affects every other metric. Without it, success becomes much harder to achieve in the other areas I’ve set for myself.
To maintain my health, I work out pretty regularly and set goals for myself. One of the best things you can do for your health is to just be aware of it. Be proactive. Realize that you need to take care of yourself, and take the right steps to make that happen.
I recently got a blood test and a few other tests after I turned 30, and it gave me great insight into where I was physically and where I needed to improve. It had taken me so long to get around to actually having it done because I was always “so busy,” but in reality, nothing should keep you so busy that you can’t stay healthy.
Chris Dessi: What was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
John Hall: At a young age, I decided that I would take my personal finance seriously. I got on top of my game and was able to buy real estate at age 19. It allowed me to build my first company. That financial security put me on track to afford to do a lot of things that I wanted to do rather than what I had to do, and that independence has contributed greatly to my success.
Chris Dessi: Your clients are very influential people across industries. What is the one trait they all possess that has made them so successful?
John Hall: Our best clients are the ones who truly care about the people in their target audiences. They care about their customers, and they want to give as much value to them as possible. They say things like, “We have real expertise that we need to share with this audience. We have experience and knowledge that can help them.” That’s what our clients have in common. The worst kind of clients, the kind we try not to take on, are the ones who only care about their own egos. They’re only in it for themselves or for the numbers. That’s so radically different from what our best clients are like.
Chris Dessi: Who have you looked to as a mentor in your career?
John Hall: I don’t have any one mentor. I look to a variety of people, like my parents, close friends, and co-workers. I think it’s important to surround yourself with good people, people you admire and respect, and pay attention to the things they do that you like and don’t like. Just paying attention to the people you respect helps you learn so much about how you want to be.
Chris Dessi: You have a Master’s in Accounting from the University of Missouri–Columbia. I’m curious: How important has education been to your success? What do you say to those who say a college education isn’t worth it?
John Hall: I don’t think I’d say my education has been that important to my success. College gave me a chance to learn things like communication, relationship management, and problem solving skills, but a lot of that came just by being involved in various organizations or through internships throughout college. I think a college education is worth getting, but I absolutely recommend that a student supplement her coursework with as many real-world experiences and opportunities to build herself as an asset to her fields as she can find. Do everything you can to gain experience that’s relevant to your industry.
Chris Dessi: How do you deal with adversity and setbacks?
John Hall: Head-on. It’s easy to sweep things under the rug and to avoid the things that make you uncomfortable. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that adversity makes you stronger, and now I look forward to my chances to overcome my setbacks, learn more about myself, and grow stronger.
Chris Dessi: We’ve hosted you as a speaker two years in a row at the Westchester Digital Summit. When most people would rather be dead than be the person delivering the eulogy, how do you do it? Does public speaking come naturally to you? To put it another way, what are some tips you have for my readers to help them deliver a John Hall caliber address at their next conference?
John Hall: The truth is, I still get nervous before most speeches. Preparation helps ease my nerves, but my best advice is to just have a conversation with your audience. Try not to look at the group as an entire group. Look at individuals in that group. Just look at them like you would if you were having a casual drink with them.
Chris Dessi: I know you as a very humble person, but now is your time to brag. Tell me about some of your biggest wins.
John Hall: I’m really proud of having a great little family and a thriving company. I’m actually writing these answers as I’m taking my family to Disney World. The fact that I have this beautiful family and that we can take trips like this together is a huge win. It’s great to be able to separate from work every once in a while and have this special time.
It’s also been exciting to see Influence & Co. grow and receive awards. We made Forbes’ “Most Promising Companies” list and were recognized at the United Nations for Best Marketing Company in 2014, and both of those wins were nice for us. However, most of these types of wins are team wins and not just my wins.
Chris Dessi: Have you ever had a nickname? What is it?
John Hall: Nope. Just John. Sorry, I’m not interesting there.
Chris Dessi: My daughters know that I hate witches. What’s one thing that scares the hell out of you?
John Hall: Failure. I’ve been blessed to not have a lot of serious failure yet, so I’m scared of something happening at this point that would cause me to lose everything I’ve worked so hard for.
Chris Dessi: What’s been the best day of your life?
John Hall: Hands down, the day my daughter was born.
Chris Dessi: Worst?
John Hall: The day my friend got shot and murdered at a party in college.
Chris Dessi: What’s your favorite holiday?
John Hall: Christmas.
Chris Dessi: What was the last book you read?
John Hall: I can’t remember.
Chris Dessi: Who’s your hero?
John Hall: I have a lot of heroes.
Chris Dessi: Are you a clean or messy person?
John Hall: In between, but leaning toward messy.
Chris Dessi: Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?
John Hall: Ryan Reynolds. I’d say the looks might be slightly misleading, but I’m OK with that.
Chris Dessi: Do you love or hate rollercoasters?
John Hall: I’m scared of heights and haven’t ridden a rollercoaster for a while, but I used to love them.
Chris Dessi: What’s your favorite movie?
John Hall: Growing up, my favorite was “The Secret of my Success.” Now it’s got to be “Frozen” because I have to watch it at least once a day.
Chris Dessi: What was your favorite subject in school?
John Hall: Math.
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