Going for It: Rapid Reinvention

Seeing your career as a marathon

Today's What It Takes subject is Doug Laughlin, 68, founder of LM&O Advertising in Arlington. He got into the ad game as a result of working in public relations for the Army after he was drafted and sent to Europe in the 1960s. His military p.r. experience led to jobs in advertising in the private sector. As I said in a previous post, he was part of the teams that dreamed up both "Be all you can be" for the Army and "Aim high" for the Air Force. When he was about 50, he started his company with only a few employees and one account. Today, his agency has many varied accounts and more than $150 million in annual billings.

I asked Laughlin about his worst job. "Digging post holes in west Texas during my first year of college at Texas Tech," which he attended before moving to Ohio and transferring to Kent State. "I earned some extra money repairing fences out in the prairie. That was a tough job."

I'm sure. He said owning his ad agency has been his dream job.

"You get real satisfaction from some of the things you can do when you are the boss. In every agency, you strive for the big idea and all of a sudden it occurs and you flesh it out and roll with it...I can bring a team along and watch them grow. It's been a pleasure each and every day. The last 15 years have been the best years of my life."

Then we talked about the kind of advice he offers to people who aspire to be successful. His answer was particularly profound to me, a 25-year newspaper veteran.

"Your career is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash," he said. "So often, young people want to succeed overnight and they look at things by week and month and year, when in fact, a guy like me has been kicking around for four decades. I advise people not to rush and to make sure they are ready for the next move...That's one of my criticisms of business--they are always in this quarterly mode when they should be thinking long range."

He also advises bosses to shine the spotlight on their workers. I hear from many of you that, in this time of dwindling corporate resources, there is even more of a tendency on the part of supervisors to hog the credit that should belong to their subordinates.

"There is a philosophy in the military, 'The troops eat first,'" Laughlin said. "The worst thing you can do is go to the head of the chow line. Let others go first. Be happy to give others the credit. In the final analysis, your people are what will make you a success."

And your hard work and longevity. So, long-time workers, be proud. However, if you look around and decide that you aren't happy with what you are doing, perhaps you should do what Laughlin did--your own thing.

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Avis Thomas-Lester

 |  October 28, 2010; 6:47 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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