Carat Convos: Robert Hannan, EVP Managing Director, Operations, Carat US

“Have a passion for what you are doing, regardless of the task or job, stick with it and don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t be done. ‘Nothing is impossible, the impossible just takes a little bit longer.’”

Can you give us a Reader’s Digest version of your day-to-day?
Most days, I try to get an early start, around 6am I get a little exercise in, which quite often entails running to the bus to make sure I am not late to work. On the commute, I look through my schedule and think about, not only what is on the agenda for the day, but what I want to get done that day. This allows me to come into the office energized to get it done. Throughout the day I look to carve out some time and check in with my team and look for opportunities to applaud and coach. We get so busy and wrapped up in making stuff happen, sometimes we have to take a step back and make sure we are congratulating people for the work that they are doing.

Before we began the interview, we learned a fun fact that you used to work in this exact building before it was Carat. Can you tell us a bit more about your career path and how you got to Carat?
From a very young age, I always knew I wanted to be in advertising. Coming out of school, at that time, the economy was pretty bad, so it was tough to find a job in NYC at an advertising agency. I decided to take another track and began looking at organizations that serviced advertising agencies. My first job was as a purchasing agent for a graphic art shop that provided production services to the advertising market. I started to build relationships and secured a job in production with a small agency, working my way up to running production studios, covering print, broadcast, and digital (when it came along) and then got into more general agency operations. I definitely like the way things run, the way things interoperate, or don’t, and that’s what motivates me to improve that on a day-to-day basis. It’s been a winding journey on the path getting here and I can appreciate a lot of aspects of the business having that experience.

What is the biggest piece of advice that you received and would pass on to young professionals?
I think the best advice I can give to young professionals is to combine passion with tenacity. Have a passion for what you are doing, regardless of whatever the task or job is. Stick with it and don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t be done. I love the phrase that, ‘nothing is impossible, the impossible just takes a little bit longer.’ There is always a way at it and that is where tenacity comes into play. I think tenacity is one of the best traits to have in your personal and professional life, keep coming at things, don’t give up and you will definitely find a way.

What song or music artist have you been listening to lately?
I listen to all types of music, I go to shows as broad as the Opera to jazz and rock concerts. As far as main stream music, I gravitate towards the artists that have a conviction in what they are doing. Singers/songwriters you can believe no matter what they put out there, like recent artists such as Ed Sheeran and Pink, or Elvis Costello’s early work. Whether you like them as artists, their material or their voices, there is no denying that what they sing is with conviction. As far as songs go, unfortunately the song I probably listen to the most is the hold music on conference calls.

Who would you say is your biggest role model?
Might sound cliché, but my biggest role model is my mother and father. They raised 12 kids, on a single income, and afforded us opportunities for advanced education in addition to instilling in us many other values. On a personal level, I sometimes just shake my head and say, ‘how did they succeed in all of that and get it done so well?’ I couldn’t do it to be honest with you.

On a professional level, this might also sound cliché, but Steve Jobs’ story is an interesting one to me and I think very relevant for what we do in the advertising business. Here is a guy, whether you liked him or hated him, who basically stripped away everything he could possibly strip away to be obsessively focused on what the customer wants and what else could be created that a customer would want but aren’t even aware of yet. Compulsion aside, it is amazing that somebody would have that much conviction to strip everything away and not want to deal with any menial tasks, on a personal level, to keep focused on the consumer.

What would you say makes a good leader in this industry?
I can only tell you about my personal style and the way I try to approach things. Leadership is laying out the vision of where your team is going and trying to get everyone to rally behind that vision. I think it is important to couple that with compassion, understanding that a leader can lay out a vision, targets and goals, but needs to have compassion for what individuals, organizations and clients will be up against in trying to achieve those targets and help support everyone on that journey.

What do you think helps drive a culture of innovation?
Innovation is defined in many different ways, but I put innovation under the broad bucket of new and different to be better. The phrase I use a lot is ‘positive dissatisfaction with the status quo’, not coming at this from a negative point of view but coming at it with ‘how do we make this better’ and to not be satisfied with the status quo because there are always ways to improve. Looking at what we do, who we interact with, no matter what the job or role is, and try to tweak that constantly to make it better; I think that fosters a culture across the whole organization that we are all moving to trying to improve everything we do every day.

Outside of work, what are some of your hobbies?
When I’m not working, I spend a lot of time with my wife and my children. Little moments are important to me as much as the big ones. The celebrations and graduations are great, but I try to take pleasure in just sitting down with a slice of pizza and having a real conversation. These small moments are important and impactful and when I look back those are more memorable in a lot of ways. In addition to that, I’m a musician. I teach, consult and perform and get something different out of each of those aspects, but there is definitely a lot of value that comes back to me.

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