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Latest > E&S Culture > 3 questions with Doug Smith.

3 questions with Doug Smith.

October 9, 2015

Throughout the month of October, we find ways to celebrate our agency’s anniversary (October 10). A quick chat with Doug Smith prompted wise words and quick-witted insights from our Executive Chairman.

What do you find rewarding about your position? Why do you come into the office? (Other than to stock the candy bowl, of course.)

I can get a reading on how our people are feeling by going around and randomly chatting with people, taking them to lunch, playing shuffleboard and golf. It is extremely important to me that people love, or at the very least, really like being at our company. Smart, happy, motivated people create great work.

If you could describe the current state of the agency…

The best staff we’ve ever had. So smart, collaborative and innovative. The core of our work has changed so radically that I barely recognize it compared to 5 years ago. Yet our amazing culture keeps rolling along. I call it “emotionally adult.” No yelling, posturing, phony emotional outbursts, backbiting or cliquishness. It is a pleasure to work among adults who have no use for such childishness.

What’s your best career advice?

Simple. Read. A lot. Read widely. Learn from the lives of great people. I’ve done enormous amounts of reading about Churchill, about London, about great American writers. I absolutely love the Steve Jobs book by Walter Isaacson. And his book about Ben Franklin. In every great life story there are hundreds of important business and life lessons. You can become a great business leader simply by reading about the lives of great women and men. Read histories. The Harry Truman bio, the Lyndon Johnson bio, Franklin Roosevelt, Dorothy Parker, Joseph Kennedy, the story of prohibition, the wars, the famines, the epidemics.

A second piece of advice – subscribe to and make the most of your drive time by listening to great narrators read the books you don’t otherwise have time for. I’ve read 300 books doing just that.

A third piece of advice – look closely at what everyone else is doing and do something opposite. The contrarian, counterintuitive thinkers rule the world. Steve Jobs was fired by Apple for refusing to manufacture PC clones. The smartest people in Silicon Valley said it was Apple’s only way to survive. In hindsight, these geniuses were stupid. Today Apple the world’s largest company.

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