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Buying the Company You Work For: How Wendy Mather Risked Everything and Became a First-Time CEO

Guest: Wendy Mather, CEO of RDP Creative. Wendy and her team “bring creative ideas and stories to life through bespoke merchandise that people want to keep for years.”

Overview: When you’re sitting in the CEO’s chair, there’s only one step up left in an organization. But opportunities to grab an ownership stake are rare. CEOs who want a BIG piece of the pie have to be personally, professionally, and financially prepared to seize that moment.

On today’s show, Wendy Mather explains how she purchased RDP Creative — with a little help from some very supportive friends. She also discusses how she uses empathetic leadership and the power of positivity to shape a winning culture and Make BIG Happen.

Wendy Mather on sustainability:

“Too many people think about promotional products as you get something free with a logo slapped on and you end up throwing it in the trash because it’s not worth anything. At RDP, we look for more purposeful products. Things that you’re going to keep for life. So we put a lot of time and effort into the creativity of the products, making sure that people want to keep them for a long time and that they have actual use. As CEO, before I bought the company, Lego was one of our number one clients and we worked with them on removing single-use plastic from all products. Just from Lego alone, in 2019, we saved 10 tons of plastic. And it shocked me and actually made me feel a little bit ill when I saw that number. So now we’re probably at about 95% no single-use plastic on any product.”

Wendy Mather on choosing the right clients:

“When you become the business owner you really start drilling down on your P&L and where you want the business to go. Previously we had a lot of clients, but there wasn’t scale within those clients and you’re doing a lot of busy work. Technically, we’ve only got about eight big clients right now, and the clients that we get from them, we ask, ‘Are they a great client to work with? Do they have the same morals?’ We work in the family entertainment space. And I just want to go to work and have fun also. Like Lego, 25% of all their profits go to children’s charities. Who doesn’t want to work with a company like that? And they love builders and children and it’s enjoyable to work with their brands. That’s their mission and their ideals in life. Don’t just take an order for an order’s sake. You have to really think about who these customers are that we want to work with and do we want to work with them long term and are you in a partnership. I love when customers have your back and they support you too. Sometimes we screw up and we have to work together to come up with solutions and help grow the partnership together.”

Wendy Mather on leading with empathy:

“People have asked me, ‘What is our business stance on bereavement for a family member? Where’s the spreadsheet?’ There’s not a spreadsheet. We’re a business and it’s solely owned by me. Every circumstances is different and everyone is affected differently by different things in their life. I’ve given people time off and said, ‘Look, just come back when you’re ready.’ I think people respect the business more that way, when you are more sympathetic to them. And when it comes to salespeople, I sit down and discuss how we can help them. If someone is overwhelmed or different things are going on in their life, we all pull together. But then they help someone else later when it’s their turn, because life has got its ups and downs. It’s definitely part of the culture.

The Leadership Traits That Build Trust and Make BIG Happen – CEO Coaching International’s Edward Hughes discusses his comprehensive leadership philosophy, which emphasizes building trust to drive success and foster a high-growth culture.

Active Listening Techniques for CEOs and Senior Executives – These four active listening techniques could help leaders improve the dialogue at every level of the company.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average revenue CAGR of 31% (2.6X the U.S. average) and an average EBITDA CAGR of 52.3% (more than 5X the U.S. average).

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