This Is Larry Fisher, CEO of Rise Interactive

by Jerome Knyszewski
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Larry Fisher, CEO of Rise Interactive, talks about how to take a company from good to great

Larry Fisher has amassed over 20 years of experience in marketing, which have sharpened his expertise in the field and his understanding of financial services. His experience, knowledge, and skill have contributed significantly to the development and “explosive growth” of Rise Interactive, of which he is the CEO.

As CEO of Rise Interactive, Larry Fisher is “responsible for leading the strategic direction of the business.” Prior to becoming CEO, he was the president of the company. While president, he played a pivotal role in “developing Rise’s vision…where he was focused on guiding the revenue-driving departments of the organization.” These departments include Account Management, Client Service, Marketing, and Sales. Larry’s leadership and customer-focused approach helped the company expand its distinguished client list, which includes Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, ULTA Beauty, Stanley Steemer, and Atkins Nutritionals.

Besides his work as CEO, Larry Fisher sits on the board of the Michael Matters Foundation and Rise. He has earned a degree in Finance at Syracuse University. The company has also earned a slew of industry awards, which include the Global Search Awards, dotCOMM Awards, Hermes Creative Awards, IAC Awards, GDXA Global Digital Excellence Awards, inclusion into the Adweek 100 list of Fastest Growing Companies, among several others.

Larry Fisher had also co-founded Trading RM LLC, and served as Portfolio Manager at Balyasny Asset Management LP.

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Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Larry Fisher: When I joined the Rise family, we were a family of 10. During our first years of trying to grow and build the business, we asked everyone to memorize the following statement: Rise is going to be the best and biggest digital marketing agency in the world. We may have been small, and it may have been quite a lofty goal, but we had big plans. Fast forward 10 years later, and we still have that grit and tenacity.

We continue to be scrappy, but smart. Data-driven and dedicated to client relationships. We went from 10 people with cardboard dividers between our desks to nearly 300 people strong, but we still act and function with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and success.

Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Larry Fisher: I think that this is something that you get better at handling as you grow in your career. Ultimately, businesses give employees vacations and time off for a reason. Figure out how to take that time, even if you don’t go anywhere. Find a hobby and pursue it. Covid has been such an incredible challenge, but I look for the silver linings. It has saved me a 2.5 hour commute to and from the office each day. With this savings, I’ve been able to spend more time with my wife and kids than I have in a very long time during the work week. My daughter went off to college this fall, and being able to have meals together every day this past summer was a real gift.

Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Larry Fisher: There are two people who really have helped me spread my wings and believe in myself, even during the most difficult times of my career.

The first is Jon Morris, the former CEO of Rise Interactive. As I’ve mentioned, Jon saw something in me and believed in me. He took a tried and true trader and turned me into a digital marketing expert, and that’s no easy feat.

That leads me to my wife. She has always trusted in me and has been the calming voice of reason when I needed it most. I made a decision — and at the time, a very risky one — to jump ship and join a new industry while taking a massive pay cut. We had three small children and an overwhelming amount of responsibility, and she was with me every step of the way. I couldn’t be more grateful or appreciative of her being with me on this journey.

Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

Larry Fisher: In my experience, great companies emerge through the combination of a bold vision that sets the expectation of greatness, unique traits and characteristics that lead to greatness, and the ability to use data and results to demonstrate both internally and externally that what your company is achieving is remarkable. Without these ingredients, companies cannot make the leap from good to great.

From the beginning, Rise has set out to the biggest and best digital marketing agency in the world. Having this vision and bringing employees along for the ride has been key to our growth. As far as unique traits and characteristics, at Rise we always say two things: there is nothing more important than your direct report, and we only hire the A players. Finally, being the data-obsessed company that we are, we are constantly backing up our success with data and results.

If you have these pieces in place, paired with leaders who aren’t afraid to make the tough decisions, you’re destined for greatness.

Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

Larry Fisher: Every six months, I ask myself two questions as they relate to my career: Am I enjoying what I am doing AND can I support my family in the way that I want? If I get two yes answers, I keep going. If I get one yes and one no, I have to pause and think about what to do next. And if I get two no’s, I need to make a change. I live by this and it has always guided my career choices.

My career advice for anyone at a standstill is pretty simple: Find the fastest growing company and the fastest growing industry and dive in. If you work hard, the opportunities will fall into your lap.

Jerome Knyszewski: Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Larry Fisher: This year has impacted all of us in different ways. As leaders, it has forced us to make tough decisions and be more authentic and transparent than ever before.

When I stood in front of Rise at the beginning of Covid, I asked them to trust me. And they did. I’m thrilled to say that during this time, we had the fortunate opportunity to go on offense and defense at the same time. We hired people during this very challenging year, and we’re at our highest headcount ever. We made a lot of investments in sales and marketing to make sure our pipeline is strong.

Like I said before, I am a risk taker, and I’ve been taking calculated risks since Covid began, all with the safety and integrity of my company top of mind. We are a direct response marketing agency, and we knew that no matter when businesses turned back “on,” they would need our help. That’s why we built up our team, hired more A players than ever before, and used this challenging time to get our team in the best place possible.

Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

Larry Fisher: When Rise was a company of about 100 people, I knew every single person. I knew their families, their lives, their milestones. As the company has grown, that has been increasingly difficult to maintain. I truly believe that a company is just as good as its leader, and it’s important to me to show each and every colleague that I care.

While I’m still working on getting to know our nearly 300 colleagues, I’ve had my assistant put together a binder with information on everyone that I can look at during my down time. While it’s no longer practical for me to know all employees as deeply as I did when we were a smaller company, I am still committed to finding ways to reach out to Risers individually to let them know that I am here for them.

Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

Larry Fisher: As a business leader, I know that the client always comes first. We make it a priority to talk about client goals first and Rise goals second. Allowing our teams — openly giving them permission — to make decisions that are best for our clients goes a long way.

At our company, we have something we call the Rise Five — it’s the five questions that every person in client services needs to know and be able to answer about their clients. This is a non-negotiable. Every week when we meet with clients, we should be able to answer these questions. If we focus on these, it’s hard not to make progress.

Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

Larry Fisher: Social media isn’t just a nice to have, it’s a need to have these days. But, it’s not just about signing onto these channels and publishing content just to say you did it. It’s about the value that it provides, as well as the exchange of value to the person on the receiving end. If you’re creating content that others feel is valuable, authentic and honest, you really can’t go wrong.

Personally, I’m less concerned with being in every conversation, and I’m more concerned about using the power of social media to connect with and provide value to clients, prospective clients and other industry movers and shakers.

Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Larry Fisher: The biggest mistake I’ve seen with CEOs and founders is being undercapitalized. If you have to make business decisions that are predominantly influenced by being undercapitalized, then you’re making the wrong decisions.

When you’re a startup and have a tremendous amount of pressure to grow and get things to the next level, being undercapitalized can become the biggest detriment to your success.

Jerome Knyszewski: You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Larry Fisher: I think my biggest passion is working to diversify the workforce, and that can come in many different forms. As a dad of two daughters who are starting to spread their career wings, empowering and encouraging women is one of many areas of critical importance.

We continually look for ways to invest in diverse Risers and empower them to do amazing things. While we have a lot of work to do in this area, it is something that is very important to me and is a movement that I am proud to champion.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Larry Fisher: I recently started a new series on the Rise Interactive blog called Late Night with Larry. As my basement has now transformed into my home office, I am often up, late at night, sharing my thoughts about the industry. I’d love for you to come along for the ride — you can read my posts here.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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