Interview: Scott Bell

Written by Chris Stock

Chris Stock helps Plastic Surgery Practices and Med Spas grow their revenue by converting leads into patients. With over 30 years of sales experience, including 15 years as a world-class sales expert and speaker, Chris has the expertise, know-how and strategic vision to deliver results every time.

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In this interview Scott Bell, CEO of Bell Media talks to Chris Stock about personal challenges he has faced, building a winning team and what it takes to be an effective leader

Chris Stock 

Today I’m speaking with Scott Bell, CEO at Bell Media. Scott founded Bell Media after graduating college in 2008. During college, Scott founded an outboard billboard company and built it into a couple hundred billboard faces before selling the company in 2015. Bell media is a digital marketing agency, they craft and implement winning marketing strategies that deliver measurable results for their customers. In addition, Scott sits on the advisory board for the entrepreneurship program at Auburn University, and also sits on the marketing board for the greater Montgomery YMCA, one of the largest in the country. Scott, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today, welcome.

Scott Bell

Absolutely, thanks for having me today, Chris.

Chris Stock  

It’s a pleasure. As I was getting ready for this interview, I read that you’ve been touched personally with a Cystic Fibrosis diagnosis. And you personally raised $42,000 in 2016, for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation by running 1000 miles in one year. I’d just like to start the interview if you can just by sharing a little bit more about that.

Scott Bell

Yes, absolutely. So my family and I have always been involved in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. As you alluded to, I’ve had a connection from it since I was born. I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, it’s a genetic disease. I was diagnosed as an infant. And what I learned growing up is that the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation does amazing things. And I think fast forward to today, and the CF foundation and their work is really why I’m able to sit here today. So they’ve done amazing work. And we’ve always been involved in raising funds for the foundation. But I guess it was five or six years ago, I wanted to do something that had the potential to make a little bit of a larger impact. So I created this initiative, I called it run Bell run. And I really just asked colleagues, friends, co workers, as well as some of the businesses in the area to support that initiative by pledging a certain amount of money per mile that I ran and of course, I wanted to run 1000 miles throughout the year. A lot of folks were very generous and supportive. We ended up raising, like you said, $42,000. It was well worth it, but certainly not anything that I’m planning on doing again in the near future. 

Chris Stock  

Clearly there’s a very strong, very clear motivation, but there must have been times when you were running that you thought what am I doing here? How do you get through those tough moments?

Scott Bell 

Yes, so there were definitely a few moments or periods of time where I questioned if I would be able to do it. You know, look, when you average it out over a long period of time, it’s an average of close to three miles a day, which, you know, on paper doesn’t sound that bad, but you have to sustain it throughout the year. You know, you’ve got other obligations. I’m an owner of a business and I actually got injured in the middle of it and had to take a couple weeks off. So when you start compounding some of those, you start reassessing the averages and saying for me to catch up I actually need to be doing five or six miles a day. So there were periods of time during those challenging winter months with an injury, where I certainly contemplated, not giving up, but you know, how difficult it was. But you know, look, I think you know, what’s kind of built into my DNA for whatever reason is just to continue to push each and every day, take it one day at a time. And that failure is not an option. So I think during those periods of time, that was really the mindset that I was able to carry, is just keep pushing every single day, do my best, and I’ll hit the goal.

Chris Stock  

Yes, I really like the analogy, as with so many things, especially in business, that sort of consistency of doing it every day. But for whatever reason you can’t and it builds up very quickly. But again, I think there’s a lot of parallels to life and business and building a business and growing a business even in that story. I’ve been working with some of your team over the last few months, and it’s really apparent they’re a great bunch of people. And I was interested in what is your success? You know, you founded this company. So what’s your success in creating that team?

Scott Bell

I certainly appreciate you saying that, Chris, I think as an organization, we’re really lucky and very fortunate to have a group of great folks working at Bell Media. They really care about each other. They care about supporting our core values and our customers. But I think you know, for any organization, whether it’s ours or any others to build a really good solid team, It definitely starts through core values and then hiring into those. So what we do during our interview and recruitment processes is we look for those that specialize in a specific product or service. We do have some generalists that cross different departments in the organization. But for the most part, when we hire, we’re looking for a specialty and I think that this has really helped us generate success at the organization. Because when you hire for a specialty, oftentimes it kind of breeds passion, because they’re already saying, like, I love doing this, this is what I want to focus on. And when you find that person, they’re going to be more likely to self educate and become an expert in their field. So I think the outcomes can be generated off of that mindset.

I think the other thing during the hiring processes, is do they have really high standards for themselves? Do they set personal goals? And then if you really start looking back at someone’s background, you can support that by saying, well, do they have a track record of success? You know, not things that they just say that they’ve done, but can they actually show and prove that yes, they have had a track record of success, whether that’s in college, post college, or if they’ve been in the industry for 30 years? What tangibly can they point to that speaks to us to say, they put forth all the effort, they set high goals and standards for themselves, and they have consistently performed at a high level. And then the last is, you know, one of the most important. Do they have integrity? Do they do what they say they’re gonna do, and do things at a high level. So, you know, if you think about the combination of those ingredients to hire someone, you reduce the likelihood that you’ll hire someone who’s a bad fit. And then after that, it kind of falls on us as an organization to create this environment where people with high standards can move up in their career and make progress in self educating and create an environment for that. So I think, you know, we’re always improving and always looking for ways to improve the organization. We have a long way to go to create amazing things organizationally at the company. But I think our foundation is really strong. And it’s because we’ve been able to fortunately recruit some really great individuals at the organization.

Chris Stock  

As you talk you’re very clear in terms of your values. And I think it’s a great strategy in terms of let’s hire specialists. And then sort of as you look at that specialist, that’s clearly motivated in that area. So as you say, they’ll self educate. But then, as you talk, you can hear you checking off that they meet the company’s values and clearly results are important for Bell Media. And again, that’s in a lot of your marketing that you put out there. How do you manage that part of their journey as well in terms of that constant delivery of results? Because I love how you’re hiring. How do you maintain that over a period of time?

Scott Bell

Yeah, so You know, if you hire people that are results oriented, if they’re not being given goals, then they’re going to ask for goals. So, I have to admit sometimes with certain individuals, they may ask for a different goal, they may ask for a new goal once they achieve or exceed their previous goals. So I think, again, it starts with that results oriented individual. Now, organizationally, you know, we’ve kind of tried to bake it into our DNA, that you’ve got a goal, you’ve got a next step that you want to achieve, and then continuing to reinforce it, compensate on it. And you know, we do it on an individualized basis, just like in any sales organization. Our sales team has goals that they have to achieve. Our customer success team does, but then we have some cross company goals that everyone has to achieve as a group and that’s, you know, are we maintaining our customer base, or are we churning customers. And when you start implementing some of those minimum thresholds for success across the entire organization, then it breeds a greater environment of not only achieving goals, but collaboration among the team. So it’s just like anything with core values, you can say it’s a core value. But until you start creating some reinforcing mechanisms, those core values are just words.

Chris Stock  

Absolutely. And I think actually it’s that measurement as well. That, as you say, reinforces and then you start to sort of live by those values. I know I left Intel in 2004. I left IBM in 2000. But there’s still traits I know that are sort of embedded in terms of how they brought me through their process and they’re good traits. But you know my values are sort of inherent of those organizations as well. We’ve come through an extraordinary time so far this year, and I’m interested from your perspective, not talking about the pandemic, etc. But just what has been one of your biggest takeaways for you personally through this period?

Scott Bell 

You know, I don’t think anybody can 100% prepare themselves for what almost every business or medical practice has gone through over the last 90 days. I think, as leaders or business owners, we have a tendency to ask ourselves am I prepared for a 10% dip in business or am I prepared for a really deep recession that affects my business 20 to 25%. I don’t believe anyone, kind of thoroughly prepares for the what if my business is shut down for 30 or 60 days, but I still have to kind of, you know, pay my expenses just like everyone else. So, you know, it’s certainly been a challenging environment for everyone. There’s been some support out there with some PPP funding and whatnot. But you know, as I have thought over the last 90 days, what are the takeaways? How can we improve as an organization? To be honest with you not, not a lot has changed in my mind from what happened in 2008 2009. Bell Media was in a very different place at that time. We were starting our billboard company, founded in 2008. We had three employees. So at that particular time, the business world was new to me. The organization was not bloated, our balance sheet wasn’t bloated, we were running a very, very lean organization at the time.

So it allowed us to kind of skate through, stay scrappy, keep winning business and not really skip a beat. In fact, for us, it was probably a tremendous opportunity. But what we maintained after that, again, is baked into kind of our DNA as an organization, I’ve been scared to death since 2008 2009, to go through that same situation. So we have kept the organization although we’ve grown, we now have, you know, 60 plus full time team members. We’re still a very, very lean organization. And as part of our annual budgeting process, we scrutinize every single line item and we ask ourselves, is this absolutely necessary? If it’s not necessary, it goes away. So every year we have a little bit of a pruning experience to make sure that we’re not bloated and that we don’t have to make some really drastic cuts if a challenging situation comes up. So that helped us going into the second quarter of this year with all of the challenges. And I think beyond that it’s kind of fundamental financial management, do you have enough cash? if you don’t have enough cash do you have funds that you can tap into relatively quickly? So I think if you run a lean business, and you’ve got access to capital, and your kind of foundational DNA as an organization is to scrap and fight together to make sure that you’re making it through it. You know, I think you’re set up for success.

Chris Stock  

I fundamentally agree with everything you say, but from you personally, what was that takeaway, if I go beneath the business level. What’s been your sort of, aha moment, that wow, or learning point?

Scott Bell 

Well, Chris maybe there are some others that feel the same way but like, you know, my business is kind of like a little bit of my baby. I’ve been growing it for so long so me personally and my business are extremely interconnected. I completely understand what you’re asking though. For me personally, It’s just been a realization that life and the environment and the economy and what can happen is very fragile. I’m constantly kind of taking a step back when not in the office to think about how fortunate I am to have what I do, not only from a business perspective, but from, you know, amazing family perspectives, you know, wife, I’ve got four year old twins. So, for me personally, I think it’s just kind of realizing and recognizing how fortunate we are and that you never know exactly what’s going to happen next week. So just kind of cherish what you have.

Chris Stock  

I totally get this sort of business and personal, I’ve run my own business now for 16 years and it’s just one and the same. I totally get that. So I’d just like to finish by discussing leadership a little bit more. And, I know from my own perspective, growing a business, these things don’t happen by chance. And I’m sure, like myself, you’ve had great mentors and coaches over the years. But what’s the one lesson that you’ve learned or that piece of advice that you’ve been given that really stands out for you in terms of being a leader?

Scott Bell

Yes, I mean, there’s so much that I’ve been able to learn and kind of pick up on, through a lot of different sources, self education, just constantly trying to make improvements and get better, still a long way to go. But I’ve also worked with a leadership coach in the past. And I think over the past five to seven years, as we’ve grown from a smaller organization to one that’s, you know, we’re now at a point where you have to have really good additional leadership. It’s not just a manager or two that can spearhead what we’re doing. It’s really creating a good leadership team that can really enhance and improve the culture of the organization. That’s critical. But as I’ve gone through the process of being a part of a growing organization, and seeing my direct impact on everybody’s kind of day to day life, I’ve realized I’ve got to do self reflection constantly.

And I need to fully understand what I’m great at, and what I’m not so great at. And that’s always evolving if someone’s continuing to improve in certain areas, but the areas where I don’t excel, I really need to be thoughtful about folks that I hire in, that I can be surrounded by, so that they can bring up our level, they can improve my skill set, they can complement what we’re doing to create a more well rounded organization. And I think that, you know, medical practices, doctors offices, they have the same issues. So doctors, you know, are likely going to be the most educated individual, they might have a high level of technical expertise and skill, but that doesn’t mean that they’re good at managing an office or leading a team. So it’s recognizing that and asking yourself, who are the individuals that I need to hire? What’s their personality profile look like? What are their skill sets, that not only I can learn from them, but they can help create a more well rounded organization. And I think that’s continuing to resonate for me as the company grows, how can we create a better organization by hiring really strong leaders that complement my skill sets?

Chris Stock  

Again, a very articulate and well rounded answer, the word that sticks out for me is reflection. And I think that’s the starting point to everything that follows, it’s that ability to reflect that self reflection, but also clearly it leads into awareness, and then what do I need to do? So, I think that’s a great place to finish. Thank you so much for being on this interview. And I look forward to continuing to build our working relationship and friendship going forwards. Thank you.

Scott Bell

Absolutely, Chris, thanks for the opportunity today and best of luck in the future.

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