The Motivation Secrets of 8 Successful Business Leaders

Brent Gleeson, Chief Marketing Officer, Internet Marketing Inc.
Photo (C) Marc Royce

Brent Gleeson

Chief Marketing Officer, Internet Marketing Inc.

San Diego-based digital marketing agency IMI is the second company started by Gleeson, who served as a Navy SEAL before setting his sights on the business world in 2005 with, a real-estate search engine he founded with business partner Brandon Fishman. That same year, as the housing market took a turn for the worse, they diversified into digital marketing. That's when things really took off: IMI has doubled in size every year since 2007, with projected 2013 revenue of $25 million. With a staff of 65-plus already, Gleeson is constantly recruiting talent from bigger-name agencies and beating them out for enterprise accounts, including the likes of Belkin, Polycom, Time Life and a major credit card company.

On creating opportunities:
Brandon and I both have finance and economics backgrounds, and we always keep an eye on opportunities. When we saw what was going on in the market, we thought about alternative services we could offer. We'd learned a lot about SEO and driving traffic to our site, which had helped us become digital marketing experts. So we started IMI as a small agency for clients we already had, and kept expanding from there.

On keeping employees inspired:
Obviously, my background as a SEAL is something I use to motivate myself, but the most difficult thing about motivation is consistency. People won't come to work motivated every day, so you have to do different things because everybody responds to different motivators. Maybe it's letting someone speak at a trade show, or offering a flexible schedule or having a fitness-oriented culture.

Our philosophy on motivation is not about running around being like Tony Robbins. First of all, we recruit the right types of people that fit our culture, but one thing that motivates is providing employees with resources for learning and professional development. As the owners, Brandon and I set guidelines for strategic direction, but we try to let employees be entrepreneurial within IMI. Directors have their own budgets, allowing them to be creative and drive their own business. And we do knowledge shares, where employees present new topics to others.

On attracting clients:
We do a damn good job. We want to create business partnerships, and they know we care. When we pitch someone, we talk about creating opportunity for everyone, to create jobs. I think we motivate clients by creating a personal connection. We win when we pitch based on passion and performance.

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Jennifer Wang is a staff writer at Entrepreneur magazine in Southern California.

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This article was originally published in the October 2013 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Best Motivators in Business.

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