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6 Ways to Successfully Run Your Company With a Co-President

When tragedy hit their production company, here's how two of its executives stepped up to run the show.

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When Howard P. Schultz, founder and CEO of Lighthearted Entertainment, unexpectedly passed away, the people at his company were left in a state of shock. "Everything completely changed for us literally in an instant," says Rob LaPlante, who was EVP at the time. LaPlante and VP Jeff Spangler (pictured right to left in the photo above) suddenly found themselves in charge of the production company which created hit reality shows like Extreme Makeover and Bye Felicia. "Howard was an unquestionably strong presence and we worked together on everything," LaPlante told Entrepreneur. "But when he passed, Jeff and I were forced to become leaders that shared every piece of responsibility."

Rob LaPlante

Here, LaPlante explains how he and Spangler took on the roles of co-presidents and figured out not only how to keep the company alive, but to help it thrive. 

1. Come up with a plan and commit to it. 

"We knew our make-or-break moment hinged on communication. It started with us defining our roles. We created a system of checks and balances. First with basic things like CC-ing each other on all emails and creating two-step bank authorizations; then with bigger things like deciding who would oversee specific areas and set times to inform the other of what was going on in that department. We knew our commitment to each other would be seen from the top down, and solidify our internal approach."

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2. Clearly communicate that plan to your employees.

"People need leadership. They need security. We met with our staff, ensured their jobs and let them know we are leading as a team. Since our roles were defined to us, it was easy to define to them. We took our meetings together, pitched shows together and produced shows throughout the world together. Things were working, people even joked that we were starting to look alike!"   

3. Divide and conquer, and reassess.

"Running a business demands constant assessment. And our plan to 'Keep it Lighthearted' in the wake of Howard’s passing needed to adjust with our solidified success. Our plan had worked and it was time to grow or risk failing. Our communication earned each other’s trust, allowing for ‘checks and balances’ to evolve into 'divide and conquer,' especially on more mature projects. For the last couple of years, the strategy of our business has moved towards volume, so the division of responsibility will inevitably expand. As we let go of more things we have always loved to do, the conversations will get difficult, but the focus must remain towards growth.

Related: 8 Critical Considerations for Choosing the Right Business Partner

4. Trust your co-president.

"Existing successful properties laid the groundwork for success, they just need adjustments and maintenance at times. Our trust in one another bred efficiency, and we know when one of us is running point and the other weighs in, it’s an informed, fresh perspective that we can rely on. Two differently positioned brains are often better than one. We still share equal responsibility when it comes to the lifeblood and most important part of our business: developing new content."  

5. Success has no room for ego.

"Lighthearted has never been about what one individual wants to do. This is most apparent in the development room where everyone is given the opportunity to contribute to success. It speaks to our company culture, lets us still have fun being creative together and serves as ground zero for our commitment to communication. Communication builds trust, and trust builds efficiency."

6. Don't be afraid to argue.

"We have our disagreements, but they don’t go unresolved. We’ll even involve the opinions of the executive team to help find a resolution, thus empowering them to be high-level decision makers within the organization. Success coincides with our team having emotional equity in the company and remembering we are in this together."


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