Scott Harris, CEO of Social Factor, is turning the tables on corporate america one company at a time. A bonafide serial entrepreneur, his newest venture is a social agency is focusing on turning grey matter into black and white for businesses.
What do you love most about your job?
I love building organizational culture, empowering millennials, and encouraging innovation.
What drew you to starting your own venture?
I saw a unique opportunity to combine my experience as VP Global Online Marketing at a mid-size company, PGi, where I required cost-effective human resources to execute digital marketing, especially social media, with my relationships with high-calibre millennial talent as Board Chair of Young Life Greater Austin. I was a three-time entrepreneur ready to lead another venture, so Social Factor was born to offer effective people, process and platforms to lead community management and social strategy with mid-size company marketers.
Tell us a little bit about Social Factor and why you wake up every day to do what you do.
Social Factor is a social agency. We drive business value with relevant, relatable, real-time interactions that ensure our client brands:
- Give value to the people they wish to satisfy, delight, or serve.
- Get value from the enthusiasm and excitement people share.
As much as I enjoy facilitating organizations to embrace social, I find equal enjoyment in empowering the next generation of workers, 20-something millennials. Social Factor gives them a safe environment to take risks, attend to the details, and develop business acumen.
Did you think you’d be doing what you do today when you were graduating from college or even early in your career?
Yes, I was an entrepreneur at 11 empowering neighborhood kids to run my lemonade empire through a train of lemonade stands on radio flyer wagons. I received university degrees in both engineering and entrepreneurship to further develop my skills. Obviously, the internet and social media weren’t yet invented, but nurturing business relationships and empowering future talent are classic best practices for which I’ve been trained.
Was there a unique event, or series of events, which heavily influenced your career choices?
I remember when my father purchased the family an Apple II while I was in middle school. He encouraged me to pursue my computer talents as a computer consultant for small businesses. Since that time, I’ve never lost that love to live at the intersection of business and technology.
Did you have a mentor or champion early that helped shape your career? If so, how did that relationships start and evolve?
An important mentor throughout my life has been by father, Robert Harris. Additionally, two of my seasoned University of Texas at Austin professors, Dr. John J McKetta, Jr and Dr. George Kozmesky played key roles in helping me along the way. Lastly, a college pastor, Rob Harrell at First Evangelical Free Church in Austin, TX and high school Young Life leaders David Collins and Kit Sublett.
What’s some of the best advice you’ve gotten from your mentors?
- If you can describe it, delegate it…allowing you to keep focused on the indescribable
- Be mindful not to spend a career getting 20 years of the same 1 year experience
- Joy is an attitude that can be harnessed during struggles and celebrations
For early career professionals who are looking to build a relationship with a mentor, how would you advise they go about it?
Balance the give and take. Throughout my life and even now, I diligently pursue meetings every week with a mentee, a peer and a mentor by having coffee/lunch, doing an activity, volunteering. I give freely and generously offer my time, my talent and my money to each of them. In turn, these relationships fuel my passion to build, empower and innovate. It makes for a fulfilling life.
How do you balance career and family?
I sacrifice business opportunities to be attuned with my pre-teen kids and wife of 20 years. I trust my team to handle many details knowing they’ll make mistakes at times. I used to think I led best when I took control, but now I know I lead best when I let go. I find this true for family and work.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering joining an early stage startup or starting a business?
Go to work for an organization and/or a leader you believe in. Startups are fast, fun and under resourced, but you make a meaningful impact very quickly. Big companies often offer better training, better benefits and a bigger sphere of influence, but internal politics, poorly tuned process and risk aversion may depress your spirit.
Are there specific skills you recommend young professionals develop that will help them stand out from the pack?
As a social media professional, I encourage young professionals to be active on LinkedIn. Be comfortable with business math even though you might be a liberal arts major, and most of all develop the skill of being a giver more than a taker.
What was your “aha” moment in life, if you’ve had one?
I used to think I could climb my way up to extraordinary, but now I know climbing buddies transform ordinary to extraordinary.
If you were talking to a younger you, what’s the one piece of advice you would give?
Out of life’s pains and wounds, comes your mission, your passion to make an impact. Press on.
Connect with Scott on Linkedin.