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Fastsigns CEO Catherine Monson: Five Traits to a Successful Career

How has your managerial style and ethics influenced the culture at Fastsigns?

Monson: Throughout my career, throughout my adult life, I have studied successful people. I have had the opportunity to be mentored by some amazing executives. I've had the opportunity to meet some very successful CEOs and presidents. And what I have found is that there are five common characteristics of successful people. It doesn't matter if you're talking about being successful in politics or successful in business or successful in saving for your retirement.

The first is positive mental attitude. I believe that positive mental attitude is learned. It is a discipline. It is the easiest thing in the world to be negative. Maybe some people have a sunnier disposition than others, but every successful leader is positive.

The next is goal-directed behavior. In a business, that would be having a business plan. One of the best ways to be goal-directed in your business is to have key objectives and an action plan and a budget on what you want to attain.

Then the third one would be self-motivation. Successful people will make two more sales calls in a day. They'll make the time to coach one more employee. They'll check on one more customer. Whatever it is, rather than saying, "OK, I can be done and I'll put that off until tomorrow," successful people just tend to be more self-motivated. They make things happen.

The fourth one will be a sense of urgency. I love success quotes and positive quotes and I try to feed my mind with that every day, and one of them that I love is Thomas Jefferson's, which is, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."

And then the fifth characteristic is never stop learning.

How does that change the culture here? I try to always be positive and when I see any of my management team not being [positive], I pull them aside and say, "Guys, remember, nobody wants to follow a pessimist. Nobody ever built a statue to a critic. You need to be positive in how you deal with people, in your outlook about the business, how you deal with franchisees."

I [also] bring that goal-directed behavior. We were a company that didn't really have a business plan. We now have one every year for four years. We didn't necessarily communicate what the business plan was to the entire team. Now every month I go over the business plan and where we are. We didn't even share the company's financial statements with anybody outside the executive committee and every month in our company meeting, part of the never stop learning, you've got to understand that if a company brings in $100,000 of revenue in month one, they don't have $99,000 of profit in month one. What are all of the things that go into that?

We have a long central corridor in our office that we call Inspiration Hall and it is filled with quotes about positive mental attitude and planning and self-discipline and all of those things. What I'm trying to do is feed the minds of my entire team about what it takes to be successful. That's kind of how I've tried to filter it through into the culture.

I'm assuming that trickles down to the franchisees as well.

Monson: Absolutely. In fact, I have spent a couple different convention speeches and different columns in our regular newsletter talking about that philosophy, coaching franchisees. At our upcoming convention next month I'm doing a seminar on how to develop a success culture in your business and so that same philosophy, not only do I use that in dealing with my teams of my employees, the 100-plus people that are here, but also the 500-plus franchisees out there.

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