CareerBuilder CEO: Learning among keys to successful business

The Herald-Times
Posted: Saturday, September 20, 2014 12:00 am
By Bob Zaltsberg 812-331-4364 | rzaltsberg@heraldt.com

Matt Ferguson incorporated a few video clips into his keynote address at Ivy Tech Community College’s 5th Annual Cook Institute for Entrepreneurship Thursday. Along with Super Bowl commercials featuring unruly chimpanzees that rocketed his company, CareerBuilder, into the public consciousness, he showed interviews with some well-known business leaders.

Two of those leaders, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, were asked about the most important things they do. Ferguson liked the similarities in their answers.

“When they asked the two wealthiest people on the planet what they do every day, they say reading and learning,” he noted.

Ferguson, a Bloomington High School North graduate, son of Cook Group Inc. Chairman Steve Ferguson and CEO of CareerBuilder, believes those are key elements to running a strong organization, especially in a time of rapid change and the need to stay ahead of the competition.

There’s been a lot of reading and learning along the way for Ferguson as his online recruitment company has grown from 30 employees in 1999 to 3,000 today, and from 500,000 unique visitors to the website a month to more than 30 million. CareerBuilder now has a presence in 60 countries as it expands its global footprint.

Ferguson talked about building a company with a strong mission statement and core values, noting how CareerBuilder’s mission has changed as it has grown and technology and the employee recruitment industry have changed. What started out as becoming the “U.S leader in recruitment advertising” has changed to “Empower employment: We are striving to organize all the world’s human capital data and make it meaningful for society.”

Five core values start with candor and also include agility, which Ferguson said he likes to blend into “cagility.” He wants honesty and truthfulness in the workplace, which will lead to making quick decisions to capitalize on opportunities.

He made several other points about entrepreneurial leadership, noting that start-ups need to have “plenty of money” behind them because most fail in the first year and entrepreneurs should not fight having partners because “sharing a bigger pie is always better.” He also said a person with a great idea for a product has to have somebody who can build the idea.

He said what separates the United States from other countries he does business in is the importance of education and that the U.S. values the younger generation. “Our society believes young people can do great things,” he said.

He also said it’s important that businesses like his follow the pattern set by others like the Cook Group, which give back generously to the community. He also said it’s important to have fun.

The Cook Institute is sponsored by the Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship, which offers a wide range of help and services to small businesses trying to get started.

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