Ask The CEO

By Molly McCartney February 1, 2011

Roger Miles was about 12 years old when it was suggested that he shouldn’t return to summer camp if he didn’t change his “fairly rebellious” attitude. “I went back and decided I was going to use all that energy in a different direction,” he says. “At the end of the camp, I was absolutely shocked to be given the Honor Camper Award. The next year I went back to the same camp in a leadership position, and the next year I became a counselor. Directing that energy to constructive rebellion had a profound effect on me.” Miles, now 63, is CEO at Miles Media, a destination marketing organization based in Lakewood Ranch. He is also the company’s leading strategic thinker, consensus builder and “a bit of a prankster” to those who know him well.

Describe Miles Media: It started about 60 years ago as See Sarasota, a magazine for visitors. When I acquired the company in 1990, it had 14 publications and was doing less than $3 million in annual revenues. Since then it has morphed into a content marketer for destinations, which might be a state, a city, or a resort, and our annual revenues are about $30 million. We take content and market it to the world. We create print products. We build websites. We do e-marketing programs and social media. We do photography, write stories and gather data. We have the largest database about visitors in the state or about things that visitors can do in Florida.

Where are your clients? Our first client outside Florida was Tennessee in 2003, and now about 50 percent of our business is outside Florida. We have about 130 employees, 80 of whom work in Lakewood Ranch. About 20 work in sales in different markets. The other 30 are virtual employees. We are the largest in the country at what we do, based on our annual revenues.

Your proudest single achievement: I don’t have a home run yet.

What you do best: Strategic thinking and inspiring people to do something that hasn’t been done before. In most cases, I couldn’t do it, because I don’t have the skills. I am much more likely to give you the objective of what we want to accomplish and let you bring me the solution.

What you don’t do well: Hiring. I tend to like people, and I look at their assets and their positives and don’t connect them to the work that I need done. No one lets me hire anybody here.

What you learned the first time you were somebody’s boss: That I can’t be responsible for all their actions. When I was president of my fraternity at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, I had a chef who robbed us blind. Other than that, he was a great guy. But it was shocking for me to find out he wasn’t honest—that he would look me in the eye while stealing food and money.

Advice for first-time managers: You owe people the opportunity and the tools to enable them to succeed, but the success has to come from them.

Your employees? You have to be self-motivated and highly energetic. If you are most comfortable being in the office at 8 a.m. and knowing what you will do at 8:05 a.m., this isn’t the place for you.

Note: Miles Media recently sold its Sarasota visitors’ guide, See Sarasota, to Dan Denton, president of Gulfshore Media , which publishes Biz941.

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