Dual CEOs: Something Peppercomm and Samsung Have in Common

Today’s guest post is by Lauren Begley, Peppercommer and editor of the Innovation Mill, an online destination for the latest in new and noteworthy trends in PR, marketing and advertising.

Samsung recently announced the hiring of a second CEO and some industry experts are calling it a bold move. However, Ed Moed and Steve Cody have been co-managing partners since they founded Peppercomm in the mid-90s. We sat down with them to get their opinion on this news and ask if they feel like they should be given credit for blazing the dual-CEO trail.

What was your first reaction when you heard the news about a second CEO at Samsung?

Ed: I was very surprised. Not sure I have ever seen co-CEOs leading a giant public company before.

Steve: It’s impossible to predict how a power-sharing model will work out. If the co-CEOs at Samsung are smart, they’ll carve out distinct areas that each can own.

You both have been at the helm of Peppercomm since the beginning. What value do you see in having two co-managing partners?

Steve: The value in co-managing partners is the obvious one: two heads are better than one. And, since we’ve been together since day one, we can share the highs and lows. It’s not quite as lonely at the top when you’re not alone.

Ed: Having two leaders at an organization is always a challenge because egos, different styles of leadership, and different thoughts on vision sometimes conflict. Because we spent almost four years together at two other firms and have always wanted what’s best for Peppercomm first, these variables have never really gotten in the way. Plus, having two leaders who understand the critical importance of both leadership and business development becomes a real benefit to our business. That’s why I think that Steve and I have such a rare relationship and it has worked extremely well.

You each have strong personalities and differing areas of expertise. How would you describe your roles at the company?

Ed: Our relationship really works well because from the onset,  without even really talking about it, we learned to divide and conquer our firm’s responsibilities very quickly. That still exists today, which is kind of amazing. While that creates a truly efficient leadership scenario, we also cross over in a host of areas that provide double the value to what only one CEO could offer.

Steve: That’s the beauty of the partnership. Our strengths compensate for one another’s weaknesses. So, having no real interest in operations and finance, I can sleep well knowing Ed is positively obsessed about each. Likewise, he knows that I’m obsessed about what’s new, what our competition is up to and what we should be thinking of. So, while it’s happened from time to time, we rarely get in one another’s way.

How do you come to big decisions? Does one person have the final say?

Steve: No big decisions are made unless we’re in full agreement. So, for example, I backed Ed when he wanted to invest in licensing. Likewise, he backed me when I said I wanted to introduce stand-up comedy to our culture.

Ed: While Steve typically trusts me to make most financial decisions and I do the same with his around the Peppercomm brand, we always make big decisions about the agency together. In any case, we speak our mind to each other, sometimes in front of our management team and sometimes separately. Neither is afraid to debate if we believe in something that strongly. Trust allows two leaders to do this without feels being ruffled and that is extremely important. The fact is that on almost all big decisions, we actually do agree. But, we also respect each other enough to back down when the other feels really strongly about any particular decision for the agency. Overall, it continues to work really well.

What other CEO(s) do you admire and why?

Steve: I can’t name a current CEO I admire. But, looking back, I have enormous respect for Winston Churchill. In my opinion, he’s the single greatest leader in modern history.

Ed: I admire my friend Joe Beneducci, the CEO of insurance company Prosight Specialty Insurance. Joe was also our client when he was CEO of Fireman’s Fund. Joe exhibits tremendous character as well as smarts in how he views the world, his company and the people who work for him. I’ve never seen Joe sway from what he believes is right. In business, that isn’t an easy thing to do.

Any final words?

Steve: The reason most co-CEO situations fail is the obvious one: a clash of egos/power grab. Most co-CEO scenarios have matched executives with similar backgrounds and strengths (i.e. great salespeople, superior finance executives, etc.). As a result, they constantly second-guess one another’s decisions. I can’t recall a single instance in which I’ve second-guessed one of Ed’s decisions (because we do surface all of the potential big issues in advance, weigh the pro v. con, etc.).

Ed: We are in an interesting time. Because of the digital world, agencies are going through an unbelievable paradigm shift. I believe that having two co-leaders like Steve and me at the helm will be a strength for Peppercomm as we continue to innovate and become the best firm possible.

2 thoughts on “Dual CEOs: Something Peppercomm and Samsung Have in Common

  1. FYI – When Samsung heads for the typical “corporate” divorce, feel free to recommend our firm. Great post because unlike Peppercomm, most dual CEOs tend to look only to their own functionality as opposed to what is best for the company as a whole.