This article was initially published in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.
On a personal level, Marcus Fischer is known for his love of the Grateful Dead, his “off the charts” coffee consumption and for being the person one can always count on for a piece of gum. Professionally, Fischer is the Carmichael Lynch CEO working tirelessly to impact advertising culture by creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment.
“I embody, support and defend our culture,” Fischer said. “I want this to be the kind of place you can come as you are. It’s all in service of creative work.”
Fischer joined Carmichael Lynch in 2003 and spent five years in brand-planning. After a stint as CEO for Space150, the Miami University graduate returned to Carmichael Lynch in 2012 as chief strategy officer and was promoted to president and managing partner in 2013. Two years ago, Fischer was named CEO.
“It’s been a nonlinear process,” said Fischer of his road to the C-suite at Carmichael Lynch. “I tell people, ‘Here’s my career path. It’s a plate of spaghetti.’ ”
Fischer studied public administration and public policy, earning his master’s in public administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He intended to work with nonprofits, but a job in account planning introduced him to the psychology of marketing and brand strategy and he fell head over heels.
“I love strategy,” Fischer said. “I also like winning. I’ve been accused of being overly competitive.”
With Fischer at the helm, Carmichael Lynch’s revenue has grown 53 percent, and more than 100 full-time employees have been added to the roster. Fischer also has worked to increase the number of minorities and women the firm employs. In the past four years, the ad agency has doubled the number of employees of color, while women make up 65 percent of the workforce and more than 60 percent of the agency’s management positions. In 2018, Fischer was named the Champion of Diversity by the American Advertising Federation’s MOSAIC Awards.
“Marcus is a successful culture-builder, a great listener and a solidified strategic-thinker,” said Julie Batliner, president of Carmichael Lynch and its public relations arm, Carmichael Lynch Relate. “His early background as a brand strategist gave him an amazing foundation that makes him stand out. He has a keen ability to learn from the past and instill lessons for the future for us all.
“Marcus’s impact at Carmichael Lynch has helped us achieve record growth,” she added. “He has also led great progress in the diversity, equity and inclusion levels of our team members, helping us to make the best work that represents the diverse audiences we market to.”
Fischer is active in the broader Twin Cities community, too, serving on the board of the YMCA Twin Cities and sitting on its diversity inclusion and global committee.
“It’s incredibly rewarding,” he said. “It’s important to give time and resources outside of work.”
More from Fischer …
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? My dad
What was your first job? Shining my dad’s shoes
What was your first management position, and what surprised you about that leadership role? The hardest and biggest lesson was that success was now defined by what the team could do, not by what I could do. Learning to let go. Success belonged to the team. Problems or failure belonged to me. My job, my success was selecting the team and putting the team in situations they could excel at. It isn’t easy. It is hard because I love what I do. That is still something I am learning and doing every single day.
What does being a leader mean to you? Taking every part personally. The highs and the lows. Being able to have a long-term vision while still being present in the moment for every single person.
What’s the toughest part of leading a company? Dusting off after a tough pitch loss. Seeing a defeated team that gave their all and not being able to change the outcome.
What’s the most rewarding part of leading a company? Nurturing, encouraging, shaping and celebrating our culture. A culture that is creative and additive. One that celebrates the work and invites everyone to bring their true self to work.
If you find yourself in a meeting at work where things are not going the way you want them to, what do you do? Nothing. The goal of a meeting isn’t to have a good meeting. The goal is to make progress. Sometimes tough meetings make the most progress.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next year? As a growing company there are many measures of success. For me, I want us to win a piece of business that we’re not supposed to. One that sends a message about Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis and the North.
Looking forward, what legacy do you hope to leave behind? Both professionally and personally, I think Jerry Colonna said it best: I want to do “good work, done well and for the right reasons.”
What is your theme song? The first 90 seconds of “Morning Dew,” by the Grateful Dead from Live at Lyceum Theater, London, May 27, 1972 — specifically, from 0:18 to 1:22
Years with company: Seven
Years as CEO: Three
Education: Master’s in public administration
Family: Married with three boys, a dog, a cat, a fish and the occasional lizard
Hobbies: Fly fishing, hiking, music, binge-watching TV, anything in nature
Board memberships: YMCA
Employees at company: 310