Ashley Morris strives to be the dumbest person in his office.
Morris, who is the CEO of Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, a specialty sandwich company with over 100 locations across the US, told Business Insider: “I aim to employ people who have education and skills that are above my own capabilities for all positions I hire for, effectively making me the dumbest person in the room.”
He says having smarter, more experienced people working with him allows for better group decision-making, and aids his personal development and growth.
“This tactic has also avoided me many situations that may have resulted in me making a large mistake for my company,” Morris says.
For example, a few years back he had a vision for a marketing campaign that would have cost the company around $US105,000 if they had implemented it in all their stores. “After consulting with my marketing director and marketing manager, they were not in agreement that this campaign would accomplish what I was sure it would. I decided to test it out in just one store, which cost us $US10,000, despite their better judgment. Turned out that they were completely right.”
Morris says his team later created a much cheaper and more effective campaign that created the desired results. But what he learned was, if he were surrounded by people who only listened to him and had no additional knowledge, he would have wasted a lot of time and money.
He says sticking by his “dumbest guy in the room” motto has been an effective tactic. “Since I became CEO in 2008, this has been my formula for creating a successful team, and thus a successful business.” In 2013, Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop brought in over $US58 million in revenue, and the company has experienced 48% growth in the last three years.
“If you are the smartest, most experienced person in the organisation, then you can only be the teacher and never the student,” Morris explains. “This ensures that your ability to grow and learn is greatly diminished. I much prefer to put myself in a position where I can constantly learn and grow. When I have done this in the past it has always created positive results for me and allowed my employees to become as passionate about my business as I am.”
The only problem, he says, is that while people like to be able to relate to real, genuine leaders, they also need to be inspired by them and have confidence in their leadership. “This isn’t always an easy balance.”
But he believes that what most people want above all else is to feel like they’re truly part of their organisation’s high-level strategic plan. “If your team is smart, you’ll want to invite them to be part of that process, and really listen to what they are saying. And when you do this, people become very loyal and tend to work much harder to accomplish the goals set for them.”
When the CEO is the dumbest person in the room, it can be a win-win for all, he concludes.
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