How I Work: 19 quick questions with Brad Wilson, Chief Marketing Officer at LendingTree
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Brad Wilson is the Chief Marketing Officer at LendingTree. He oversees LendingTree’s brand strategy, marketing operations and consumer engagement.
Recently, Brad and his team debuted a new identity for LendingTree.
Before moving to Charlotte from Dallas about a year ago, Brad was the GM of Travelocity. He’s also held marketing leadership positions at Nutrisystem, Blockbuster Online and Match.com.
On a Friday afternoon, I popped into LendingTree and met with Brad for 45 minutes in one of their conference rooms. I found him organized, experienced, thoughtful and a big team guy.
Here’s how Brad works.
Phone and computer setup?
iPhone 6s. I always wait until the releases and I just don’t think the features and benefits justify whatever the price increase has been. I will get whatever the October version is.
MacBook Pro. The one with the terrible keyboard that everybody keeps complaining about. I use an older MacBook Pro at home.
Any other gadgets you use all the time?
I use Air Pods all the time. I thought they were the weirdest and nerdiest looking things, but it’s a great product.
They’re a good deterrent too. I wear them on planes and nobody will talk to me.
To-do list manager?
I use Clear for a personal list.
At work, I use a word doc. It’s old school. It’s saved as ‘To Do’ on my desktop.
Apps you use often at LendingTree?
We use Slack very heavily.
Social media habits?
I love Twitter. I love it for it’s immediacy of news. I’m an infrequent poster.
I check the Journal, Yahoo Finance and The Economist Espresso. I check Business Insider frequently too.
You shouldn’t ask me now. I always struggle to sleep in the summer months.
I’m in bed by about 9, but I use 9-10 to talk to my wife or read or catch up on sports stuff. I try to be sleeping before 11.
I take my kids to school, so I typically wake up at 6 a.m. I shower first thing, always. I try to be out the door in 20 or 25 minutes. I try to maximize my sleep time.
Speaking of kids, do you have any advice for working parents on finding the right balance?
I have three kids — 9, 7 and 5.
There is a book my Susan Scott called Fierce Conversations… you should be your authentic self whether you are at work or whether you’re at home. It’s amazing how simple of a concept it is but I’m not sure how many people live that.
It gets harder as the kids get older. Put yourself in the situation where you can be as involved as possible. For me that means get great people and a great team.
What’s a typical breakfast?
It’s an iced Americano and a blueberry oatmeal at Starbucks.
I go to Starbucks every morning.
How do you describe what you actually do?
I’m a leader for the company. I don’t love the term marketing, particularly in this day and age that means so many things to so many different people.
At the end of the day, we acquire customers and we put them in the right loan products. I explain it around our brand purpose, which is to help simplify financial decisions in life’s meaningful moments. It sounds cheeky and all that stuff, but it’s true. If you truly believe in your company’s mission, it informs everything you do when it comes to product, technology and communications.
Were you scared moving to Charlotte given that we’re not a technology hotbed?
My biggest concern was that I love Texas. I didn’t want to leave Texas. If you’re in consumer tech, you’re typically going San Fransisco or New York. So if you don’t want to go to the coasts, Charlotte’s a great a great option. Charlotte is similar to Dallas.
How do you view the LendingTree brand?
It’s what I would call a dormant brand. It’s got 90+% awareness, but if you ask people where you can go to shop for loans, awareness is about 4%. It’s a good brand. When the story is told in a different fashion, it can break out even further.
Best part about working at LendingTree?
People. The people are great. Incredible team. Not even a close second.
What are some unusual habits you have?
Probably two, but I’m getting better.
I used to be famous, or infamous, for white boarding and diagramming. But this place doesn’t have any, so they’ve broken me of my habit.
Second thing, and it’s unfortunate because I’m not a huge fan of email, is that I often catch up on email nights and weekends and my closer teammates always like to remind me how fun it is to get a weekend barrage of emails. But I am sensitive to that.
Do you have any side projects?
I recently became a minority owner of the Rangers single A team, the Hickory Crawdads. I love baseball.
Best personal investment you’ve made?
Business school is one. It’s a big investment. It was well worth it for me.
Another one, and I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for it (company did), was an executive coach. I was skeptical going into it. I didn’t want to do it. It’s a big time investment, but well worth it. You learn blind spots, or shadows, as they call it. And you learn scenario management. For example, there are certain areas that get you into a reactive state — and you can learn frameworks to make you less defensive and more proactive.
When hiring, what do you look for in job candidates?
Two things. I look for presence. It’s a very subjective thing I realize, but can you carry a room? And number two is athleticism. Can you see this person succeeding in a number of different arenas. Can you stick them in a room and can they solve problems and lead people in a direction that’s going to be successful?
I’m not a big fan of case studies. It doesn’t really get you to the essence of if somebody will succeed or not.
Advice to your 30-year-old self?
I was at Match.com. I would say enjoy the ride a little more, but at that point I was probably still six figures in debt.
Venture out. The stories of where you can stay at one company for 15 or 20 years is rare. Be open to chances. I just read a great book from Clayton Christensen, called How to Measure Your Life. It was all about how you shape culture. The beginning part of the book he talks about deliberate plans versus emerging opportunities and how too many people get rigid that they don’t embrace emerging opportunities.
What’s your favorite Charlotte restaurant and go-to bar?
I don’t get out much. The biggest surprise I’ve found is Viva Chicken. I like that. It’s just different.
We stick to the Waverly area. I’ve been impressed with Desano Pizza.
And we like Cowfish, that was place was kind of cool. We’ve been there a few times.
Best job advice you’ve received?
It’s so trite, but the closer you can get to a passion the better.
And Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO at Uber, says find somebody smart and go to work with them. I’d add onto that, not just smart but people you admire.
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