Being a CEO of an agency can be very stressful. One way to manage that stress is with a hobby. Here, CEOs from four agencies talked about what they like to do in their spare time. Their hobbies include stand-up comedy, songwriting, car racing and going deep on “Game of Thrones.”
Steve Cody, co-founder and CEO for Peppercomm
Unusual hobbies: stand-up comedy and climbing
Cody would be a full-time stand-up comedian if he wasn’t running a PR agency. Describing himself as a self-centered maniac, Cody started performing stand-up comedy for at least two nights a week back in 2005. “After two or three years, I graduated from awful to mediocre. I was asked to perform in front of 80 to 100 people at much better venues on Fridays,” recalled Cody.
Stand-up has helped him improve presentation skills and taught him how to handle silence and pick up cues in business meetings. Seven years ago, Cody hired comedian Clayton Fletcher to give Peppercomm employees a two-hour comedy training. It was such a success that the two have since created a professional development program called Comedy Experience.
Now Comedy Experience takes place at least once every three months; trainings are held in New York City comedy clubs during lunchtime when the venues are empty. Cody himself still performs at Greenwich Comedy Club once a month, joking about everyday life. His favorite comedians are Dave Chappelle, Lewis Black and George Carlin.
Aside from stand-up comedy, Cody likes climbing, a hobby he picked up in 2006 when his son Chris invited him to go climbing together. Cody has climbed around 300 mountains to date, including Kilimanjaro, the Matterhorn and Cotapaxi, the second highest mountain in South America.
Don Smithmier, founder and CEO for The Big Know
Unusual hobbies: singing and songwriting
Smithmier moonlights as the vocalist and keyboard player for the Minneapolis band Rocket Club. He – in collaboration with bandmates Joel Sayles and Mark Lacek – even had a minor hit with “One More Day” in 2010.
Juggling a band and an agency business is no easy task. Smithmier usually tours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday when it’s easier for him to work virtually on The Big Know-related projects. “Performance is usually just around 90 minutes to 2 hours, so I can use the downtime to get [my agency] work done.”
Smithmier thinks that music helps him become more creative and energized. It’s also good for business: “Some of our clients even become fans of our band,” he said.
Rocket Club is looking to have a new record in 2017, but plans to cut off touring time from 60 to 70 days a year to around 30 to 40 days.
Tony King, founder and CEO of digital design agency King & Partners
Unusual hobbies: car racing
King has an expensive hobby. A member of Monticello Motor Club, King spends three or four days a month racing on the track in Upstate New York. During summer, he likes driving cross country or to Miami in Bullrun, a high-end luxury lifestyle automotive rally.
“I have been car racing since 2008. It’s a great way for me to get out of the office and come up with new ideas,” said King.
King has a Porsche 911 GT3 and a Lamborghini. Sometimes he shares luxury sports cars on Instagram with his over 22,000 followers.
Jon Banks, CEO of Pitch
Unusual hobbies: “Game of Thrones” archana
Banks is no regular “Game of Thrones” fan – he’s obsessed with it. Lately, he has spent most of his spare time studying the “Game of Thrones” book series and listening to “Game of Thrones” podcasts. “I learned from the book that sky is the limit when it comes to creativity,” said Banks. “The book is a whole new world and another universe compared to the TV show.”
One of his findings so far is that the show is crammed with characters and has an incredibly complicated plot that brushes over some of the best parts of the book. For example, the show’s plots featuring Dorne and the Iron Islands have been among the weakest parts of the series. “However, book readers love reading about Dorne and the Iron Islands because it’s world building at its best and creates an even more interested tableau,” said Banks.