The culture behind building a $60 million/year advertising agency and how it led to 3 successful exits, BetterBookClub and much more.

Intellectual Software

18-10-2020 • 1 hr 7 mins

After being fired from his job at a local TV station, Arnie Malham founded CJ Advertising, to help law firms advertise on TV and built it into one of the largest ad agencies in the US. At its peak, they were doing more than $60 million in revenues. Along the way, he founded 2 other companies and has formulated the secret sauce of building a great culture inside organizations. At CJ, he offered his employees unlimited vacation, free food, sent their kids birthday presents, and paid them to read books. His book club was so successful that after selling his ads business, he built a platform where other companies could implement the book club inside their own organizations. BetterBookClub has rewarded more than $100,000 to employees for reading books. More than 100 companies are now using Arnie’s platform and I was honored when he invited me to join his Founder’s Circle Book Club. Here's his story, and how he did it.


01:30 - Introduction

02:17 - Growing up in a small town in Arkansas and how my dad's lumber store influenced my entrepreneurial journey

04:42 - Leaving my job in banking for a job at a local TV station

06:40 - Getting fired and CJ advertizing

08:32 - No one wanted to work with law firms, we saw an opportunity.

10:52 - How advertising for law firms is different from advertising for McDonald's

13:00 - Helping clients grow their business

14:43 - Hiring my first employee and letting go of responsibilities

17:45 - Culture reflects Leadership

20:10 - Every change needs time, a champion, and a checklist

23:20 - Reading helped our team grow the business more than anything else we ever did.

25:29 - Rip off and duplicate great ideas

27:44 - The most successful ad campaigns were those where we were able to draw out the authentic personality of the lawyer

30:33 - In the early days, it was like a family. Everyone did everything.

33:15 - Our very unique hiring process and why we offer our employees 2 weeks' pay to leave, no questions asked.

36:57 - Why you should name and create a logo for your culture

39:50 - BetterBookClub and rewarding people for reading books

49:57 - Why I'm not a fan of book recommendations

52:33 - Hiring great Executive Assistants

55:54 - Sending birthday presents to kids of employees

58:24 - I want to think about my hardest problems in the morning

59:30 - How CJ's culture led to me writing my book "Worth Doing Wrong"

01:01:31 - My experience as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Belmont University

01:03:28 - Nashville's entrepreneurship scene is on fire

01:05:39 - The best place to connect with me

01:06:30 - Last thoughts for young entrepreneurs

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Arnie's Book  (Worth Doing Wrong: The Quest to Build a Culture That Rocks)

Arnie's book recommendation for hiring employees (Who by Geoff Smartand Randy Street)

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