Position: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Lamar Advertising Company
Family: Married with two daughters (ages 8 and 3)
Hometown: Bastrop, LA
Education: MBA, Harvard Business School; BA in Economics, Morehouse College; graduate of the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts in Natchitoches
In the news:
Jay Johnson officially stepped into his role as Chief Financial Officer of Lamar Advertising Company on Oct.1, four months after being appointed to the position. Previously, he served as executive vice president and CFO of the publicly traded DiamondRock Hospitality Company, where he led all financial activities for the lodging real estate investment trust. In his new role at Lamar, Johnson succeeds Keith Istre, who announced in January his intent to retire at the end of the year.
What was your very first job, how old were you and what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?
I performed a number of odd jobs growing up (mostly cutting grass). My first real job was at age 15 picking up trash in parks one summer for the City of Bastrop Parks & Recreation Department.
What time do you typically get up on a workday, and what’s your ideal morning routine to get it off to a great start?
My day usually starts between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. and begins with scanning headlines of The Wall Street Journal and watching CNBC. I take our daughters to school most mornings, so getting them out on time (without tears) is what gets my day off to a good start.
As the new Chief Financial Officer at Lamar Advertising Company, what are your top priorities in your first year on the job?
Lamar converted to a real estate investment trust (REIT) in 2014, and one of my top priorities is engaging traditional REIT investors to help them understand the industry and Lamar specifically. Out-of-home advertising is one of the newest sectors to take advantage of the REIT structure, so dedicated REIT investors generally are unfamiliar with the industry.
Throughout your career, you’ve worked in a variety of industries (hospitality, banking, management consulting, etc.). What have you learned from working in these different industries that you can apply at Lamar?
The lodging industry gets it right and it’s easy—treat people with kindness, courtesy and respect. If companies treat associates well, and they are valued members of the organization, they will in turn exhibit the same with hotel guests. When hotel guests have a pleasant experience, they will return for another visit. It’s just good business. It’s the Marriott way, but I think it is applicable no matter what line of business.
For those who aren’t familiar with Lamar, how would you sum up what the company does?
Lamar is one of the largest outdoor advertising companies in the world, with more than 360,000 displays. We help both local businesses and national brands reach their customers and have the largest network of digital billboards in the U.S. Some of our largest customers include McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, State Farm and Pepsi, as well as other well-known national brands.
What’s your strategy for trying to achieve a healthy work-life balance?
Two cell phones—one for personal use and one for business. It is something I began over a decade ago and it allows me to unplug from work from time to time, particularly on weekends. For example, if I am out with my family on a Saturday afternoon, in most instances I will leave my work phone behind.
What’s a leadership skill you’ve learned the hard way?
The ability to delegate responsibility became difficult for me when I transitioned into a senior management role several years ago. I had to learn to hire the right people, then provide support for them to execute and succeed (with the proper level of oversight). Interestingly, sometimes that meant allowing them to fail and learn from mistakes.
What’s something about your job or company that might surprise people?
I think a lot of people are surprised to discover the size and scale of Lamar. Our business is geographically expansive, with operations in 45 states and Canada. As for my role specifically, it probably comes as a surprise the amount of sales and marketing involved, which includes communicating with Wall Street investors, investment banks and research analysts on a regular basis.
What are some of your hobbies or favorite things to do in your free time?
We recently relocated from Washington, D.C., and there are many biking trails throughout the city. There were a couple near our home and we did lots of family biking in the spring, summer and fall.
What are your best productivity hacks?
I compose a “To Do” list in the evening before leaving work and re-visit the list throughout the following day. It keeps me focused on what is important and the tasks that need to get done.
You’re taking me out to a business lunch in the Capital Region. Where are you most likely to take me and what do you recommend I order?
I’m still learning my way around the culinary scene in Baton Rouge, but think it would be Stab’s Prime at this point and I’d recommend the Stab’s Prime Business Lunch.
What is one of the best vacations you’ve ever taken, and what’s a vacation you hope to take in the future?
Coming from the Marriott family of companies, we’ve had the opportunity to experience some great vacations. One we hope to take in the future is to visit the Gold Coast of Africa, once our daughters are old enough to take the long trip and really understand its historical significance.
What’s the greatest personal or professional obstacle you’ve overcome, and how did you do it?
Prior to business school, I was laid off two consecutive Decembers in 2000 and 2001. Seven days before Christmas, Prudential decided to exit the investment banking business and closed its Prudential Securities unit. The following year, both my wife and I were at Enron in Houston when it collapsed in what was then the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. The Enron scandal was just three months after 9/11 and the economy was in recession. It was clear I needed to re-calibrate and return to B-School.
What do you think will be the next big innovation in your industry?
The way in which advertisers purchase and access out-of-home ad space. Historically, there have been intermediaries facilitating their buying efforts. However, we should see more of that purchasing activity shift online with the ability for advertisers to view, select and pay for inventory in an e-commerce environment. We’ve seen similar shifts in buying patterns in the airline and lodging industries, and this would be no different.