Conductor, Inc., is an organic search engine optimization (SEO) company with over 300 employees and customers that include household names like Slack, Citibank, and Visa. Its CEO and co-founder is Seth Besmertnik, who says he was inspired to launch the company when he took evening classes in entrepreneurship and small business management. Seth invited Zicklin News to his Park Avenue office for an interview about his Zicklin experience.
Zicklin News: What was your favorite class at the Zicklin School?
Seth Besmertnik: It was a class in the entrepreneurship/small business track where we read the book Good to Great. The idea of the book is that it compares companies that are in the same category, shows how one outperforms all the others, and then analyzes why that one company is greater than its competitors. From the discussions in class that centered around this book, I learned a lot of interesting ideas about leadership that have stayed with me for the last 20 years. We even use Good to Great as a framework for how we operate at Conductor.
ZN: Tell us more about that.
SB: There’s a concept in the book called “Level 5 leadership,” and one of the basic ideas is that Level 5 leaders always put the company before themselves. They make decisions based on what’s good for the company, not what’s good for them. That stuck in my head. Whenever I was at an inflection point in running Conductor, that was always part of how I thought — what would a Level 5 leader do? I’ve never wavered from that since we started.
ZN: What else can you tell us about your time at Zicklin?
SB: I think being at Zicklin was a bit of an entrepreneurial experience just in itself. There are an endless number of resources, opportunities, and great people all around you. But there are a lot of distractions, too. You’re right in the middle of Manhattan. Being an entrepreneur requires you to seek things out on your own, find the opportunities, and not get sucked into the distractions. It requires a lot of discipline to be successful. For me, it was good training for dealing with ambiguity and creating discipline, which is a requirement for being an entrepreneur. Plus, being in Manhattan is very inspiring. A lot of people are getting on with their careers, making things happen. People are motivated and purposeful there. It’s an environment where you say, “I want to make something of myself. I want to do something.” That’s a good Petri dish for creating leaders and entrepreneurs.
ZN: Do you have any Zicklin students working as interns at Conductor?
SB: We have a bunch of Zicklin students working here. I love hiring them. They’re hungry and hard-working — that’s our culture. If it comes down to a choice between two candidates and one of them is a Zicklin student, the tie goes to the Zicklin student.