Provo Mayor John Curtis Shares Seven Strategies to Best Leverage Impact in the Business World

Provo Mayor John Curtis Shares Seven Strategies to Best Leverage Impact in the Business World


Jennifer Durant

The Daily Herald

Provo’s Mayor John Curtis stepped out of the political arena and briefly returned to the business world Wednesday morning when he shared his leadership insights with a packed house of 100 local business owners and leaders at a monthly Corporate Alliance University breakfast event.

Curtis, who once served as the COO of Corporate Alliance for 18 months, offered his advice on how local business leaders can best leverage and measure their impact by sharing seven key strategies, based on his years of experience working for companies like Citizen, OC Tanner and Action Target.

1. It’s about richness

not riches

When it comes to success in business, it’s not all about the money, Curtis said. “I know a lot of unhappy, filthy rich people.”

Having charted out his own financial trends throughout his career since graduating from Brigham Young University, he showed several peaks and valleys. Valleys, like when he first began working with companies like Citizen and OC Tanner, transitioned to peaks at the end of his tenure at each company, only to begin in a financial valley with each new venture.

“For me, it’s not about the money. If I would have stayed at OC Tanner because of the money, I wouldn’t have met the people I have learned so much from,” he said, mentioned the influence those people had on his mayoral career.

2. Of course it’s hard

Succeeding in business is hard. But if it wasn’t hard, Curtis tells his employees, then I wouldn’t need you. “That’s why we need good people.”

Curtis mentioned that the last several weeks have been the most difficult he has ever had to navigate throughout his entire career, not just his mayorship, due to the recent news of alleged assault by the Provo’s chief of police. “But if it wasn’t hard, they wouldn’t need me,” he said.

3. Every experience along the way is important

Don’t discount the varied experiences you have along your career path. You never know when those learned skills might come into play.

Curtis mentioned an experience when, while living in California, he was called upon to communicate with someone who had experienced a severe injury, quickly deciding they could “talk” back and forth through eye blinks — once for “yes” and twice for “no.” Memories of that day rushed back when Curtis, while living in Virginia, was able to communicate about end-of-life decisions with a woman who had a terminal illness. “You just don’t want to pass things up,” he said.

4. Be high-yield,


Think of a zucchini. This hearty plant is not only high-producing, but it requires very little maintenance. “There are so many situations where life needs high-yield, low-maintenance people,” Curtis said.

Don’t settle when you are hiring new employees, either. “Pass on those high-yield, high-maintenance people,” he said. “Think of how you can lower your own maintenance. If you are high-maintenance — you aren’t worth it.”

5. Old school is not all bad

Sometimes you need to step away from technology. “If a text is extending to three or four lines, stop and think about calling,” Curtis said.

Also, deliver hard news face-to-face, he added. “I had to lower an employee’s salary once and I delivered that news via email,” he said, mentioning that he has always felt bad about that. “Be personal.”

6. Tell the truth,

tell it all, tell it fast

“There are so few people in the world who can genuinely tell the truth,” he said. “Life is full of opportunities to tell the truth. Life will be so much better.“

7. Look for the good

If you look for the good in your career and in your life, you will find it and it will be an amazing experience, he said. But if you are always looking for the bad, that is all you will ever find.

“We always find what we’re looking for — good or bad,” he said. “Every single job has problems, but you need to look for the good. If you look for the bad in your boss, you will find it. Look for good, you will find it.”

Curtis then shared a story — a bonus tip — about when he was working for OC Tanner in Virginia and was having difficulty reaching a potential client. He decided to call her late on a Friday afternoon and asked how her day was going. Apparently it had been rough.

Luckily, Curtis had learned that this particular woman loved a good Diet Pepsi, so he decided to jump in his car and run to the store where he bought a Thermos and a 6-pack of Diet Pepsi. He then delivered the gift to the potential client as she was heading out for the evening. They have been friends ever since, and still stay in contact.

“Most sales people stop working Friday afternoons,” added Jeff Rust, Corporate Alliance co-founder and CEO. “That call happened at 4 p.m. on a Friday.”

Impressed with her experience hearing Mayor Curtis speak, Trish Byington of BBSI in Orem, said this story struck her most dramatically. “I loved the challenge of working on Friday afternoons from 3-5 p.m.,” she said.

When asked what his biggest takeaways were from the morning speech, Preston Smith, owner of Eskaped, said that “looking for the good was awesome. It is so true. It helps me as a business leader. Running a new business so hard.“