From Sales Rep To CEO with Erin Cigich

How do you go from being a sales rep to the CEO of a high performing company? In this episode of Best Year Ever, Rob Cressy is joined by Erin Cigich, CEO of Perform[cb], as they jam about Erin’s journey of making that happen. What were the keys to her ascension? What is the dynamic like between being a Mother of two and running a high performing company? How do you protect your energy and know where to give it? How do you create a relationship to time that serves you?

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(note: what follows is an AI-generated transcript from this video. Please be mindful that the transcript may not be 100% accurate)

First question, tell me one thing you do to create your best year ever.

So the thing I do to create my best year ever. I stole from Gretchen Rubin, who is the author of The Happiness Project. And it is to create a 22 for 22 list or a 23 for 23 list. And it’s just 22 things that you want to have happen this year. And I always make it a mix of personal, professional family and like what fills my cup?

And I review it quarterly to make sure I’m making progress towards those things or checking them off the list. And it creates a lot of fun throughout the year.

Oh, I absolutely love that. I’m curious, when it comes to the quarterly check in, is that a calendar notification or what does that look like? Because a lot of people in theory build them about that life. But when it comes time to do the quarterly check in, you’re like, oh, you know what? I got some other more pressing issues to be working on.

So what’s that look like for you?

I’m a big believer in calendaring, so I actually block off the last two days of the quarter in my calendar for both business and personal kind of reset and make sure I’ve reviewed what’s gone well and what are the big things I need to tackle. So if you do that at the beginning of the year, you can actually protect your time and not get booked in a bunch of meetings those days.

And I do try to be conscious of blocking off that time.

Oh, am I excited about this episode? And welcome to Best Year Ever, a podcast designed to inspire growth and impact so you can create your best year ever. And I’m your host, Rob Cressey. And joining me today is Erin Cigich, CEO of Perform[cb]. Erin, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me. Excited to chat.

Erin, this is an episode that is six years in the making and the reason that I’m so excited is because you and I have a long relationship going all the way back to my days of working at CareerBuilder, selling digital advertising sales. But more importantly, six years ago you were my seventh ever business podcast, the longest time when I was building back in sports, I was doing sports podcasts, but as the company evolved from a sports blog and sports media company to a sports marketing content studio, I now wanted to start building relationships with other leaders, CEOs and high performers about their success mindset.

I really didn’t know what I was doing at that time because it’s a brand new thing. Podcasting wasn’t what it is now. It was a pushing a rock uphill. So what did I do? I went to the people that I know now and said, Let me just get some people on that. I feel comfortable talking to. And you were one of them.

And I have to thank you for that, because looking back on it, I am so much better now than I was then. But that that also excites me because that’s sort of the journey of starting anything.

Absolutely. And I mean, I want to thank you, Rob, because you’re one of my very first clients. When I started working at it was called Clickbooth then. It’s Perform[cb] now, but it’s the same business. And I started out in account management and you were one of the first people that I worked with 15 years ago and now worked my way up to CEO of the company.

And so really exciting just to see like how much our careers have evolved and that we still can find ways to work together now.

Yes. And I was looking forward to this because you, one of the people that I am most proud of, because of the exact thing that you just said and having a long term mindset is something that you read in books, you hear in podcasts. And it’s a challenging thing to live, to consistently do something every single day that, you know, contributes to your micro growth.

But you’ve got this big vision that’s out there and hey, day after day, if we do the things consistently, we will get there. Well, all of a sudden, I leave the advertising world and I look and my favorite client goes from sales rep to the CEO of the company. And not only did I love working with you, but I was so proud of you because it’s a journey that I know, even though I didn’t understand everything that went in there, it was one that was a testament to who you are, your mindset, your work ethic, and your ability to make things happen.

And thanks to Rob, I mean, it’s been an exciting ride for sure. And it’s something that, you know, I didn’t join the company thinking I’m going to be CEO one day. It is kind of all of those micro actions that build up over time and get you to where I’m at, but also so exciting to see you like we have CareerBuilder and be an entrepreneur and then find your path in different ways to it’s just really cool because I don’t think either of us would have said this is the seat that I’m going to be in if you asked us ten years ago.

And it just gives you really exciting ideas for what the future might hold to.

It’s, quite frankly, mind boggling to see that if we were to say this is where you and I would be 15 years from now, knowing who I was at that time, being an ad sales party, bro, there is no way. But that is the beauty in all of this and actually why I do what I do, because I lived that way for so long and I saw a different light in a good way.

It didn’t mean that I was bad or anything. No. There is just more that I wanted to create and I wanted to help a lot more people in a different way. And I became self-aware and I adopted a growth mindset in there. And I’m curious to hear from you as you look at that maturation over that 15 years of someone’s life.

All right. I want to go from sales rep to CEO or I have this vision for what I would love to create in my life. What did that look like for you and sort of your steps or your mindset or how you made that happen?

Yeah, I think it’s consistent problem solving and being open to problem solving and learning. So when I joined the company, there was only ten people and it was very much the start up. You get to wear a lot of hats, but that also means that there’s not a lot of people necessarily to learn from. Like we were all just figuring out what the answers were.

And so I will say it’s one of the silliest hats out there, but it really does work. The number of people who don’t just Google the answer and figure it out like there’s so much Internet information on the Internet. So like when I’m trying to learn something new, I will legitimately Google the good question, read the ten articles and then come up with some kind of consensus.

I’m a big believer that there are no new problems in the world. You just have to figure out who else has had to solve this problem and then kind of steal their best practices and test and figure out if it’s going to work for you or work for a company like problem solving mindset and just be being willing to make changes big and often small changes that stack up over time are so impactful.

So impactful for sure.

Oh, I really love that answer. And one of the things that evolves from a problem solving side of things happens when you become a parent. So one of the things that has been new to my world in the last year is my way of gave birth to our first son. A year ago we actually just celebrated our son’s first birthday on Saturday and it was the absolute best.

But you’re someone who you have two kids, correct?


So you are a parent to two daughters who look just like you, by the way. And you’re a high performing CEO of an industry leading company. And I know in my journey there’s a lot of challenges and a lot of them internal. But you actually talked about this at the top of protecting your time. In my relationship to time as an entrepreneur and creator versus creating the time that I want to be there for my son was a challenge for me, not in a negative way, but I went from being able to create and do anything that I wanted all the times I could where that hustle and grind mode on the weekends work until

eight, do whatever I want, and now all of a sudden my son is born in by design. I created a lifestyle where I want to be there for the months in which she’s brought into the world. But that doesn’t mean create or Rob still doesn’t feel time guilt on I things that I could be doing or being more present with my son.

I’m curious what your mindset and evolution has been as a high performer and a parent.

Yeah, so you said the word guilt and that’s such a big thing. Creator Guilt. Mom Guilt is a really big thing. And I think that that from a mindset perspective, that is the number one thing you can do for yourself is get away from the guilt. It’s not it doesn’t serve you. So if you feel guilty while you’re at work that you’re not with your kid and then you feel guilty when you’re with your kid, that you’re not working, nobody’s getting your best work, isn’t getting your best, your kids not getting your best.

And so trying to be very intentional with your mindset of like, no, this is the time I’m going to spend with my kids and I’m going to be really focused on that, or this is the time I’m going to be at work and I’m going to be really focused on that. Now, that doesn’t always work, right? And sometimes that looks like waking up before the kids are up or working after they go to bed.

And sometimes that looks like there’s a hurricane day and the kids are home from school and you’re also working. But I think being flexible with yourself, giving yourself grace is really important. And then another author that I love, her name is Laura VANDERKAM, and she does all these time use studies and has written like five books. Her thing is all on time use.

But when you actually have people track their time, you have a lot more time than you think. Even as a CEO who is CEO of a big growth private equity company, I do have time and I have to be using it intentionally, not scrolling on Instagram, not letting other things eat up my time. Like how do you go through and track and optimize those?

Because it’s the richness of your time that matters, not like the minutes of it and how it works out.

I love that in one of the things that I believe is the most under talked about an underdeveloped skill is exploring our relationship to time. So the good news is any time I feel judgment, self limiting beliefs or fears I’ve trained myself as a creator to have a little flag go off that goes ding, ding, ding. What’s going on with this thing that’s not serving you right now?

It’s like, Oh, all right, I got a hole in my boat. Let me explore what’s going on here. In one of the things that we created with my coach and I was on the receiving end was this perspective I am that I create more output by working less and you’re like, Oh, well, what could that look like? So if I go from having, let’s call it 8 hours a day and for the first three months while my wife is on maternity, let’s say I’m only working an hour and a half by design.

Well, what would it look like for in that hour and a half for me to actually create more output than I would be if I was working 8 hours in? The big thing that I loved about this was the frequency that it put me on from a perspective standpoint. So instead of living in lack and not enough isn’t guilt like I was like you talked about, I then said, all right, I’m open to this possibility that this is possible, that I can actually be better in an hour and a half than I am and working for 8 hours.

Like. Right. What has to be true for this to be true? And I’m like, well, number one, I could build a larger team, I could delegate more. I could also be more powerful in that hour and a half. So like you talked about with not being on Instagram or your phone in distress actions, what if all of a sudden you only had an hour and a half to work on just the most important stuff?

Well, if we take the Pareto Principle of the 80/20 rule, we know by design 20% of our results are 80% of our results come from 20% of our actions. Therefore, that hour and a half could be the 20% that I’m working on and everything else doesn’t matter. And I learned that in an experience that when I removed everything off of my plate, except for the only, the most important things in it, created a freedom in myself.

And it taught me a valuable lesson about overwhelm. And this is something that we all experience. But any time that I’m overwhelmed with, I don’t have enough time. I have too much to do. It becomes a signal to chop half of what I’ve got on my plate off of. It’s why? Because I learned an experience just that we will fill the bucket no matter what.

If I’ve got an hour and a half, I’ll fill in an hour and a half. If I’ve got 8 hours, I’ll fill in 8 hours. But oftentimes it’s not the most important or most efficient in. Sometimes it’s okay to not do something that’s good for you or your business.

Yeah, I mean, I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s an interesting way to look at things like as the company has grown, it changes and so I have to be really thoughtful about like where can I add the most value? And because, you know, it’s a bigger company, I’ve got a team that I can rely on. I try to think about like, what is the thing that only I can move the needle on?

Or that if if I didn’t do this, what doesn’t move forward this week? And then I try to make sure that I carve out time for those and prioritize them. So it is when I have moments of, Oh, that meeting got canceled, what can I work on? I know exactly what I’m going to and I can block off calendar.

Time to go. Hey, these are my three initiatives for the quarter and if I don’t do them, nobody is doing them in my organization. And so I’ve got to get these done and prioritize it that way. And then I try to know what that is for each of my direct reports too, so that I can ask them about only those things and really help to focus their energy on what are the big things that they can do that only they can do that helps move our business forward.

And speaking of energy, I want to circle back on something that you said on potentially working after the kids go to bed. And I’ve even mentioned this on a podcast, but a few weeks ago, after a day where I was up at 5 a.m. and worked on my goals and my vision and my dreams and everything all day, and then tried to cook dinner and finally put my son to bed at 8:00.

The night was there. And I’m I was just exhausted. I was tired. But I don’t believe in the phrase I am tired because that’s an identity and I’m not about to create that self-limiting belief for myself. So you will not hear me speak. I am tired and that’s a very challenging thing to do. The end of a long day.

And I realized that there’s a difference between emptying the tank, giving all on my day, doing the things that are aligned to my health, wealth, love, happiness, family and work in being tired, which can be a different state of being right there. And once I understood that, it actually made me feel good about the way that I see the end of my days around my energy.

Because once again, here comes the time and energy guilt of Rob, who says, well, there are still some things on my get to do list that I would love to get to do. But it’s also 8:00 and I’ve been up for the last 15 hours doing things full time. But I’m curious from you on what that looks like from a work side of things, because I have found that even though I was raised in the hustle and grind culture and I loved it and that’s a part of my tool belt, I’m also to the point now where energetically I’m okay not working after my son goes to bed because I know that my energy level

is different and I’m not likely to be as productive and I don’t wear the badge of armor that I used to. And I also know that I can still create things for tomorrow. What’s that look like for you? Because it’s a challenging dynamic that I think a lot of high performers struggle with or experience on a regular basis.

Yeah, so having to work after the kids go to bed is definitely more the exception than it is the rule. If I’m running my week well and I don’t have something unpredictable come up, then that’s not an expectation that I have for myself. And it is, you know, 15 years of consistency and knowing that if you work a bunch of late night over and over and over again, eventually you just burn out and you’re very unproductive for a set of time.

Like we have some people on our team, I think, that are still learning this lesson where they will run themselves ragged and then they need to take five days off to recuperate. And it’s like, well, you actually end up being a whole lot less productive than if you would just work a more consist stint manageable schedule and have like your full brain firing to right, you know, going in these marathon work sessions or these marathon meetings, a lot of times by the end, the ideas are just not as good and you’d be way better off taking a break, hanging out with your kids, going for a run, etc..

That’s the other thing is like I find that if I am training, I’m a runner, a long distance runner, I’m slow, but I will do it. But if I’m training for a race, I know you have crazy story around your marathon. I’ve never done a marathon. I’m doing half. But I find that if I ask my if I’m training for a race, I’m more productive at work now.

It takes more time out of my overall allotment right to train for a half marathon. But it also makes me so much more focused and I have a higher level of attention and energy when I do sit down at the computer. So it’s like when you ask more from yourself, I think you can expect more from yourself, but you got to fill the different pieces.

And that is something that I learned when I did 84 Seles 75 Hard Mental Toughness Challenge, and he has the year long live hard program and as part of it for 75 straight days, you do a 45 minute workout indoors, in a 45 minute workout outdoors every day for 75 straight days, no fail and the big reason why people do not do it is they overdramatize, well, I don’t have enough time to do it.

But here is one of the things that you learn in 75 hard is because you’re so much more accountable to your time because you’re doing more. You actually create more time because there’s less time for the things that don’t serve you. Because by design, you might go from working out a few days a week for 30 minutes to an hour and a half every day for two and a half months.

So it’s a complete mind band on how am I going to do it physically? How am I going to do it mentally? Where is this time going to come? But guess what? You create the time in circling back around to our relationship to time. It’s something that I’ve become an expert on because I love to create with time.

And so many people say, I don’t have enough time and you’re never going to hear me say that because it’s a self-limiting belief, because when you understand that you are the architect of your life, then you can become the architect of your days and become the architect of your moments. And time is something that is a blessing because, Erin, when you take your children to Disney World, you’re like, oh, my God, this is the best day ever.

It was a blessing when it was my son’s first birthday, or I had him at Halloween and we dressed up as sharks. Time was a blessing, so we know that time can be a positive for us, but when we feel overwhelmed or something’s not going right, it’s mean congruence in our life. It can feel heavy and it can feel like an anvil on our chest, whether it’s anxiety or overwhelm.

But the greatest thing that I learned this year in 2022 was the gift of peace and how I could give myself peace. And I learned through doing the internal work that peace is just a choice. In one of the areas in which I have chosen to give myself peace is around my relation ship to time. Imagine for just a second if you were to say I’m removing that, I don’t have enough time from my vocabulary.

Vocabulary that no longer exists in me, that I am, that I always have more than enough time to get everything done. And I’m at peace with. If I don’t get something done, it’s okay because I can just do it again tomorrow. And it dropped the anvil from me and it’s like the world went from black and white to color because I gave myself in.

The word is freedom. Peace creates freedom. And if you can create peace and freedom around your relationship to time, you never will burn yourself out because you’re in charge of your time without living in this scarcity. In the lack of I’ve got to do, I’ve got to do, I’ve got to do. I’ve got to or I need to do I need to do.

Yeah. I mean, that’s fascinating. I think that for me, I can sometimes get anxious around like getting the kids out the door. They need to be at an activity on time. And when I’m at my best, I’ll say like we have all the time that we need. Because you’ll see as the kids get older that the worst thing you could possibly do is let a kid know that you’re running late because then they’ve lost their shoes and they can’t find their juice box and they want to watch one more thing on TV.

So like, you have to you can’t let them know that that’s the energy that we’re running late or it will actually take you three times the amount of time to get out the door. And so, like trying to be content that we have all the time that we need actually gets you out the door faster than letting them know that you’re behind and you got to pick up speed.

But the whole anxiety around like getting from school to aftercare to this activity to that can create some anxiety in my life. It’s actually more stressful than running a company at times.

So I want to end on this. Erin, you said two things when I am at my best. Dot, dot, dot. So philosophically, I understand that if I can show up and be my best once, then due to the power of consistency, like you said, 15 years of consistency, creating that energy, creating that mindset, then why would I ever choose to not show up as my best at all times?

I mean, it’s a great question. You said because she used to show up at your best at all times. Why do you not do it? I don’t know. I think that you can not let the outside world get in and that’s not right. And then you’ve got to get back to what your routine is like. I have a bullet journal or so.

I got one of those and you go through and I write my ten affirmations and this is what I need to highlight on. And when I do that, the world is right. And so knowing that you take the time to do that or whatever your thing is that centers, are you taking the time to do it? Owning your time puts you in a much better headspace for sure.

And then the last thing is you said the energy of we are running late. So to me I’m like, wait a second, energy is something that we can create and that we can control. So we can choose to be frenetic in an anxiety ridden, or I can be at peace with the fact that I am late and I’ll end this on something that I helped a client with.

His wife was always late, and when they would go to dinner, she’d be 15 minutes late, and he would immediately get angry and upset, and then it would ruin their dinner. And this is happening habitually early. So he’s like, Rob, I don’t want this to be the experience anymore. So I said, All right, well, what if every time your wife came out late, you danced with her?

He’s like, What? I was like, Yeah, meet the negative. Because you can choose in that moment her being late can’t do anything about, but you can choose how you show up a.k.a the energy in which we do these things. He’s like, Cool, I’ll try that. He reports back a few weeks later. He’s like, Rob, it is great. She’s laughing.

I’m laughing. Were dancing and this is where a new creation in the Declaration came. I am that I dance with time because time is really a dance like a wave. Somedays you’re late because the kids and work and traffic and all of these things somedays you’ve got all the time in the world you’re going for a run in the sun is shining.

But imagine having the energy of I am that I dance the time so that no matter what happens in our lives, we know. You know what? Sometimes I’m on the up wave, sometimes I’m on the down wave just like the way we dance.

Love it. Absolutely love it. Great piece of advice.

So, Erin, there is so much goodness in here. I’m looking forward to everyone who gets to consume the little micro nuggets that we’re going to create from this. Where can everybody connect with you?

So the best place to connect with me is on LinkedIn and you can find me at Erin Cigich.

And I want to hear from you. There was so much goodness in this episode about parenting, consistency, relationship to time. Is there anything that we said that cause you to think or take action? If so, I would love to hear about it. You can hit me up on all social media platforms is at Rob Cressy.


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