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IAM2054 – CEO Raises Awareness About the Role of Creative Thinkers in Business

Podcast Interview with Catherine Lane Cline

In this episode, we have Catherine Lane Cline, President and CEO of Portfolio Creative and host of the Secret Art of Business podcast.

Catherine shares her journey from being an art student to establishing a staffing company specialized in marketing talent in 2005.

She delves into the importance of creative thinking in business and how her company serves as a liaison between talent and companies, ensuring both sides get the best experience.

Catherine's passion for creativity, innovation, and helping others shines through as she discusses her motivations, the challenges and rewards of her role, and her approach to making impactful connections in the business world.

Additionally, Catherine offers insights into the value of knowing your ‘why' and the significance of aligning your work with your passions for a fulfilling career.


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Full Interview:


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Catherine Lang-Cline Teaser 00:00

So we're working both sides of the desk here and that we want to make sure that our clients are having a great experience getting only the best candidates. So they might only get three out of 300 resumes. And on the talent side, it's you know what? You don't want to work here. You're not going to be a good fit, but we do know where you will be a great fit.

Intro 00:12

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of.

This is the I Am CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:41

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I Am CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Catherine Lane Klein. Catherine, excited to have you on the show.

Catherine Lang-Cline 00:49

Thanks so much for having me today. I'm really excited to chat with you.

Gresham Harkless 00:52

Yes, absolutely. I'm super excited to have Catherine on. She's doing so many awesome things. But of course, before we jump into that, I want to read a little bit more about Catherine so you can hear about some of those awesome things.

And Catherine is the President and CEO of Portfolio Creative. And the host of the Secret Art of Business podcast. She started portfolio creative back in 2005, when there was a need in the region for a staffing company, specializing in marketing talent.

Prior to being a business owner, Catherine had a 15-year career in marketing, working for both small and Fortune 100 companies. The motivation behind establishing the staffing company and the podcast is to raise awareness about the indispensable role of creative thinkers in business or formula for equal, equalizing business and creative strings have to be acknowledged in the community through numerous awards and honors that she's held.

And I had the pleasure of being the guest on Catherine show. It's definitely an awesome show and she's a phenomenal guest and she's an awesome force overall. She's had numerous awards and accolades. She was the former National Association of Women, Business Owners board president. She also certified with the American Staffing Association serves as a board member and executive committees for the Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Columbus Arts Council.

She's a phenomenal person. So super excited that we get to have you on the show. Pick your brain a little bit. Are you ready to speak to the I Am CEO community, Catherine?

Catherine Lang-Cline 02:00

I am so ready.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:02

Let's get it started then. So to kick everything off, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit here a little bit more on how you got started, what I call your CEO story.

Catherine Lang-Cline 02:07

Okay. I, essentially got into marketing by accident. I was that art kid, everybody remembers the art kid in school where they were asked, can you draw me this or the teachers always said that you did an excellent job at something.

So I took a lot of pride in that and I had to figure out how was I going to do this. continuously rather than work the factory like my family did. So I really came together with a plan to put myself through college in order to get that. So, when I got to college though, I thought, art student, this is fantastic.

Only to find out that a lot of artists don't necessarily make this a career. It has always seen a little bit of as a hobby, but they did offer some career paths. One of which was in marketing and design. I chose marketing much to my benefit because in marketing, they had a class where you learn how to use a computer, specifically the Macintosh, which I date myself by saying, it was brand new and people were saying this.

It was going to I graduated, was a little bit lost, but then I interviewed for this job in advertising and I am pretty sure I got the job because I was the only candidate that knew how to use a Mac at the time and they want to convert everything over. So I don't know if I was necessarily the best, but I knew how to use the stuff to get them going forward.

So that's how I got into advertising and marketing and I've had jobs in design and advertising and marketing. And then I also would freelance. Intermittently throughout this meeting. I had a job, got a little bored, freelance, got a job, again, freelance, got a job again. At each one of those intervals, I always found that it was challenging to negotiate your rate.

to provide value for what you did. So there was just a time where I ran into somebody that I was working with who is now my business partner. And we came to the conclusion, yeah, it's really hard not only to find people at the price you want that are available, but it's also as a freelancer difficult to come in and Say, this is what I would like to make hourly and somebody would say that's great, but we're only going to pay half that.

And you have to work in between, where that would be. So we, at the time decided we're going to do something that nobody else was doing, which was really specialized in this space. A lot of staffing agencies. Adapted, rules for this, but it was not their high priority because it was not a high-traffic area.

Obviously, admins and factory workers and health care, the numbers are much greater, but we really like this niche a lot. It's all we wanted to do. So we became the liaison between the talent and the kid and the companies where we would negotiate the rate, have a lot of hard conversations, find them the right person because we had a much larger database than they could possibly have.

And we've been doing that now for 19 years, which is so crazy. And of course other companies have now decided, Hey, this is a great idea. Let's do this too. But we've always stayed very true to the fact that, we really believe. In what we do, these are the roles that we did in many cases, or we worked with people that did do them.

So we feel like that. We really embrace just the whole, the value of it in general. It's not just numbers for us. It's actually trying to help people with their careers. And I decided to take that a step further with the podcast, which is a secret art of business where I am talking to people about, you know what, this is a value to everybody.

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If you're a banker, if you are a marketing person that you need to have this power on the right side of your brain to and if you're lucky, you tapped into the whole time like myself, but there are some people that just always dabbled in it and they were the ones that ended up being successful.

They're the ones that invent careers are the ones that are innovative and creative and have a little more in touch with. Experience for their clients and things like that. So I'm trying to make that valuable again by talking to successful people, yourself included, and an understanding that you have to be fully dimensional and not just always driven, always putting in the hours the grind, all that sort of stuff.

It can be fun too, because you get to think about fun and innovative things.

Gresham Harkless 04:59

Yeah, I absolutely love that. And I appreciate you so much in sharing your journey, because I think that by sharing that it really comes true with everything you've been able to do. It's, and the word that's popping in my head is alignment and just how all those things happen in alignment where you had those jobs, those opportunities that you're now helping people to find, and you've been doing this, just scratching the surface.

I bet on that 19 years and getting started and being able to do those awesome things.

Catherine Lang-Cline 05:15

What I have found that has been, Most interesting when I talk about people that have always stayed in touch with their creative side a lot of people think it's I don't draw.

I'm not creative. A lot of the entrepreneurs that I talk with, we go back to what they did what they did as a kid. And that's where our true creative side is, before people said, you know what, stop fooling around, get to work, quit playing. And a lot of the people that, Are really in tune with that creative side are the ones that did a lot of imaginary play and daydreaming when they were a kid and everybody would say, focus, quit daydreaming, but that was your right brain.

Wanted to take over for a little bit and just say, you know what? I can think bigger. I can do bigger things. I can do greater things. And it was always stifled a little bit. And it's the kids that did like these long bike rides in nature or played in the woods or, created mud pies and trying to sell them to their neighbors and things like that.

That's, It's the stuff we're talking about. It's not a person who sat at the easel or in front of the drawing book. It's all of that. That is what makes the innovation and the creativity sparkle when we get older too. It's and that's why always one of the questions I ask people when they're on my podcast, what'd you do as a kid?

So when everybody think about that, what did you do that you really loved before somebody said to get to work, and let's go back to that because that is so valuable.

Gresham Harkless 06:06

Yeah, absolutely. And that's why I love that. Everything that you're doing. I remember being on the show and just talking about that and tapping into that because I feel like that plants a lot of seeds of the essence of who you are as an individual.

So I know you touched a little bit upon like how you serve your clients. I wanted to drill down and see if there's a little bit more that you could take us through on how you're making that impact and serving the clients that you work with.

Catherine Lang-Cline 06:19

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. When and I this is something that everybody can relate to when they post for a job They will get maybe 50 resumes a lot of them aren't even a match because there are people out there That's like I'm just gonna apply because I like this company and I just want to see if they have an opening in my space so you are gonna get a lot of static around any job that you post What we can do is really look at first we can get all those out of the way for you.

And then we can really look at the skill experience, the personality of the people too, because the thing is with marketing and creative and things like that, it's a little deeper than having two lines of numbers match up. It is. About personality. It's about skill set. It's about, what they've done in the past.

For an example, a person that wants a corporate job, for example, is not going to be the same person that you put it in an advertising agency because advertising agency wants you to say, Hey, we've got a new client. We need a great new idea. Let's reinvent this. Let's rebrand. If you're in a corporate situation, They have a brand.

Don't commit it. Think that you're going to change the world. You're going to basically, it's a little more pigeonholed, but they do want great ideas too. So it's a different personality that can do that. And it's a different skillset. So you have to be really careful in understanding what everybody's capable of doing.

So we can vet a lot of people in that regard. And one of the things that we do sometimes is not send people candidates because we have not found the right person. We will have them. Sometimes clients will contact us and say, I haven't seen, we do keep in touch but maybe they haven't seen that kid in a week and we're like, you know what, because we haven't met the person yet, we have talked to 40 people and they are not a fit and you know what, we've saved you a heck of a lot of time going through this and sometimes it's a matter of something might look like a fit.

But we call them and we talk to them and their goals might not be in alignment with the company either. So there's a lot of nuance that kind of goes along with that. And we're very familiar with how that all operates because we were those people. And we're like, we now have talked to this candidate.

We really have an understanding of what they're doing. I'm going to keep them in mind. This person, this company ever needs an opening cause it'd be great for that. And so that company may call me and get them something the next day and say, we have the perfect person for you. Or sometimes we'll call them ahead of time and just say, I don't know if you have an opening with the perfect person for you.

So we're working both sides of the desk here and that we want to make sure that our clients are having a great experience getting only the best candidates. So they might only get three out of 300 resumes. And on the talent side, it's you know what? You don't want to work here. You're not going to be a good fit, but we do know where you will be a great fit.

And sometimes it has to include a little therapy along the way too, because the clients get frustrated. So we're trying to talk them off the ledge and we have some candidates that call to say, Oh my God, I just need a job or I hate where I'm working. Can you please find me something? Or I just, Got up and quit because I couldn't take my job anymore.

How fast can you get before I call my wife? Can you get me another job? So, there's a lot of different, moving parts for this that are not typical that we deal with and you know Honestly, that's the best part of our job. We really really love that part And the winning part of this is when we can make that match, but we're here for all of that just to be really a strong part of the community in general and help people get to where they need to go.

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Gresham Harkless 08:32

Yeah, that's so huge. And I appreciate you breaking that down. And I think in the NPS store, I know people that, and I'm people, honestly, that may not know what that is.

What is that referencing that NPS score?

Catherine Lang-Cline 08:39

It is a survey that gets sent out to our clients and our talent to make sure that we're doing a good job. And it's a scale of 1 to 10 on how they rate our experience. And like I said, it's funny because sometimes we'll get a written note that says, Oh my God, you guys were excellent.

I'll give you an 8. And we're like I'm going to

take that with a grain of salt a little bit, but we just like to know that we're doing a good job and you do make yourself a little vulnerable by doing that. Because they will tell you if something has gone wrong, but we have done this long enough where we know how to get it right. I guess it's probably the best way of putting it.

We understand what people need and a lot of it is just listening. A lot of it is just that, keeping in touch. It's simple stuff. It's simple human stuff.

Gresham Harkless 09:09

Yeah, absolutely. But I appreciate you breaking that down. And I think and I love that you've talked about everything is an all sunshine and rainbows and goes perfectly.

And I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an Apple book or even a habit that you have. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Catherine Lang-Cline 09:21

For me and everybody knows, he knows it knows this is that it is a rock solid calendar.

I have to have everything scheduled. Otherwise it will not happen. And I even tell my family that if it's not in the calendar, it's not going to happen. If it is, I will get it done. One of my strengths is responsibility when it comes to the StrengthsFinder. And  if I say I'm going to do it, it's going to happen.

If it's in the calendar, it's going to happen. And with that said, I will put time in for, I don't want to, I hate using the word reparation because I said it, but white brain things, cause like I said, the lesson I'm trying to preach here, where and I would really advise other people to do this, too, because a lot of the best ideas come in those quiet times in those moments where we are stepping away from our work.

So schedule that time. And the 1 thing that always makes me laugh about. Some of that is like people say, Oh, what you need to do is you need to take a walk or you need to meditate or, and I'm like, you know what? Meditation for me is just an explosion of thought and I can't have a quiet mind. So I have a few other things.

So that's where the drawing comes out. The painting comes out. If it's a walk, it might be with a podcast. I won't leave in fiction books along with my business. Books, because you have to get away from that left brain for a little bit to get the best ideas. So schedule that time in a really be sacred with your weekends if you can because you do need that time to be more effective in your business if you do that.

So I have regimented meetings, the meetings with people all at the same time. I have certain days for lunches I have to have, like I said, my start time might be. Earlier than other people, but my shutdown time is earlier than other people, too, because I know where I am the most effective.

So the calendar is my hack. I have to have everything in there. So I stay on schedule So I you know record the podcast write the blogs spend time with my team spend time with my family So that is what I do

Gresham Harkless 10:40

Nice, I absolutely love that. So what would you consider to be a little bit more of what I call a CEO nugget?

So this could be like a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It might be something you would tell a client, or if you hopped into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Catherine Lang-Cline 10:50

Oh gosh, I would probably just say, always remind yourself about your why. And if you don't know what your why is, figure that out.

And that's the thing that's going to keep you supercharged with your day. I think a lot of entrepreneurs, CEOs, sometimes will get lost in the minutiae of the job. And it's easy to do because there is so much of it, especially if you have to report to a board or if you have to report to a large team or the numbers aren't where they need to be.

And that's a lot of pressure coming from a lot of different things and you can really, really, really get caught up in that. But if you keep that, that North star of your, why, of why you're doing this, that is what kind of keeps you centered and brings you back. So if you find that you're, Got your head in your hands because it's been that kind of a day, remind yourself of why you're doing this.

And you might have to ask yourself, why am I doing this? And you might have to find something else, but I, that's the only thing that I've always looked at. We have had some crazy days and we've had, obviously anybody who's had a company in the last, 10 or 20 years has run into, recessions and pandemics and, financial issues, the economy up, down, it's hard to keep track up and that is over here and you gotta keep going back to the why?

Yes, this is all happening. These are all challenges. But this is why I'm doing it.

Gresham Harkless 11:46

Yeah, and I love that. Is because it ends up being, such a strong filter in terms of like you said, if you have those less than ideal days, weeks, months, sometimes years that happened, you want to have that.

Why? Because a lot of times that is the only fuel that you have in, in, in the tank. You didn't have that. Why? You'd be like. And sometimes those great things happen on the other side because you continue to keep going. I'm curious  you mentioned a little bit more like on the podcast, you ask people a lot of times around those like childhood story.

Do you feel like that is connected with that? Why? And a lot of times when people figure out their wise is somehow is connected with those experiences or stories or those things that kind of light them up?

Catherine Lang-Cline 12:13

I would have to say yes, because Yeah. When you are a kid, that is your true form of doing things that you love.

That is what is the unfiltered, nobody's interfering. You're playing games with friends. You're riding bikes, you're doing all these things. And those are the things that you love. And it's always fun to figure out what from that. Got me so excited. And some of my favorite stories about people that have done sports or have done, just going around the neighborhood, talking to the neighbors and things like that.

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Those are the best networkers. Those are the people that are CEOs and they are the best people that are shaking hands, getting people to be their customers because it's the They are having a connection with people. That's what they did as a kid. That's what they really loved. They love hearing people's stories and they loved all of that sort of stuff.

And then there's the people that have done other things that have created experience, people that make the kids that had maybe tea parties, or they were the ones that, created these really elaborate Lego sets or because they're creating an experience. And those are the people that are like, and the, this is Such a, an easy example, but the whole why everybody's I want to be like Apple.

I want to be, like Steve jobs and stuff like that. And what did Steve jobs really do? He created an experience from the moment you open that box of your new iPhone, where you almost hear music play when you slide off the top and it's perfect. That's what they have done. They have created an experience for every single one of their people and or every single one of their customers.

That comes from childhood experiences of knowing how to do that. And, if you were a, if you were a person that created fantastic floor arrangements, or like I said, if you had tea parties for your stuffed animals, you created an experience. So that's the sort of stuff you get. And people would have these, imaginatory things where they create.

These worlds, that's the sort of stuff that is the passion that you need to bring into your business. And many times because of the numbers or like I said, the board or the teams that gets abandoned. So just really think about what did I do that I absolutely loved and how can I interpret that to do what, do that in business or do that with my life.

Sometimes that line can't be drawn, you can't drag that thread through. Then I always encourage people to find some sort of side thing to do that. Also feeds that. So you might have a job that feeds your passion and I run into that a lot with people that are creative. We have placed a number of people that are actors that I might do voiceover and the jobs are not that plentiful.

So they do that as a side hustle, make some money, on the weekends or whatever, but then they have another job. Sometimes that happens too. Yeah. But if you can find something in your job, one little thing that you really, really love doing that's going to provide the longevity and the growth and the enjoyment.

No job should be a complete drag. They're out there. I've had a few, but it's not what I'm doing now. So you just, you learn something while you're there and take it to your next thing, but always know what your why is, why are you doing this? What is your passion? And try to keep chasing that in some way.

Gresham Harkless 14:17

Yeah, I love that. Thanks so much for expanding upon that. So now I want to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And our goal is to have different quote-unquote CEOs on the show.

So Catherine, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Catherine Lang-Cline 14:26

Being a CEO is, oh, it's so many things, but one is I get to do things for people and I, I love, being able to provide people with jobs.

I love to create a world where they have a great work experience. I love to be in a position where I can reward people for their excellence. I love to help. Mentor people and help them grow. So that's a big part of it. The other part of it is that I like to tell people is I have found a place where I can have a job that I don't hate.

I, as a creative person, I changed jobs a lot cause I would get bored or I would not like it. I don't like it there. So I'm going to get something else, so I can't say that was the perfect employee. So I created a job where I get to be a great employee and everything's on me to control.

So those are really like the two things that I really love about being a CEO is I get to be the ultimate, go giver and I get to be, in a position that I've created on my own and just keep the dreaming going, the innovation going and that really feeds my why.

It's fun being a CEO if you can take the pressure because I mean there's other things too that kind of. Keep it going to, but the one thing I'm going to say too, is to be a successful CEO is that you have to be, you have to be in love with solving problems because that's what happens every day.

And I do love that. I love problem-solving. I love strategizing. I love the strategy of all of it. So if you love problem-solving, you could be a CEO.

Gresham Harkless 10:40

Nice. Absolutely love that definition.

So, Catherine, truly appreciate that definition. Of course, I appreciate your time even more. So what I wanted to do now is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know.

And of course, how best they can get ahold of you, find out about all the awesome things you and your team are working on, of course, subscribe to your podcast.

Absolutely. Thank you for that. If you need a creative person, if on your marketing team or just creative in general, we know a lot of different people with different skill sets.

You can reach me at It's super simple. You can also find me on LinkedIn. If you have something that's a little more entrepreneurial-based, I have a podcast that is on YouTube and. Apple and all the places that you can find podcasts. That's called the Secret Art of Business. When we talk more about this creativity and I talked to a lot of fantastic entrepreneurs a lot of what we're working on is just trying to get again, just the best people in the right spots.

We can do direct hire just about anywhere in the country.

When it comes to staffing, we stay regionally because there are a lot of rules and things that go along with personnel that we try to avoid because it's very costly to do staffing in some states. But I would just say, just give us a call and find out, and if not, we would. To help you out and recommend perhaps another company in your area that can help you when it comes to temporary staffing.

But we're more than happy to have the conversation on any level.

Gresham Harkless 16:24

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. And again, we'll have that information and the show notes so that everybody can reach out. Phenomenal things come from just by having a conversation. So thank you for making that so much easier.

So thank you so much for doing that. And I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Catherine Lang-Cline 16:32

Thank you.

Outro 16:32

Thank you for listening to the I Am CEO podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at I Am CEO is not just a phrase. It's a community.

Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our channel. Subscribe to our podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcast, and everywhere you listen to podcasts, subscribe and leave us a five-star rating. This has been the I am CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


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