When Corey Michael Blake felt he wasn’t living in alignment with his own purpose, he left a successful career in acting and directing to found Round Table Companies (RTC) in 2005. RTC, a storytelling company, supports clients as they articulate and amplify their purpose and values, share their story, build a community, and impact lives.
RTC has published nearly 100 books and has a growing community of more than 12,000 subscribers. Over his decade of leading RTC, Corey has grown the company to more than $5M in revenue and built a staff of nearly 40 writers, editors, designers, illustrators, and operations personnel.
Now that RTC is self-sustaining, Corey is delving deeper into his work helping a wide range of audiences find and follow their purpose, change their mindset and culture, align their brands, and leave a legacy.
What’s most exciting to you at this point in your career?
Now that RTC is running well with far less needed from me, I feel a strong responsibility to share what we’ve learned over the last 10 years with the world. That means I’m getting out into the world to speak and create safe spaces for people where profound connection to self and others is possible.
Most purpose-driven organizations follow one of two paths; 1.) they either desire to make a meaningful difference through their products/services in the lives of their clients/customers, or 2.) they desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of their employees. Of those 2 paths, which do you feel is most relevant to your organization?
Both are imperative to our mission. We are dedicated to creating transformation in the lives of all our stakeholders. That requires a lot of time, intention, and investment, but it is imperative to the long term sustainability of our organization.
Give me an example of when you inspired people with a vision.
One of my clients runs a residential services company for people with disabilities. They wanted to reach more families at their time of greatest need. Instead of working with a traditional marketing company to meet their clients, we introduced the vision of a library of books celebrating the hero’s journey these families are on. To date we have written and published 18 books and comic books for these families and last December we launched an online community that has already signed up nearly 8,000 parents, educators, and healthcare professionals. I am incredibly proud to have helped build this vision with their CEO and to be putting so much worthy content into the world that these families are desperate for.
Do you feel it’s your sole responsibility as the CEO to drive towards the vision, or do you allow others in your organization to take the lead?
I definitely see it with more clarity than others in the organization so they do still rely on me for the vision work, as do some of our larger clients.
How would you describe your leadership philosophy?
Leading with Love is our guiding principle as an organization. We work hard to lead with love in all interactions by asking the question, “what would this look like if we came from love?”
What’s the greatest compliment you’ve ever been given in your time as a leader?
Anytime someone says our work has changed their life. Recently our Director of Ops shared how our work together has empowered her towards a profound shift with her husband. I think seeing people be changed at work and then see that carry over into their home life is such a blessing. I also hear it from clients or people who hear me speak and it is a wonderful gift every time. This is one I received last week from the founder of a magazine who attended a workshop I led:
“You are profound. You are immense. You are loved, admired, and appreciated by those that you touch. You changed my life today and I hope you know how important the work that you’re doing is and how much you inspire those around you.”
I am reminded that I’m living my purpose when I receive such beautiful words.
Tell me about how you’ve scaled your organization. What was a defining moment or decision you made that put you on that path?
For some time, I have felt the responsibility to protect more people’s hearts. Our hearts are so delicate. Most people want to make a difference in the world, but they need loving support to live into a greater version of themselves. For the first 7 years of our organization we focused on being a boutique agency that served a small number of clients, but then that sense of responsibility grew and we began the process of scaling to serve and protect more people who want to step out front and stand for something bold and beautiful in the world.
Share with me one of your greatest accomplishments while being incredibly resource disadvantaged.
I started this company on $150. Not $150k, but one hundred and fifty dollars. I operated and grew on profit alone for 7 years before I went to a bank for support on a major initiative that I wanted to promote (which doubled the size of our business between 2012 and 2013). I have always felt that my greatest accomplishment has been the investment I’ve made in our company culture and the personal development of our staff. We’ve never had so much cash flow that this was ever easy; it was always a sacrifice to short term profit, but one that continues to make me proud.
How do you invest in yourself to increase your impact?
This year, I’m a member of the Stagen Leadership Academy (a full year program), while simultaneously studying at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland (an 18 month program). I also work with two executive coaches who support my work in the world. I’m highly dedicated to personal development. It is imperative to showing up with love and leaning into grace, which our work requires.
How does consistent learning and curiosity show up in your organization?
Through my personal development I’m trying to lead by example as best I can and that paves the way by giving people permission and encouragement to grow with me. We also have an executive coach on retainer for our staff to utilize and they take great advantage of that opportunity. As I have continued to leave the organization to speak, or to attend programs and conferences, my staff continues to be pushed to solve issues on their own. I can lovingly say they are doing a masterful job. That’s not to say that we are always perfect, because we are far from it, but I admire how they are learning and challenging themselves and one another at breakneck speeds.
What’s one piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting to hire C-Level talent?
Hire for values alignment above all else.
How do you attract the best and brightest?
Because we have such a vibrant and loving culture we don’t typically have challenges attracting talent. Our staff talks frequently about how they love their work and as a result, their talented friends (who they often went to school with) are frequently waiting in line to get on board with us. My next goal is to create more diversity amongst our staff so we add value to our process through more perspectives.
If you could go back to when you were just starting out at your organization and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you tell yourself?
Your company will be a direct reflection of all your strengths and weaknesses; invest in yourself and your personal growth every single day.
Y Scouts is an executive search firm that unites exceptional organizations with exceptional leaders. This interview is part of our executive interview series, where we ask CEO’s a series of questions about their leadership philosophies and practices. Contact us if you’d like to recommend a CEO to interview, or if you’re looking for a leader to join your team.