Maria Harrison | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Maria Harrison


Maria Harrison is the president of the Fort Lauderdale–based Bullseye Strategy, a digital conversion optimization agency.

The Mistake:
didn’t really understand core values and how they can set up a team for success or failure, so [our company] didn’t have identified core values. We weren’t really able to communicate to our team how we wanted them how to proceed, and it hurt when we were recruiting. We didn’t have something to point to and say, “Do these things.” 

Digital media is a 24/7 world. Just because we’re off on Saturday and Sunday doesn’t mean social media is off. For example, we had a client [whose Facebook page] we were managing, and a prospective customer had some concerns and needed feedback. I put in a call to my social media manager over the weekend, but she said [never to call her then].

Needless to say, within three days she was terminated.

So we struggled in the early days with [keeping] the right people on our team. We’d hire someone only to find out this person didn’t really fit into our organization. We were looking at skill set, experience, degree, certifications — the hard skills and not so much the soft skills, like communication.

If we’d had those values in place, I think we would be two years ahead of where we are right now.

When hiring, screen people according to your core values.

The Lesson:
I asked [successful] mentors and other entrepreneurs, “You’ve got a great team. How did you build that?” And they answered: “It’s our core values. It gives [the team] a guide.”

[Bullseye Strategy] has identified passion, excellence, curiosity, personalized service and results as the core values [it believes are] needed to be successful.

Our core values now drive hiring and firing decisions. They drive how our clients are treated and our [employees’] behavior every day in our office. 

So the biggest lesson we learned was: When hiring, screen people according to your core values. We talk about them often so that people here know what they are. In sales pitches, weekly production meetings, when a client needs work product on a Friday night — we keep our [core values] front and center.

If we start to see somebody slipping, if something feels off with an employee, I can usually track it back to a core value. In our semiannual and annual review, we [try to] reinvigorate the employee for a good match and help [that person] transition to a better fit.

We’ve ended up with team members who all really like each other. We’re not a company where people can hide. Everybody has to collaborate with one another. Getting everybody on the same page and living on that page has let that collaboration flow freely. We’ve learned that core values follow you throughout your life and define you as a person.

Follow Bullseye Strategy on Twitter at @bullseyestrat.

Photo courtesy of Maria Harrison

Do you have a good story you’d like to share or know someone we should feature? Email

And be sure to sign up for your local newsletter from Crain's Miami.