Every year, the Charlotte Business Journal recognizes 40 individuals under the age of 40 who are making major strides in their careers, guiding the Charlotte area’s development as a major business hub and having a positive impact on their communities.
This year, we are thrilled to announce our own John Sutton is a 2015 winner. True to tradition, John participated in a number of weekly challenges designed to reveal personal details about the winners. Our favorite? This incredible “hidden talent” video in which John, an avid volleyball player, brilliantly blurs the line between “talent,” and “jumping.” Watch:
Outside of jumping, John is a father-to-be, a coach, an impactful community leader and a major disruptor in the digital marketing space. We sat down for an exclusive Q&A to talk about the award and to get to know him a little better.
Q: First things first: Is it true your hair is conditioned with lemon juice and mermaid tears?
A: No comment.
Q: Did you always know you’d grow up to be a digital marketing genius?
A: I’d say I got started in digital marketing when I was a junior in high school, when I built a website for the electronics store my Dad had backed at the time (their first site). This was just at the start of the dot-com boom, so we were way ahead of big-box retailers – and it had a huge impact on the business. I immediately understood the power of technology in business, and I ran with it.
Q: You’ve had some incredible professional breakthroughs since then. Can you give us a quick look at the career path you’ve taken up to this point?
A: Sure. In college I studied computer information systems and business, and I co-founded a start-up specializing in Internet marketing strategy and paid search. I joined Red Ventures (in 2009) as a director of paid search and helped increase profits by more than 98% in my first year. That gave me more freedom to develop my own team dedicated to building new technology to drive performance, which we did. The products we developed over 18 months ended up adding $20 million in profit. In my current role, I lead a team of engineers and analysts dedicated to disrupting the digital marketing space in regards to how quickly and efficiently we’re able to create value for our brand partners.
Q: You forgot that one part about being a professional volleyball player.
A: Ha, yes I was a Division 1 player in college and yes; I played professionally for a little while. I still play competitively in the RV Volleyball league, but I’ve mostly retired to coaching young players.
(John’s jumping ability looks much cooler in context.)
Q: Tell us more about your coaching experience.
A: When I lived in Chicago, I started a nonprofit volleyball club for high-school girls in the Central-Illinois Region and helped prep players for the collegiate level. Most recently, my wife and I began volunteering as mentors and coaches with the Providence Day School indoor volleyball teams. We also built a sand court in our backyard, which is always in use by competitive players in the region who want to train on sand.
Q: There’s a lot of overlap between sports and business at RV. Any overlap between your coaching style and management/leadership style?
A: Absolutely. I understand the value of aligning our employees with their passions, and I’m passionate about pushing people to challenge preconceived notions about what’s possible. Any time we hit a roadblock, we look for ways around it as a team, often going beyond what’s practical or even inventing new technologies/solutions entirely. Our game plan is simple: take risks, fail fast – and break records.
Q: How else are you involved in the Charlotte community?
A: My wife and I are both very active members of the Ballantyne Country Club’s Rally for the Cure, which raises awareness for breast cancer. It’s a fantastic organization that’s raised more than $1 million since 2004, and it was also the first Rally inducted into the Lifetime Pink Ribbon Circle.
Q: One last (very important) question. How high did you really jump in that video?
A: Really, really high.
Thanks John, and congratulations to ALL CBJ 40 Under 40 Winners this year!