Meet Mark Frissora: The CEO who Fixes Companies From the Ground Up

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Grit is hard to define. Some describe it as “sticktoitiveness.” Merriam-Webster’s entry for it reads “mental toughness and courage.” In her famous TED Talk on the topic, Angela Lee Duckworth says grit is “passion and perseverance for very long term goals.”

If you ask Mark Frissora, he will tell you that grit is the key to being a great leader. It is what empowers leaders to push through when they face great challenges. And Frissora should know. He is the CEO who fixes companies from the ground up, relying on positivity, flexibility, and grit to turn situations around that most would consider impossible.

The power of grit 

Mark Frissora is a Fortune 500 business executive, Board Chairman, and non-executive board member with more than 40 years of experience in senior corporate leadership for both public and private companies with a global footprint. That history demonstrates Frissora’s skills of decisiveness, optimism, resilience, courage, clear communication, and inclusivity, to name only a few.

But Frissora also brings grit to what he does. His relentlessness and unwillingness to quit has made him the go-to CEO for companies that need rescuing.

“I’m very fond of the quote ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way,’ and have focused on that saying my entire life,” said Frissora. “I consider myself a person with grit who never gives up. I always try my hardest to stay positive when I am faced with adversity.”

The most recent test of Frissora’s grit came when he served as CEO at Caesars Entertainment Corporation, a position he took in 2015, just one week after the company filed for bankruptcy. Within a few weeks of joining Caesars, Frissora began pursuing new growth opportunities and exploring innovations that reinvigorated the company.

One of his successes included initiatives to attract younger customers, introducing skill-based games that appealed to these demographics. He also assembled an industry-leading team that generated record employee and customer satisfaction scores in a fiercely competitive business landscape.

After just two years at the helm, Frissora took Caesars from bankruptcy to the most profitable gaming operation in Las Vegas.

“A fighting spirit always seems to win if you remain positive,” he said. “I think my attitude is part of the reason I’ve been successful in CEO positions. Being the head of a company comes with many tough assignments and responsibilities.”

Focusing teams with optimism

Frissora’s supportive, can-do attitude has empowered him to steer organizations through tough times on more than one occasion, including the 2008 recession.

Frissora took the helm of Hertz Global Holdings, Inc., as Chairman and CEO in the second half of 2006. Within three years, the world was in the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Knowing that leaders cast big shadows, he chose to encourage his team during this difficult time by leading with optimism.

“Staying positive and not allowing the organization to feel sorry for itself, is the most critical role that a leader plays during challenging times,” Frissora said. “A leader needs to project positive energy; patting people on the back, reinforcing the good, and getting rid of the bad.

In my experience, working with people in a positive way by praising all of their accomplishments and only suggesting ways for that individual to be more effective has been a successful way to lead.”

Despite the challenges posed by the Great Recession, Frissora led Hertz to new heights, reshaping the company from a single on-airport car rental brand to a global market leader with a portfolio that extended across both consumer and business segments. In 2014, Reuters credited him with helping Hertz to grow into a $12.7 billion company, which was more than two-and-a-half times what the company was valued at in 2006.

“If you think of it, going through tough times together creates a bond, even within a big company like Hertz,” Frissora said. “Leading with optimism and positivity raises everyone’s spirits. During that season at Hertz, all of the employees stepped up and contributed. Working together, we were able to come out of the other side of a dark situation and build something positive and new.”

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