Adrian D. Parker. Don’t ask what the “D” stands for.
Marketing leader by day. High-maintenance husband and full-blown father by night. I also direct award-winning music videos. For my family.
Dog or cat?
Dog. Cats hate me, and the feeling has become mutual.
Briefly, what is your story?
Growing up, I had no clue about the food stamps, Salvation Army clothes, multiple jobs and church offerings that sustained our 8-person family. When I was in middle school my dad pulled me aside one night as I was mopping floors at the neighborhood senior citizen center (Parker Janitorial Service was our family side hustle). He said he wouldn’t be able to help me financially with college, so If I really wanted to go I had to send myself. From that day on, I knew I had to work smarter and trust God harder than my classmates. Looking back, I realize poverty was a privilege because we were rich in what mattered.
How would you define your leadership style?
How I lead others matters just as much as where I lead them. I constantly challenge myself, not only to treat others how I want to be treated, but also to follow other leaders the way I want to be followed. I’m keenly aware of all the things I can’t do well, like golf, swim, shuffle cards and differentiate left & right. I believe this dependency on the talents of others shapes how I drive business results. I manage teams by serving them. Though my wife vetoed the idea, I really want to get a tattoo on my forearm that says “It’s not about me.” Instead, I try to live it out daily with varying degrees of success.
What inspires you?
Learning. I’m a CFO, Chief Failure Officer, with an uncanny ability to invent the wrong way to do new things. I launched a line of ESPN fleece hoodies at Foot Looker that my own mother wouldn’t even buy. I ran my own marketing agency for 4 years, right into the ground. I started an online music video site 2 years before YouTube was founded and I ran one of the first MySpace pages for fashion retailer Liz Claiborne. We know how those bets turned out. I’ve practically earned a master’s degree in mediocrity.
At Patrón, my team and I got a lot of credit for doing some really innovative things first, like a 3D virtual tour of our distillery via VR goggles, AR mobile apps, Amazon Alexa voice platforms and a new cocktail recommendation engine. Here’s the secret: that’s the kind of win that only happens when you swing big, and know what striking out feels like.
How would you describe your career journey to get where you are?
I was really into theatre, writing and the arts growing up so I decided a career in marketing was the adult version of those interests. Whether I was working on a Nike TV spot, a NYC fashion event, a Twitter campaign about iPhones or an accounting software launch, I ALWAYS started with the story. And you can’t write the story without listening, learning and understanding who you’re talking to. I’ve rarely had a proactive plan for what I want to do. Like an actor, I take on roles, characters and challenges that interest me while stretching my abilities. It was a privilege to do this within one company for almost 8 years with Patrón and Bacardi and now I’m enjoying the time to advise Founders & CEOS of challenger brands. I started mapping my “Career Journey Line” a few years ago and found it very helpful. Here’s mine.
What is your passion?
Change. Launching and leading positive transformations. For the last 12 years, none of the roles I’ve held existed at the companies before so I love to produce business results with people solutions. I’ve cobbled together a career out of doing things differently—which was the very core of the Patrón Tequila brand. Before that, I launched new products, new teams and new capabilities across the world. The common thread is people. Now, more than ever, we all need inclusive leaders who aren’t afraid to face our biggest problems with kindness, clarity and determination.
I’m also passionate about literal change: money. More specifically, how people spend, save, give, earn and view it. Over the past 3 years I’ve been privileged to partner with 40 different families as they start the journey of getting out of debt and using their resources differently. As someone who has financially face-planted before, I love seeing light bulbs go off when people learn something that changes or challenges their mind.
What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
Fatherhood actually drives a lot of my hobbies now. I have three little life coaches at home that make the words “spare time” laughable — but being a dad to Caleb (9), Chloe (7) and Chandler (4) is my absolute favorite job. I read a lot of books, from business and strategy to faith and memoirs. I write when I can. There’s a book inside my brain that I’d like to get out before I’m buried. I’ve also fallen in love with the people of Uganda and spend time learning from them and helping where I can.
What are you currently reading?
I read several books at a time but The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck has been a solid reference as I master the art of courageous living. I’ve written a few posts about my favorite books on leadership and change.
Are you a Dallas Cowboys fan?
I married one so I pretend to be for 4 months every year.
Any travel tips?
Life is too short to get to the airport too early or spend lots of time in the Admirals Club. Go to the bookstore and read 1 page of a book that you would never buy. Say thanks to a member of the armed forces. Use the first class bathroom on your flight if it’s closer. Text your spouse when you take off and land. I lost my Executive Platinum in 2021 and that felt like a major upgrade. Oh, always wash your hands. Have you ever counted how many guys don’t wash their hands in the men’s room? It’s mildly disturbing.
Best and worst days of your life?
My worst day was right after my 26th birthday on my weekly visit to the barbershop. My barber asked if I had cut my own hair since some was “missing” from my forehead. My best day was my first date with Alisha. Before we even ordered dessert I knew she was the woman I was going to drive crazy for the rest of my life.
If you wrote a “How to Work With Adrian” user manual, what would it say?
I guess the easiest (laziest?) answer would be to summarize some of the personality tests I’ve taken as part of leadership & team development programs.
- “Adrian has an instinct for inspiring, championing and uncovering big ideas that challenge convention while building new value. He’s always encouraging teams to do the best work of their career but also to iterate, test and “try it.” I’m a visionary in my own mind who is allergic to rules, limits and status quo. Intuitively, I see problems as opportunities waiting to be solved. I’m an ENTP (Visionary & Debater) on the Myers-Briggs personality profile just like Celine Dion and Walt Disney. Take that.
- “He’s a constant source of honest feedback, energetic motivation and spontaneous curiosity. He’ll give you the space to fail, succeed and grow but you have to deliver.” I enjoy watching others win at new things and some of my most treasured professional moments involve upsets and underdogs. I’m also constructively dissatisfied so yesterday’s high score is tomorrow’s entry fee. I’m a 7 (Adventurer & Enthusiast) on the Enneagram.
What’s your favorite drink?
I make a mean Patrón Frozen Mango Margarita at the house.
If you had to pick 3 words that describe your personal values, what would they be?
Courage, Compassion and Transformation are values I attempt to live now so that I leave behind a legacy worth emulating. The origin of the word courage is to “speak your heart” and I believe that’s a major part of why I’m here. Compassion means to “suffer with” and often that means putting someone’s needs above my own. Transformation is the process of changing, which is a requirement for positive growth. Each of these virtues combined to play a major part in a big career decision I made in 2021. When I shared these reflections I had no clue they would resonate with so many leaders, be seen by 1.5 million people or be covered in a news article.
What would your family, friends and co-workers say about you?
I was privileged to be inducted into the Advertising Hall of Achievement in 2020, one of the most unforgettable moments of my career. My co-workers, family & friends helped create this video in celebration and I think it sums up what I strive to be every day.