- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a child of the 60s and 70s who grew up in the Deep South. I am the oldest of 3 and was always a good student and athlete growing up, responsible and hard working. My father and both grandfathers were in business so I always thought I would go that route too. From a young age, I loved sports, movies, TV, and travel. I was an exchange student in France in high school and in Italy in college. As an adult I have lived and worked in NYC, LA, Bay Area, Atlanta, DC, Cincinnati, etc. but have been in Boston for the past 20+ years.
After graduating college with a degree in Economics, I started my career in finance on Wall Street in the 80s and had a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and worked at 3 different startups as the head of marketing before they went public or were sold. I took the leap into entrepreneurship right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. I have never looked back and I joke that I am an accidental entrepreneur. I knew I had made it as an entrepreneur when Harvard wrote 2 case studies on my business a few years after I started it, we were very early to pioneer sharing resources on the marketing front (before my company it was really only done with HR, legal and accounting/finance).
- Tell our readers about your current leadership role at the company.
I am the name, face, and voice of the brand. Communication is key to all of our community and employee engagement and ultimately our success. I try to set the tone up front with one rule, when in doubt over-communicate especially now with everyone working remotely. Between the pandemic and the possible recession, leaders have an opportunity to further connect with anxious people and focus on the true relevance of their message. We have to acknowledge that now things are different so we need to communicate in a way that will give our audiences better focus, helping them to create a bridge from today to the future combining information and need, synthesizing feeling and facts.
I feel leaders have a tremendous responsibility because never before has communication had the power to help society in the way that it does right now. Words are part of the healing process and we can see which leaders are doing the best job every day with messages that touch not only the mind but also the heart and soul. There has never been a more important time to provide accurate, empathetic communication with transparency, truthfulness, and timeliness. I think being authentic, confident, empathetic, providing substance, and staying relevant are all the qualities we need right now.
- What were some of the hurdles you faced as a leader?
My biggest challenge was not realizing sooner that the people you start with are not always the ones who grow with you. The hardest lesson I learned when I started my company is not getting rid of weak people earlier than I did in the first few years of my business. I spent more time managing them than finding new customers. I knew in my gut they were not up to snuff but out of loyalty to them, I let them hang around much longer than they should have. It would have been better for everyone to let them go as soon as the signs were there. They became more insecure and threatened as we grew which was not productive for the team. As soon as I let them go the culture got stronger and the bar higher. “A” team people like to be surrounded by other stars. It is true that you should hire slowly and fire quickly. I did not make that mistake again later on so learned it well the first time. I wish I had known it even earlier though but lesson learned for sure!
- As a seasoned business executive, what is your assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on your industry? And how did your company manage to overcome such a massive challenge?
The biggest change for me, my team, and my clients from the virus is the shutdown of all networking events, travel, and conferences. This is typically a very busy time with many events, trade shows, business meetings on the road, etc. and for the past year and a half, everyone is staying put and meeting virtually instead. I have had more Zoom and Skype calls in the past 15 days than the 12 months pre-pandemic! Pivoting to online meetings, webinars, etc. is a smart and productive way companies can continue to have conversations that educate and inform, build relationships, and move forward during this crisis period.
Whether you are B2B or B2C every business is P2P and connecting on a personal level is what matters most. Best practices for successful businesses include an understanding their product or service is about more than the transaction, they are in the relationship business. People connect with brands they know, like, and trust, and customer loyalty can change but if they have a great experience and relationship with your brand you can keep them by staying in communication. Especially post-pandemic, show them they are respected, loved, and needed. We have all been through a lot so it is a smart investment to make this a priority.
- What advice would you provide to aspiring and rising female entrepreneurs?
As we move to a more remote/virtual world trust becomes an even more important currency to getting things done. Building trust will determine your success so lack of trust will be a huge obstacle I think after the pandemic ends. Technology does not have to be isolating it can be used to build our real-world communities and relationships too. Trust grows when you have consistent messaging and deliver on your promises so build a strong relationship that is based on your value proposition, not on price. Authenticity is the key, it has to be and feel real for it to work I think.
This is a great time to build your brand through online marketing and social media. Social media and technology are 24/7 so it is easy to get sucked into it but you do not have to let it run your life! My advice is to pick a few things you enjoy doing and do them really well. You cannot be everywhere all the time so choose high-impact activities that work for you and play to your strengths. I am a big fan of Content Marketing and Thought Leadership which are great ways to build your brand, increase your visibility more broadly, raise your profile and attract more clients/customers.
Entrepreneurs need to be on LinkedIn so that they can be found easily. It adds credibility and transparency when you know the people you are meeting or working with knowledgeable people in common. LinkedIn has become more than an online resume or Rolodex, it is the foundation for building trusted relationships in the digital economy. You do not need to blog or be on all social media platforms but make sure you are active on the ones where you are. If your audience does not use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to find you then you do not need to make them a priority. For many professional service businesses like mine, leveraging LinkedIn matters the most.
- What is the most important takeaway/lesson from the COVID-19 epidemic, in your opinion?
We have earned that CRM tools are only as effective as the relationships you have built so disconnecting from technology periodically and focusing on cultivating human, face-to-face relationships when not social distancing is important. Meeting for coffee or lunch even virtually can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc. and it is a great way to get to know people better, their interests, hobbies, and dreams. I have found that building trusted relationships is what drives my business and technology supports them once they are solidified. Technology helps advance the conversation but it will never replace the human interaction that builds trust over time.
I predict the most trusted leaders and brands will have a big competitive advantage in the new normal that evolves in a post-Corona world. Employees, customers, and clients will remember who treated them well during the crisis and they will be rewarded with loyalty from earning that trust during the bad times. The current crisis has provided a stage for our political and business leaders to rise to the occasion. We have learned that it is about touching people in meaningful ways which may mean being less busy not more for a while. Maybe the silver lining is that this crisis reminds us that we have always needed each other and we have learned that everyone is struggling right now to find a new normal so the key is to show our humanity and compassion while we look out for one another. With Zoom, social media, cell phones, etc. we see that technology does not have to be isolating it can be used to build our real-world communities and relationships too!
- If you had the chance, what would be the one thing you would alter about your industry?
The world has changed in profound ways so market research is more important now than ever! Whatever we assumed, thought we knew, or understood before Covid about our customers and market must now be checked because the world has changed so much since last March. It is no longer nice to have, it is essential before you spend anything you need to conduct market research now! With social media and technology going 24/7 now the world moves on Internet time and I wish we had more ability to pause and reflect on the data we collect.
- What have you envisioned for the future regarding your role at your organization and for your personal ambitions as well?
Successful businesses post-pandemic must be adaptable/agile, strong communicators, and have a growth mindset. They will be inclusive and collaborative because we never know when the next crisis will hit so being able to adapt to change is critical, staying nimble today is core to survival and ultimate success. We are measuring productivity now by what we get done, it is based on accomplishments, not activity. My goal is to continue to build growth mindset teams because they never stop learning/experimenting, they are focused on the future and see opportunities ahead by creating a culture of learning/growth. It takes effort and a commitment to excellence for people to continually learn/grow especially now in a virtual/remote environment. I do not think there is one habit to keep teams sharp/fresh, I am using a combination of reading/learning online and off/attending conferences/talks/networking/ newsletters from influencers/TED talks/podcasts/finding mentors/listening to all feedback good and bad. To stay relevant/keep growing I try to encourage the team to prioritize professional development to keep skills fresh and stay on top of new trends/technologies.