Why did you decide to start iQ 360?
I had been a partner in a very specialized crisis communications firm with one of my best friends from college and she decided to move on to other ventures. So, I formed iQ 360 and broadened our focus to become an integrated marketing communications firm. We still have crisis communications in our DNA, so we do a fair amount of work in this space, but offering content services, digital marketing, thought leadership and other mainstream marketing services has given us opportunities to expand into other exciting areas.
What’s your most memorable moment from the past 10 years?
My most memorable moment was winning a Best Workplaces Award in 2019. We have won awards for our work, including national awards, which I’m incredibly proud of, but this recognition was more a measure of our agency’s culture. My main goal has always been to create a culture where people feel valued, where they have the highest trust for and camaraderie with their teammates, and where they can grow and realize their potential. We’re not always perfect, but building a team that sinks and swims together is what makes me willing to give my all to this company every day.
What challenges have you faced?
When we were a young company, I didn’t know how to say no to projects that were going to tax our team too much, or how to make operations and financial management one of my primary focus areas. It’s not easy to be a business owner, but the most important thing is to learn from your mistakes. Just because you have an MBA doesn’t mean you can run a highly efficient business from day one.
“I feel very strongly that a growth mindset is critical to the organizational health of every company.”
What was the biggest lesson you learned?
Attitude is everything. If you believe you can do it, you will. Everyone has the potential to learn new skills if they have the right attitude. To build our capabilities, we mostly learned and grew organically — we didn’t acquire other firms to gain our know-how. We had to get very comfortable with learning on the job, failing at times, and getting back up and trying again. But in the process, we built a team that is not afraid to try new things even if we’ve never done them before.
I feel very strongly that a growth mindset is critical to the organizational health of every company. If you don’t have that, eventually your company will die.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud that I was able to build a company and, at the same time, raise two daughters who are kind, honest and strong women. A highlight for me was being able to hold a seminar for communications students at the University of Utah last year alongside my older daughter, Sydney, who has also chosen a career in marketing and product development. My mom was in the audience and for her to see both of us was also a thrill.
That moment made me realize that, while we all want to achieve great things at work, the accolades pale in comparison to family and friends, and making a difference in the community that you know will live beyond you. I’m not sure if my younger daughter, Kai, will also enter the world of business/marketing but, whatever path she chooses, I hope she lands in a career she feels passionate about. When you do, it doesn’t feel like work.
What advice would you give to communications professionals just starting out in their careers?
My daughter Sydney bore the brunt of my unsolicited career advice. I told her about the importance of securing internships in college, even if you have to take unpaid internships with a nonprofit or volunteer to do communications or marketing for college clubs. She completed three internships and that made the difference in her being able to secure her first job out of school. The job market is rough for everyone right now, so if you can’t get that first job in marketing immediately, don’t give up. Work at whatever job you have to take at the moment but look for unpaid opportunities to make a difference and help you build your skills.
Once you’re out of school, be a sponge. Don’t turn your nose up at any opportunity; even the grunt work teaches you important lessons. If you don’t do the tedious jobs, you miss the opportunity to learn your craft. Show your managers you are willing to do whatever it takes to deliver a successful result — the people who do that are the ones that get mentored and cultivated for higher level positions.
What would you say to someone who wants to start their own firm?
First, talk to other owners of firms so you understand what it takes. Owning a business is not for the faint of heart; you have to be willing to work harder than anyone else. You have to be comfortable with risk and making tough decisions.
That said, it can be the most rewarding endeavor you’ve ever undertaken. I’ve had the chance to build the kind of company culture I always imagined, watched my colleagues grow and do amazing work, and had the opportunity to help clients survive bet-the-farm crises and prosper during growth cycles. It’s exhilarating and the best job I’ve ever had. I hope that those who have a passion for doing this kind of work take the leap and try it.
Where do you see our industry headed in the next 10 years?
First, I see it becoming much more diverse than it is currently. Harvard Business Review estimated in 2018 that close to 90% of PR agencies were white, and while women make up the majority, they only have 30% of the senior leadership positions. Those statistics do not match the makeup of our country and the people we are marketing to, so by necessity we need to change.
I also think you’ll see more of a blurring of the lines between paid, earned, shared and owned channels. If you’re a good writer and someone who can think strategically and critically, this is your moment in the industry because everyone will have to take a more holistic view of the channels we have available to us and be able to navigate them more quickly than ever before.
How will iQ 360 be a part of that change?
As the owner of a woman- and minority-owned agency, I believe I need to be a part of helping move the industry into a more inclusive future and I think many people in our industry share the same goals. This will mean instituting changes in our own recruitment and development processes and also helping to create greater and more systemic change in the larger industry.
What do you hope iQ 360 will achieve in the next 10 years?
I hope in 10 years we are still on a relentless quest to do the best work, have the humility to take feedback and acknowledge our mistakes, the ability to embrace failure and do it better the next time, and the quirky sense of humor that allows us to poke fun at ourselves.