WHO WAS YOUR ROLE MODEL DURING THE PIVOTAL STAGES OF YOUR LIFE?
A lot of my business know-how and entrepreneurial skills can be credited to my father. He ran his own business while I was growing up and taught me a great deal about business and responsibility. While at college, I had the opportunity to work for the New Yorker in the public relations office under Maurie Perl. Maurie was a remarkable woman and a true class act. She exuded self-confidence and demanded respect, but was not afraid to work hard. She could plan the 70th anniversary gala for the magazine and still find time to stuff a press kit. To me that is a true leader—knowing how to orchestrate and plan like an artist, but not being afraid to get messy in the delivery.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A SUCCESSFUL LEADER?
A leader must be able to hold one’s own and demonstrate that he or she has control over any situation. But most importantly, its someone who will stand up and get involved in anything that needs to get done. Additionally, a true leader exemplifies a level of fearlessness in order to take risk, and consideration and mindfulness of others.
WHEN MEETING OTHER LEADERS, WHAT ONE QUESTION DO YOU LIKE TO ASK?
What motivated you to not give up and how have you faced adversity?
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS?
I am a dreamer and a very visual person. I see things like a choreographer—that means knowing what happens when different things are meant to intersect at the same time. I think it ties well to PR. It’s all about how press releases, messaging, events, and thought leadership come together at a moment in time. Each piece by itself will fall short if not intertwined with the others.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST BLIND SPOTS?
I am a very honest and passionate person which can be risky in my area of business. Not everyone wants to hear the truth, but I find it is my greatest strength and weakness.
WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR KEEPING A TEAM MOTIVATED?
Respect and incentive are very important. Hard work deserves reward. In addition, giving people opportunities and making them feel valued is one of the strongest things you can do as a leader.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN?
I have been deeply interested in the impact of music on customer experience. A couple of years ago I picked up my family and we moved to Nashville Tennessee, which was pretty risky [chuckles]. I opened up an office—which is still running today—and started meeting with the music industry to discuss their issues around their profitability and future growth in the digital economy. This led to the startup of MusiComms, an association that brings together leaders from communications, energy and the music industry where we discuss ways of collaboration. I’ve been working for a few years now on integrating music strategies into service provider business models. This is risky, but is where my passion lies.
WHAT IS YOUR ‘SECRET SAUCE’ FOR FOCUSING ON THE END GOAL AMONGST THE NOISE?
I ask a lot of questions, particularly ‘Why?’. By asking this question, it keeps me focused on the reality of how to navigate a rather abstract future. In today’s time, SmartMark is playing in spaces of innovation where it’s important to understand how something is solving a particular problem.
WHEN PARTNERING WITH ANOTHER PERSON OR ORGANISATION, WHAT FACTORS ARE DEAL-BREAKERS FOR YOU?
I have to believe in what that company does and their end vison. There are a lot of companies that are financially motivated, but their solution is not always in the best interest of the consumer. There has to be a customer benefit and it must leave this world a better place for my children.
WHAT’S THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR?
‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette?’ by Maria Semple. I’d recommend it to any working mom who struggles with finding her purpose and balance. There are a lot of expectations of women—that we be great mothers, wives, and successes at work. That we drive carpool and make dinner, but also bring home a salary. Sometimes we just need to find our voice and be happy with that.
WHICH OF YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS WERE THE MOST DIFFICULT TO DEVELOP?
Authority. It’s not in my nature to be authoritative. I much prefer to be constructive than bark out orders. Hiring and firing people is simply still the hardest of all.
WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT LEADERSHIP LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED AND HOW HAS IT PROVEN INVALUABLE?
1. Treat others as you would want to be treated. 2. Go for it. History is full of fearless people with crazy ideas. If you believe in it, chances are someone else will too.
HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE BALANCE IN YOUR LIFE?
I’ve made my children a part of my company. When my third daughter was born—I have three daughters— the business was growing and evolving, demanding more of my time. Therefore, I ended up building a nursery in my office as I couldn’t bear the thought of having to choose between work and family. We have in my office what I like to call a “Life comes First” policy. I live by it and I offer that to my employees as well.
WHAT INDUSTRY CHALLENGE KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT?
I spend a lot of time thinking about the impact of technology and innovation on the energy industry. I let my mind wander at night as I am not checking mails or answering phone calls [laughs].
WHAT TREND IN THE GLOBAL ENERGY SPACE DO YOU SEE BECOMING INTRINSIC TO THE OVERALL POWER NETWORK?
I think the dynamic of the utility customer has changed, which can be attributed to AMI and smart grid. Somewhere in the process of deploying smart meters, utilities realised that they had to get buy-in from their customers to make these types of changes while looking at long-term grid modernisation and energy and carbon reduction. We are in an era where executives are forced into thinking about ways to change and improve their relationship with the customer.
I also see smart home expanding the role of the utility into the home and redefining utility companies. I believe the Utility of the Future is innovative, not afraid to expand its services, and understands that the customer is at the heart of it all.