Tell us about yourself: backstory, career experience and/or milestones, etc. When did you find The BAM Connection?
I’m the co-founder and CEO of The BAM Connection, Brooklyn, which was founded in November 2013. We’re a full-service, award-winning creative agency with deep experience in traditional, social and digital content creation. We help challenger brands find their edge, we revitalize iconic brands and we turbo-charge number one brands to a high growth trajectory. Over the last six years, we’re proud the agency experienced double-digit growth year over year and continued to add world-class and iconic brands to our roster. Our clients include a range of companies primarily in wine/spirits, OTC, and in the growing area of cannabis. Our recent work for KeyStone CannaRemedies was honored last year with several Gold Clios.
Prior to launching The BAM Connection, I was the President of Grey Healthy People leading global business across GSK, Bausch, Allergan’s Botox, along with iconic brands like DirecTV, Panasonic, and Major League Baseball’s World Baseball Classic.
Can you talk about the challenges you have faced as a female CEO?
We've been registered as a Women's Business Enterprise company for several years and the biggest challenge has been for all the Fortune 500 companies to offer projects to women-owned businesses within the advertising industry. They are all part of the program but they rarely seem to offer meaningful opportunities.
Two recent news events have sparked debate among women in advertising: one was the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, and the other was the retirement of Serena Williams. I wonder how you see these two news events through the lens of the ad industry?
Roe vs. Wade sparked enormous backlash given a group of primarily men have made a decision to control a women’s freedom of choice, as well as the health and financial benefits that are attached to that. The lack of female leadership across all aspects of government has led to some unbalanced decision-making. It is a harsh reminder that the ad industry is still far behind in placing women in decision-making roles with real impact. Even though women are starting to be hired in significant roles, they still report to men at the top.
Serena Williams' decision to retire would have been fine news if she didn’t offer up the fact that she was told she couldn’t compete as a mom and keep up with a demanding schedule. It is frankly shocking that a woman with her talent is being questioned in that regard. I hear it at ad agencies as well – working moms drop out of the workforce completely, or are completely dissatisfied with how they are treated. The advertising industry has quite a ways to go.
Does the advertising industry have a role to play in addressing issues like work/life balance, and standing up for women's rights in tangible ways? What should they be doing that they’re not?
The ad industry has always been a leader in causes so the avalanche of agencies offering paid abortions certainly is tangible support. But it is the day-to-day support that needs to be addressed. Work/life balance, especially for working moms, needs to be recognized as different, and more consideration should be made to making hours more flexible and in line with childcare needs. As long as an employee works the necessary hours for the company, the company should provide flexibility to eliminate both the stresses and financial burdens of raising a family.
What, if any, hurdles have you faced and overcome within the industry or starting your own business?
The beauty of starting your own business, which many women do, is that you create the rules. You have an opportunity to create meaningful employee relationships and learn from them and then pivot to meet both needs and expectations quickly. The biggest hurdles to starting an agency are the obvious ones like keeping Clients front and center while getting new business and competing for talent, which becomes more and more difficult when large agency networks constantly pillage your teams. I guess it’s a compliment that they know they are getting strong and well-trained people when they come from our company.
Have you personally dealt with a toxic work environment? How did you handle it?
I was in a meeting once when an irate creative director threw a pizza in my female boss's face. My boss did nothing. I was so deflated because I thought he would be fired but, it was acceptable at that agency to allow temperamental ‘creative’ people to allow bad behaviors if they produced, and for better or worse this CD produced big time. When I was a junior I accepted bad behavior, as I became more senior I used my seniority to correct bad behavior. You can’t be afraid to speak up and call people out. Another time when I was the only female at a senior level (with several male assistants in the room) in a conference room, I was told to clean a stain on the floor before a new business pitch. I politely said, ‘I am not sure why you think I have a particular skill set for cleaning but, you should find someone else to handle that, or you can handle yourself. My behavior was deemed disrespectful but, in the end I didn’t clean the stain! So I owned the label albeit extremely unfair but, it was a different time back then thankfully!
In terms of perception or reality for women in leadership positions, have you noticed any tangible progress throughout your career?
When I first started at Grey there were only 2 female account EVPs and nearly 20+ male counterparts. 15 years later, we remained at 2 with about 10 males. So much for progress. The same women, including myself, earned President titles but they were both short-lived. I have recently noticed a flurry of announcements of women promoted into leadership roles so hopefully, there is more progress coming.
Why might advice for being ‘fearless’ for women working at an agency differ from that for men?
Men are ballsy, they are confident, they are risk takers, they are thoroughbreds – all positive images when they are fearless. Women are bitches, are too tough, are rude, and are potentially reckless when they are fearless. I have been in many situations in my past where I have been told to relax, to smile, and to be less emotional. I have never heard any of my male colleagues share those same things with me when they have made big decisions. I encourage women that work for me to always use their voice, take on big projects, enjoy the journey, and have big audacious goals.
What are your top tips when it comes to setting work/life balance boundaries?
My biggest and only tip in setting work/life balance is to create them, own them and enforce them.
And how do you put these into practice?
Identify what boundaries you want to set for yourself. What are your personal do’s and dont’s? Own your choices by openly discussing them with your manager and make it clear that whatever flexibility you are asking for is understood and important to you. Once that understanding is created, don’t waiver, stay the course. Most strong managers will respect and support those choices. Hell, they want them too!
One piece of advice you would give your 10-year-old self?
Go outside and Play!! Ten is too young to worry about the future..But, I guess know one thing, everything you experience on the playground will be a life lesson - people will still pull your hair, people will still try to cheat and most importantly, great friendships and bonds for life will be created with the chosen few that always had your back!