Jennifer GottliebWelcome to another Going. Ahead. With Gage interview! I had the privilege of interviewing our COO and Head of Client Service, Jennifer Gottlieb. She was recently moved into this position after spending almost a decade helping to build the agency.

What is your vision for the W2O Group?

My vision for W2O Group is to create an agency that does not yet exist today: an agency that is built upon the unmet needs in a radically changing market. We are seeing the convergence of many different disciplines, from analytics to marketing to communications to digital, and we must provide for clients a streamlined, nimble, cost-effective solution that produces amazing breakthrough ideas with ROI quickly and effectively.

How does your vision fit with W2O Group’s vision?

W2O’s vision is to bring disruptive ideas that are grounded in analytics and data to the forefront in many different ways. My job is to operationalize that. If we are trying to bring a disruptive solution to the market, my vision is to make sure that can be realized. We do that by remaining in touch with what the clients need and matching those needs with our solutions.

Where do you think the most significant growth will occur in the company in the next few years?

The research and analytics division are poised for the biggest leap. That group fuels everything we do and provides all of our insights. I think we’ll also see growth in creative content that can be used across different mediums and different areas of the communications and marketing mix. Lastly, the convergence of health and technology is a huge area of innovation and growth that we are on the front lines of.

What are you currently doing to help us get there?

I am doing a lot :), but there are four key things I’m most focused on:

The first is talent. We are hiring new, fresh talent for both our current needs and in areas that we’ve not hired in before, such as integrated marketing leaders that come out of bigger and more modern digital and advertising agencies; we are also hiring a lot of young millennial talent that are very digitally and socially savvy.

Another is trying to figure out how a matrixed organization that has been challenged to be more fast-moving can work even better. Reducing some of the processes that clients see with larger-scale advertising agencies and bringing that together the nimble nature of what a public relations firms have always known and lived by.

The third is coaching and mentoring our staff by helping them understand how to walk in the shoes of the client, be heavily client focused, how to take our ideas and apply them. A key is helping our team learn how to live in their clients’ heads and not just our own.

The fourth is to help better define who we are as an agency of the future and what makes us different and make sure that we are doing our own communications and public relations so that people know what to pull us in for.

What are your top two business challenges at the moment?

Number one would be what I call driving the bus and changing the wheels at the same time. We have to continue to be an amazing, award-winning, communications and public relations firm for the many clients that got us here and continue to fuel our success. But we also have to marry that up with the needs that clients are asking us for in terms of digital and mobile capabilities and big branding and positioning asks.

We’re being asked even by our public relations clients to expand our thinking and our offerings, which is a reflection of what they are asked for now internally as well. It’s about making sure we deliver A+ work on the core work that we were raised on at our firm, but making sure that we are bringing in the right talent and can deliver on the right stuff that clients need to innovate and evolve.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I ever received came from a woman I worked with for a short while who then became my client. She said: “If you walk into work every day assuming you have 10 fires to put out and you only have 4, you’re having a good day.” She taught me to embrace the madness and the challenges because that’s what really evolves and teaches you and grows you at the end of the day.

So, I go into every day not afraid of those challenges. I know that every day is not going to be an easy, smooth day, and when I do have one of those it is the exception to the rule. I’ve learned to embrace the messiness of having to solve problems, and I’ve become passionate about diagnosing issues and tackling challenges for the industries we serve, the clients we support and the teams we lead.

What advice would you give to junior employees who want to grow their career in your company?

My advice would be: work really, really hard and don’t be afraid of hard work because it’s the one constant overtime that gets people where they need to go.

The second would be to ask a lot of questions, volunteer for things you don’t even know how to do, be curious and always want to stretch and do more.

I used to sit in my entry-level job with a stack of paper a foot high! It would be letters to mail, envelopes to type up, a memo to type up for my boss. I was the entry-level assistant, and they would say to me that at the bottom of my in-box is something really awesome to do. I thought that was a good way to look at it. What I teach people is that through the big pile of paper (or the computer full of email) you are learning many skills that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.

The third piece of advice is to not minimize the importance of the first year of working, where you learn how to a corporate work environment operates. I don’t think enough attention is paid to the fact that there’s a big transition from school to work and there are certain levels of knowledge about how to function in the corporate world that not all junior employees have.

My fourth suggestion is junior employees should know their skill sets. There are a lot of tests these days and they are usually pretty true to form, and I really encourage people to do these tests as they enter the work force or to help decide the kind of career path they want to take because I think it’s very telling in where someone’s skill set and assets will be most valuable.

Thinking of your most successful current employees, what characteristics do they share?

They are driven, work incredibly hard, are very proactive and responsive, are solution-oriented, are humble, take feedback well, know how to manage themselves, and aren’t afraid to put a stake in the ground and have a point of view.

Also published on LinkedIn