What Advice Would I Give My 24-Year Old Self?

Today I was doing an interview with someone about being a female leader in marketing and in the staffing industry and was asked an interesting question….what advice today would you give your 24-year old self?

Oh my.  Lot’s of advice, much of which is not mentionable on a blog titled “Marketing Meets Motherhood.”  As I reflected for a moment on this, I thought a lot about Joe Haynes.  Joe was my first boss at Procter & Gamble.  He was a Finance Manager when I was a Cost Analyst.  Joe taught me a lot, and in reflection was a very influential person in my own journey as a leader.

So, what was the advice I would give 24-year old self?  It was one of the lessons that Joe taught me – to be authentic and inquisitive.  Joe lived a life of authenticity.  From the day that I met him, he was who he was with no apologies.  He told me early on to be comfortable in what I know, ask questions about what I don’t, and always be good with either.  I wish at many points in my early career that I would have listened to him more.  When I finally learned that I should and I could do this, I became more comfortable in my own skin.


It is a lesson that I wish that learned earlier, and often one that I need to remind myself of today.  Each time I either succeed or fail at being an authentic leader, and trust me there are both, I think of Joe.  We are rarely in touch today, but I imagine Joe, retired from P&G, living a life of authenticity.  He may not ever know how influential this was for me, or even that he said it.  Joe, I hope that our paths cross again.

Marketing Plan Choices: What Do You Recommend?


Do you recommend we invest in additional lead generation or shift our marketing mix towards brand awareness spend?  In just the last week, I heard or participated in this discussion at least 5-6 times within my team as we put together our marketing plans and budgets for 2015.  Although our operationally-focused company has a conceptual belief in building name recognition, our willingness to do things that build awareness, particularly things that cost money, is limited.  One of our company strengths is that we invest in marketing (and other programs) and focus on measuring their success with a laser-like focus.  The good…It brings an attention to execution excellence that is outstanding.  The downside, it often brings a lack of focus on long-term choices which cannot be simply measured.  The implication of this is those long-term choices often get put on the back burner in our plan recommendations.

It takes me back to my days as a P&G junior marketer, and the introduction of marketing mix modeling (MMM).  I don’t know when this process first took hold at P&G, but my first exposure to them was in 2003 when we were trying to effectively plan our multimillion dollar marketing budget and identify the right balance between advertising and trade spend.  At the time, retailer influence was growing dramatically, and the only way to afford the trade spend and price promotions being requested was to cut our television and print spend.  Was this the right plan?  If you looked at the traditional media metrics of reach, frequency, GRPs and TRPs there was no way to spread our message more efficiently than with these marketing choices.  As brand managers had a fundamental belief that investing in this media helped drive the effectiveness of our customer promotions (price promotions, coupons, displays at retail, etc.).  Our sales partners, and our retail buyers didn’t necessarily share this belief.  The beginning of MMM was an attempt to not only guide our decisions, but reinforce to these other important constituents how all of these pieces worked together to drive revenue.

As with anything, the results of this effort were only as good as the information and effort that was put into the tool, as well as how effectively we interpreted the outputs.  I don’t know if we ever reached the goal of driving cross-functional alignment to our marketing choices, but we did learn a lot.  At the core, we learned that all of our marketing choices helped make the others more effective….that in a perfect world we would run in all parts of our marketing mix simultaneously as this created the best revenue results.

Since then, the progress in both the modeling and the marketing analytics industries has been substantial, as has the shift to digital media.  About a year ago, the Council for Research Effectiveness published a whitepaper regarding the state of MMM.  Don’t read this one unless you are ready to geek out.  As I think about the conclusions in this analysis, one particular thing comes to mind:  no modeling, no analytics, no measurement of return-on-investment works without applying our human instinct to interpret the analysis.  We are often stuck believing that the “data will tell us something.” My experience is that although true, the data will tell you something, applying experienced-based reason and intuition is the critical step to turning data into something that drives the business.

This brings us back to the fundamental question for our marketing plan next year…should we invest in additional brand awareness spend (media and content) as a part of our marketing mix?  Smaller companies, like CHG Healthcare, don’t have the budgets to invest in sophisticated models such as those P&G put together, yet we still need to to make decisions regarding our budget and marketing plan choices.  So, my recommendation as we work to put together our recommendations for next year is spend time in the modeling, in the data and analytics, but to more importantly apply your reason and intuition and recommend what you believe to be the best plan to grow our business.

Becoming a Marketer

In way of professional introduction, I am the head of marketing and corporate sales for a Healthcare Staffing company specializing in helping physicians and other healthcare professionals find jobs.  My company, CHG Healthcare, is the leading physician staffing company in the country, and one of Fortune magazine’s top places to work in the United States (3 years running in the top 20 in the country).  I feel luck to work there, and be a part of an organization that helps make a difference in healthcare while also building a great organization for our people.  I am hopeful to retire at CHG, whenever and whatever that looks like…..too far away to think about.  I am sure you will hear a lot more about this on here later.

The path to here took many turns, many of which I will talk about at a later time here, but one of the more interesting turns is my move into marketing.  I went to school originally thinking I was going to be a chemical engineer.  My aunt, and role-model, was a chemical engineer by training and went to work at Procter & Gamble where she ended up as a General Manager leading a division.  As a young-person, I looked up to her so much.  So, I started school with that career path in mind.  As I started school,  I realized that I actual loved where she landed and not necessarily her journey and that there were many ways to get to that landing.  Pretty quickly, I switched to a business major in Finance and Accounting.  My logic was exactly that of an 18 year old.  I liked math, and finance was the closest thing to engineering in the business school. 

One of my first classes in undergraduate business school was a marketing class, and ironically I hated it.  I found the professor, an adjunct who was up teaching at Miami of Ohio on a sabbatical from Procter & Gamble, pretty worthless.  It seemed like it was her way or the highway, and I didn’t agree with much of what she said.  As students asked her questions, it appeared like she was always making things up on the fly (at the time I was convinced this is what all marketers did) versus grounding her teaching based on facts and experiences.  She had no credibility to me.

As I reflect on that now, 19 years later, it was a pivotal moment for me.  First, I decided that there was no way I would ever be in marketing (ha ha!).  Second, I decided that I always wanted to work hard to be humble versus trying to be right or authoritative.  Finally, I decided that my business existence would always be grounded in facts and hard work and not smoke in mirrors.

Quite ironic that this rough introduction to marketing became one of the moments I believe helped me find my way professionally.  It has helped me to establish my philosophy as a marketer.  It helped to create in me an underdog mentality; always out to prove that marketing isn’t smoke in mirrors and that creativity and logic can come together into a set of ideas that when implemented with excellence can help to grow a business.