In honor of CBD’s 29th anniversary, this week’s Marketer to Marketer (M2M) blog features our very own Liz Brohan who, along with her Co-CEO Lori Colman, has been building on the foundation of CBD since its early days as a boutique B2B marketing agency.
Liz Brohan has nailed down what it takes to lead an agency the right way, but she’s not quite done yet. She’s still building up the team, staying ahead of the trends, and bringing in new business.
Q&A with Liz Brohan
Back when CBD was just getting started, what made you choose to help develop a young agency rather than try to join a more established one?
After spending time at a few of the larger agencies, I knew that I wanted to go in my own direction. This is where my friendship with Lori [Colman] came into play. I joined forces with her because I felt I had something to bring to the agency that they didn’t already have. They were already doing exceptional work in B2B marketing, so I was able to offer my expertise in B2C. We both knew we had a lot we could learn from each other by partnering up.
What do you think is the most important aspect of being a leader of a marketing agency?
I’m not sure if there is just one thing, but an important aspect of driving success in an agency is a commitment to collaboration. What’s interesting about marketing today is that it’s become very fragmented. So, we tend to see a lot of experts in areas such as programmatic [advertising], social media, CRM, and SEO. At CBD, we’ve made an active effort to bring them all together so that they can share expertise with each other and integrate the different aspects of marketing in order to solve for a given business problem.
In your opinion, what are some of the key traits that make you successful at your job?
I think that having a passion for everything that goes on at CBD helps a lot in terms of being successful. For instance, I really love business development. It’s not uncommon to see me getting involved in answering an RFP together with Doug [Davila, Senior VP]. I also still love contributing to the process of solving our clients’ marketing or business challenges, even though I try to leave that work to the outstanding team of experts that we have. Other than that, it’s all about facilitating collaboration and building on the things that keep our team happy and enthused about the work that they do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
It revolves around my desire to keep people feeling empowered. I want everyone on our team to feel like they have both authority and accountability. Of course, I do try to help offer solutions to issues that arise, but, for the most part, I try to approach being a leader from a more proactive rather than reactive standpoint. My goal is to help nurture the talent that we have and offer them the resources they need to further develop their skills and come up with their own solutions.
What advice would you offer someone who is either struggling to be an effective leader, or considering taking the initiative to start their own agency?
The first thing I’d tell somebody [in either of those situations] is to listen. The less you talk and the more you can get a real understanding of what the other members on your team are saying — or what their needs are — the better equipped you’ll be to find a solution. I also think that there is a new trend towards not only being able to run a meeting or project, but to also be a facilitator. It’s not enough to simply bring people together. You have to figure out how to create and harness momentum to surpass expectations and exceed goals.
Other than growth, what are you hopes for CBD in the future? How have you started working towards them?
We can’t stress enough to our team the importance of learning new, emerging marketing technologies. Growth is great and always one of our goals as an agency, but the career development of each and every individual on our team is always at the forefront of my mind. At CBD, we help our team develop their skills through encouragement, recognition, and incentive.
Last but not least, what is meaningful to you outside of your role as Co-CEO at CBD?
I have two boys at home. One is about to turn 18 years old and has some very special needs, while the other is 11 and just starting junior high. They’re both a huge part of what I look forward to after work and, as you can imagine, there is never a dull moment at home. Aside from them, I’m a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, and I’m currently working on my second-degree black belt. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn from it beyond the art of self-defense.