Become a student to whichever professional endeavor you are pursuing. Immerse yourself in learning everything there is to know about your business.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business or career. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Sam Norval and Kevin Poirier.
East End Yovth is a Tribeca-based Creative and Digital Marketing Agency that prides itself on being one of the few minority and female-led agencies in its space. “Yovth” is not a typo, the V stands for visionaries and visibility. East End Yovth is a merger of both of the Co-Founders companies — “East End Marketing”, founded by Kevin Poirier, a former VP in corporate America with 20 years in marketing and 10 years of executive leadership, and “The Yovth” founded by Sam Norval, a world-renowned artist, photographer, and filmmaker.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you both share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
Sam: Ordering 10,000 fliers of the wrong version when I was an intern, and they had the incorrect date on them. I learned to proof everything many, many times with fresh eyes on it to catch mistakes. I had to pay for the next print run myself, so now I always check everything!
Kevin: I was recently a victim of involuntary disclosure via remote meetings on Google Meet. We were speaking with a significant client about their up-and-coming campaign we were in the process of launching. My partner was sharing his screen and wrapping up the last section of the presentation. I sent him a slack message towards the end of his presentation that said “great job, Sam. I think we deserve a nice drink after work.” Unbeknownst to me and quite the rookie oversight, Sam’s slack application’s alerts were activated on his desktop. The client in closing the meeting said thank you for the great job and please don’t drink too much tonight. We are counting on you really delivering on this campaign. They said this as they were chuckling, which was relieving and oh so embarrassing at the same time.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Sam: I was lucky to get a mentor that taught me so much. Having a mentor or someone you respect to talk to and share their knowledge is so important to understanding circumstances that are happening in front of you and learning from them in a post mortem. This let me grow leaps and bounds and I saw tremendous success. Gaining a business partner that had a wealth of knowledge and ability in my blindspots was the true tipping point for my success.
Kevin: When I left undergrad I never really had defined career goals. I started in financial sales, moving between firms and then even out of the industry and into healthcare sales. My general goal was to make enough money to live comfortably. It wasn’t until I really sat down and tried to map out where I wanted to be professionally in 5–10–20 years, that I began to make progress. I swiftly determined that I wanted to be a leader. After several years, I found myself in my mid 30’s as a MBA grad and the Chief Marketing Officer for a healthcare company. I was well on my way to becoming a CEO, and I had even been in the running for this role for a large company in Northern California. I was achieving my goals, however, I was not fully satisfied. I decided to sit down and once again, reflect on what it was that I wanted to do with my professional career. I started to unravel what I liked vs what I didn’t like about my current position. I came to the conclusion that what I really wanted was to build something that I could call my own. Most of my career, I had been following the business goals and company strategy designed by someone other than myself. I wanted to build my own strategies. I wanted to execute and set a course on my own goals.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Sam: Myself having suffered from major burnout, the biggest lesson I learned from my partner was to make sure you carve out time for yourself. It is so tempting and so easily accessible to be plugged in constantly, but critical to make a space for yourself in your schedule. We have encouraged our staff to take meditation time during the work day. We also try to make our day to day fun. In our internal slack channel, we joke and share funny gifs almost daily.
Kev: Have fun with it. There are days where it feels the floor is dropping out from under us. There are other days when we feel nothing can stop us. Long hours and lots of ups and downs. Make sure you take time to connect with your team, your family and loved ones. Unplug. It’s so important. When all else fails, schedule a pizza party or a group happy hour. We tend to pursue that latter more times than not.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started?
- Become a student to whichever professional endeavor you are pursuing. Immerse yourself in learning everything there is to know about your business.
- Use negative feedback as a tool, not a crutch. Remove the emotional responses we tend to align with a negative review. Laugh, analyze, and learn how to overcome. I always tell my employees more important than knowing what to do is knowing what not to do.
- Find a mentor (or confidante) both professional and personal. I have had no less than 20–25 mentors in my professional career. I found that mentors do not always need to be someone in your industry or even in a higher position. I was part of a buy-side transaction of a mid-size healthcare company. I was tasked with restructuring the marketing and sales department as part of the new team of executives hired by the new owners. One of my mentors during this time was the office administrator, who had been with the company for 20 plus years. She guided me on the company’s culture during the critical transition period. During that same time, my former CEO from my most recent employer, was very close to my progress and we stayed in touch almost weekly. I leveraged the guidance and insights from both sources and was able to navigate my objective successfully.
- Map and manage your professional progress. Just like everything in business, you need a plan. If your plan hits a bump or takes a new turn, recalibrate your path and objectives. Long term plans require tons of short term goals. Sometimes when you have a simple or general long-term goal, the little benchmarks that are needed to get there are overlooked which is detrimental. I used to have my sales teams create a list. Goals: career (5, 10, 20 yr), yearly, monthly, and daily. Personal goals, in most cases, align with professional goals. For example, whether it’s buying a home, moving to Hawaii, or starting a family,
- Don’t allow for complacency. Everyone has off days.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
Kevin: There is a great podcast I listen to out of Australia called “Small Business, Big Marketing”, hosted by Timbo Reid. There is also the #AskGaryVee, who happens to be one of the more forward-thinking social media gurus in the world.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Thank you both so much for sharing these fantastic insights!