Leadership Lessons With Raina Penchansky, CEO of Digital Brand Architects

Understanding all aspects of your business is critical

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I had the pleasure to interview Raina Penchansky, the CEO of Digital Brand Architects. Raina began her career in the star-studded world of film, building large-scale premieres and awards campaigns, before moving on to product launches for global brands like Juicy Couture and Jimmy Choo. After stints with Edelman PR and Saks Fifth Avenue, Raina joined Coach in 2002, leading the brand’s global communications strategies for celebrity initiatives. Under Raina’s direction, Coach enjoyed a completely revitalized image through key collaborations, directional events and strong positioning in the marketplace. Raina applies her passion for brand building to DBA clients’ goals by thinking strategically at every step, searching for opportunities to push the original brand vision forward across a multifaceted marketing landscape. Raina was listed as one of Variety’s 80 Women of Power in 2016. A Miami native, Raina is currently based in Los Angeles.

Thank you so much for joining us Raina! Can you tell us about your impetus for starting DBA?

I had recently left a leadership role at Coach and was excited about the idea of taking my traditional brand experience and applying it to a different kind of talent… YouTubers and social media influencers, people who are in many ways their own media companies and creative agencies all in one. The idea of helping them grow into fully realized brands was really exciting to me back in 2010, and here we are eight years later.

Can you share an interesting story from your journey as an entrepreneur?

Year one of DBA we had a meeting with the head of one of the major traditional talent studios in LA. He told us he didn’t know what to make of us, but we were scrappy and scrappy wins in the street and we would ultimately win because of that scrappiness. To this day I still think about that and the importance of always staying scrappy and hungry.

Can you share the biggest mistake you made while you were starting out? What lesson(s) did you learn from it?

My biggest mistake was focusing on things other than our goals and strengths. It’s easy to get distracted and the minute you lose sight of your vision and your value, you will stumble. We tried to launch a technology product during our first year in business and wasted time and energy on something we knew nothing about.

What do you think makes DBA unique in its space?

We’re specialists in a world of generalists. Our focus is transforming digital-first talent into their own brands. The brand landscape as it exists today will be vastly different in 10 years and we are focused on creating the next generation of brands.

What advice can you give to young female entrepreneurs?

Learn about finance and business operations. I ask a ton of questions, take notes, and research extensively if I don’t understand something. Understanding all aspects of your business is critical.

What are your best practices for managing a large company/team?

Create structure. Being a control freak is great for attention to details, but can be detrimental to scaling a business. Hire people you trust and add value but who will also challenge you. It’s so important to have critically-minded voices in an organization, it’s where real change and growth come from.

No one achieves success without some help along the way. Is there a person or mentor you’re grateful to who helped get you where you are today, and what exactly did they do?

My parents are equal parts critical and supportive and it’s made me always challenge myself. I was also incredibly lucky to work for many years with Reed Krakoff at Coach who taught me about leadership and critical thinking. He was a master at figuring out how to get to the root of a problem and then solve it and it was invaluable to learn from him.

How do you use your success to try and bring positivity to the world?

I’m a marketer at heart and I spend a lot of time working with various philanthropic organizations on their communications and brand building strategies. It’s important in a time where there is a lot of noise to cut through it with the right message, that can be challenging for organizations that lack resources and time.

What are your top 3 leadership lessons, and can you please provide a short example/anecdote for each?

WAIT — why am I talking? — sometimes listening can be a lot more impactful

Don’t tell people to come to you with a solution as opposed to a problem — problems often require a team and can’t necessarily be solved by one person

Take time to get to know people and understand their motivations — I was recently working on a program with a client and I realized we weren’t speaking the same language because I didn’t know what was motivating them. I had to take a step back to understand what was really driving their decision making before I could help in the right way.

If you could inspire a movement, what would it be?

It would be to inspire awareness. Whether that be voting, the environment, women’s rights, etc. My goal would be to inspire people to educate themselves and get involved. We all should be paying a little more attention to what’s going on in the world and not just how it relates to our own lives day to day.

What’s your favorite inspirational quote? Why is it important to you?

“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it”. I’m a firm believer in putting your head down and focusing on the work, this quote to me exemplifies that.

If you could have a meal with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Just to hear her perspective, especially now, would be absolutely incredible.

Are there any exciting upcoming projects you’d like us to know about?

Yes, it’s our recently launched Dear Media. Dear Media is a podcast studio and network focused solely on female hosts and voices. We’re debuting some incredible new shows in the next few weeks and months with amazing talent; Helen Johannesen of Helen’s Wines and Erica Chidi Cohen of LOOM are good examples. There’s a real need for more women’s voices in the audio space.

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