You can do it all, but NOT doing it all. Outsource what gets in your way of doing what you love. When you run a business, you touch sales, marketing, accounting, customer service, operations, business development. Focus on what your unique talents are and do those and build a team to do the rest.
Lorrie Thomas Ross is a marketing expert and lifestyle business owner. When asked to describe her work, Lorrie said she’s wild about helping wildly passionate professionals brand, build, and boost business. Lorrie is the CEO (that’s Chief Enthusiasm Officer) of Web Marketing Therapy®, a full-service marketing agency that diagnoses, prescribes and guides healthy marketing solutions. Her work ensures marketing treats the cause (vs. band-aiding symptoms) so marketing is meaningful, matters and makes money. Lorrie is knows as The Marketing Therapist® for her no-nonsense healthy advice, stress-free guidance and tough-love approach. She is known to stage interventions if a client’s marketing moves are making themselves a danger to themselves and others too. Lorrie wrote The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course to Online Marketing and some of the early web marketing courses for LinkedIn Learning. She speaks on a number of marketing-related subjects and is a instructor at Emory Continuing Education in their Digital Marketing program.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was on my own at 18, working full time in retail and going to college part time in hopes of being an elementary school teacher. After many successful years in retail, climbing the ladder and reconsidering staying on the retail management path versus teaching, one of my personal shopping clients recruited me to work for her in online ad sales and before I knew it, I was on this amazing career path working in the wild, wonderful world of web marketing and being my own boss!
My career story blossomed in the dot-com boom. It was 1999, I was working for Saks Fifth Avenue (a job I loved) and one of the clients I did personal shopping for made me a job offer I couldn’t refuse. Her offer was along the lines of: “drop out of college, quit your job, you will make a LOT of money on the internet.” I was young and hungry (not just ambitious…literally hungry!) and even though I had no idea what kind of work I was signing up for, I figured my biggest risk was not taking a risk.
I dropped out of college and left a great job to sell web ads at one of the first online advertising networks (and we did party like it was 1999!) After selling obnoxious banner ads and not feeling connected enough to my work, I decided I would take my dot-com money, walk away from the company and go back to college. Within 3 months of being back to school (and back at my old job at Saks with a promotion) I got recruited to sell ads at another internet startup. The money was too good to pass up, so I left retail for good and after years of successful ad selling and after finally getting my degree (only took 7 years) I transitioned from selling ads to buying ads and managing marketing.
When I was asked to teach a web marketing class at UCSB, I got hit hard by the teaching bug. Teaching opened me up to meeting amazing students, many who were super inspiring entrepreneurs. I loved empowering them and seeing my expertise get applied to their businesses immediately. I wanted to help these entrepreneurs, but I also wanted to be one. It took me a few more years to have the guts to leave the the corporate world and embrace the life of an entrepreneur, but in 2005, after having one of those “I hate my job” jobs that made me want to let go of the ledge, I started my own consultancy and never looked back.
When my clients started calling me their “marketing therapist”, and joked about getting on my therapy couch, laughed when I staged interventions (vs. firing me) on their bad marketing and craved my stress dissolving, I knew I was onto something. I bought the domain www.webmarketingtherapy.comand sat on the idea of re-naming my company (the name was Lorrie Thomas Web Marketing originally). I hired two of my friends who I loved working with in corporate (they agreed temporarily…ha, 12 years later!) to help me manage the workload. As we made our client’s web and social media marketing better, healthier and more functional, Web Marketing Therapy became our official agency name and focus. We have never had offices — we are Wild Web Women® and proud of it. We love helping passionate professionals brand, build and boost business. I travel to speak and teach and love working for amazingly passionate professionals in all industries — law, health, education, fashion, finance, real estate…I could go on and on. I work with an amazing team and clients I love.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Speaking and teaching have always been a huge piece of my business. When I was asked to speak for a Jr. League group in Santa Barbara on a Saturday for a half-day workshop on Social Media Marketing, I jumped at the chance (I am such a nerd!). I spent a week plus getting my slides and lesson ready — I was so excited to geek out on social media marketing and get them all fiery and inspired. My coworker verified with the coordinator that I would have a projector, lesson plan was done, I was ready to rock. I got up early, put on a cute dress and arrived early, caffeinated and ready to roll. The venue was beautiful –an old historic building in downtown Santa Barbara. The room was perfect. I asked where the projector was and an older man came in with a slide projector. I nearly died at their error, but stayed polite. I said I needed a projector for my laptop, not photo slides. The old building only had old technology — there was no alternative and women were coming in in handfuls. I had hours of lesson plans to share…now, with no outlet…how could I teach social media marketing without web examples?
I learned from teaching in the university environment that you never made students feel stressed, so I acted like nothing was wrong and got into “duck” mode (smooth on top, but paddling like heck underneath). When they all sat down, I stood in front of the table they had for me and told them what the deal was and laughed, telling them I had another way to teach that I did all the time (a fib, but they bought it). I had the group move the tables into a round, discussion format and turned my lesson into a Q/A session. It was going SO great. I was relaxed, they were learning were super tuned in and I hopped up on the table to sit on it to have a better view of all the ladies sitting and to keep the lesson going. The table was as folding table and it wasn’t locked into position by the folks who set the rook up. The table and I I went crashing down, skirt in the air and all. I was mortified, but knew I had to laugh at it. I made a crack about needing to have breakdowns to have breakthroughs. We all laughed so hard. I got back up and kept the class going. I won a lot of respect that day for taking all the challenges and falls in stride. It’s nice to be important, but it’s always so much more important to be nice. It’s all so funny now, even though I was in “fake it til ya make it” mode that whole day!
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
One of my biggest challenges has been trying to do it all, personally and professionally. I want to be the best businesswoman, mom, wife, cook, friend, then I feel pulled in so many directions. I overcame this “do it all, be it all” syndrome by learning to delegate. You can do it all, but NOT doing it all. Outsource what gets in your way of doing what you love. When you run a business, you touch sales, marketing, accounting, customer service, operations, business development. Focus on what your unique talents are and do those and build a team to do the rest. I would be NOTHING without my amazing team of employees, contractors and vendors. At home, my husband is amazing at “dividing and conquering” with household work and we have help with housecleaning a few times a month. Small things like that make a big difference. I could clean my house or have quality time with my daughter…sometimes that means cleaning together, but I also love that I omit obligations to give myself free time too!
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
Leadership is about elevating and empowering others, always looking ahead, being willing to make tough decisions and creating solutions. I inspire others to lead by leading with love. Love does not make a leader weak, it makes us stronger leaders. If I have a challenge with a client, it’s not fun, but if love leads, I am focused on being understanding (which does not always mean agreeing) and doing what is best for everyone. Leading with love also means loving yourself, that took a while for me to learn, but wow does that make a difference. You can’t pour from an empty cup, right? When you love in leadership, you see the “awesome” in others and empower people do what they are great at, as well as helping them step into new “not always comfortable” zones to grow. Being a mother has made me a much better leader. It softened me, but also made me more no-nonsense in my approach. Parenting is about supporting growth in your children, I treat my clients and coworkers with that same love and light.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
If it hadn’t been for that client at Saks who hired me to work for her, I never, ever would have gotten on this career path and I would not have my own company today and would not live the life I live! I do owe a lot credit to two amazing leaders — Jeff Hirsch and Jason Spievak. I would not be where I am today without their inspiration and support. I worked for Jeff when I was 21 years old. I was so young and inexperienced, and most leaders would have ignored me, but Jeff always treated me like a peer. When I left the company to go back to college, Jeff was super-supportive and was so great about staying in-touch. When I started my own business in 2005, he was such an advocate and was wonderful about referring business to me. I used to joke that he was my VP of Sales in my first years of business. I will never forget how he described my work: “You know what to do for clients, then you actually do it.” Some consultants are more “insultants” and Jeff reminded me that the reason he referred business to me was because I owned it. You have to walk the talk. It’s advice I live every day. His daughter Jorden was one of my interns too, she has gone on to have an amazing career in marketing. I worked for Jason Spievak at another company in my mid 20’s. I admired Jason’s business savvy and I was so inspired to his commitment to family. His kids would come by the office and he would light up anytime they were around. I bring my daughter to a ton of my work events, I credit Jason for showing me you can be a badass professional and give family your all too. Jason was the person who transitioned me out of sales and into marketing, giving me a job that took my depth of sales expertise and opened my career access to a breadth of marketing experience that helped me learn what I still do today. To be so young and have people believe in you is the biggest gift. I never, ever take for granted how fortunate I am that I had people who saw my potential and gave me the chances I had.
Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?
I left the corporate world to start my own business so I could work on my own terms. It was difficult to fit my life into work before I was my own boss. When you run your own business, you call the shots — your business, your rules. I weave making time for things I value into the value-rich work I provide to my clients. I had more difficulty making time for “life” before I became a mother. After my daughter was born, I became laser-aware of “nice to have’s” versus “need to have’s” and began saying no SO much more. My days had firmer start and end times. Running a virtual business has been the biggest gift to ensure I can fit life into my career. My productivity skyrocketed when I cut out time from commuting and meetings.
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
Success has opened up what felt like a keyhole view of life into open wide door access. I found that as my success grew, I was able to focus more on areas of my life that mattered. Success is something you celebrate, not isolate. As I get older, I find that my dearest friends move for their work or family and having the funds to travel has been amazing. Just as you manage a business, you manage the business of your life. The better you get at one, means you can be good at the other.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
To best balance work and personal life, I suggest:
- Do what you do best and hire others to do the rest. You can’t do it all — delegate what you don’t love or what you aren’t good at and you will see your world explode.
- Make space for the unexpected. I used to over-schedule my day which gave me no margin for error. And life has lots of whoops (house problems, kids need you, pet is sick, client needs you unexpectedly for a great opportunity). Have large blocks of time so you have space for the organic nature of personal and professional life.
- Nourish yourself. If you don’t care for yourself, you can’t care for others — personally or professionally. Put food in your mind, head and heart that is going to help you grow. What you eat, read and think is all information that you feed yourself.
- Don’t overdo it. It kills me when I see people push themselves unnecessarily. Go for the gold, but don’t kill yourself doing it. If you are too tired from being up late to go to the gym, don’t go that day. Don’t fill your head with negative self talk or guilt. Take care of yourself and do your best.
- Have fun. Life is meant to be lived. Make time for what matters and don’t compromise. Adults need to play a much as kids do!
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride?
Being a mother is the biggest sense of accomplishment. My daughter teaches me so much about myself and the world and inspires me to be a better person.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to help more great people get their great ideas and products and services out to the world. The answer is not marketing, but markeding®. markeding® is a mashup of the words marketing and education. I spent years working as a marketing educator in university and college classrooms while running my marketing and training consultancy and noticed a pattern with my clients and students:
- Fear and anxiety around the act of marketing
- Negative sentiment about marketing and marketers
- Lack of guidance about how to think about and approach marketing
Marketing breakthroughs can’t happen until there is a breakdown of beliefs and behaviors. I began to study the root cause of the fears, anxiety, negative feelings, lack of effort and found that:
- Fear and anxiety were connected to a myopic mindset that marketing was either expensive, time consuming and/or difficult
- Negative sentiment was caused by a feeling that “marketing” meant promotion, which is viewed as self-serving and egotistical
- Lack of guidance about how to think about and approach marketing was due to focusing on the tools (PR, websites, social media, advertising, etc.) not how and most importantly, WHY to engage in marketing
- “Marketing” is often viewed as the “ick/yuck” used car salesman pushy promotional approach, which gives marketing a bad wrap, inhibits the ethical way to approach marketing, and ultimately, holds the right people back from getting their message out there. Rethinking marketing to markeding® will help others do it ethically, pave the way for GOOD organizations (non profit and for profit) to connect with the people who need them and help put shady organizations out of practice. Organizations who are passionate about helping their target marketing with products and/or services also need to connect with customers. We connect with our hearts, but to get to the heart, we have to start with the mind. Education is the core of effective and ethical marketing. When we approach marketing with this mindset, it take the “ew, I don’t like marketing” and “I am not good at marketing” feelings out (who doesn’t want to help a target marketing understand something?) and helps alleviate the fears, anxiety and “how do I start?” barriers to get work going.
What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media? https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorriethomasross/