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Masters of the Turnaround: “Be serious about what you do, but be able to laugh at yourself, often and a lot” with Sandy Rubinstein and Jason Crowley

As part of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandy Rubinstein. Sandy oversees all DXagency operational divisions as well as marketing strategies and execution. As part of her management role within the agency, Sandy also oversees staff development and ensures that […]

As part of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandy Rubinstein. Sandy oversees all DXagency operational divisions as well as marketing strategies and execution. As part of her management role within the agency, Sandy also oversees staff development and ensures that each member of the team learns, grows and provides the clients with the best possible work product. Sandy came to DX in 2009 after 20 years’ experience in various senior Marketing, Management and Advertising roles at television networks and consumer brands including: TV Land, General Motors R*Works, Lifetime and Nick at Nite.

Jason Crowley: Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

Sandy Rubinstein: Believe it or not, I was actually classically trained as an opera singer, and while at the University of Miami majored in Classical Voice and Business, studying accounting by day and performing at an opera at night.

After college, the music business just seemed like a perfect match for me. I worked for various record companies in Latin American marketing roles before progressing to music television and then television networks, including SyFy Channel, Nick at Nite, TV Land, Lifetime and Fuse TV.

After years of trying and failing to persuade our media teams to incorporate digital initiatives in our media strategies, I decided I needed a change. In 2009 I joined DXagency after twenty years of working at television networks and never looked back!

Crowley: Can you share your story of when you were on the brink of failure? First, take us back to what it was like during the darkest days.

Rubinstein: Back in 2010, DX was abruptly dropped by a client that accounted for 75 percent of our business. I had only been CEO for a year at that point and we had no reserve cash. With twenty employees to think about and no experience turning a company around from near collapse, I wondered if we’d have to completely shut down the agency. I spent the next two days at home crying; I had no idea what to do! It was an incredibly hard time for myself and the agency.

Crowley: What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?

Rubinstein: I felt personally responsible for the well-being of my employees and didn’t want to let them down. I started thinking about my grandmother and great-aunts who fled Nazi Germany for Chile, starting over from scratch they managed to forge beautiful lives in their adopted countries. They knew failure was not an option — a teaching my mom instilled in me from a very young age. I knew that there was no way I could let myself fail. It just wasn’t an option.

Crowley: Tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?

Rubinstein: With my family as inspiration, I decided that the best way to turn DX around was to start from scratch too. I emptied out my entire personal savings, which gave me 18 months to work with. After taking a step back and a hard look at the industry, I decided to revamp DX’s offerings. I wanted to restart the entire company and go into this with a totally new mindset. We looked at industry trends and matched them to the services we currently were or were not offering, so that we would become the go-to solution for clients. I also wanted to make sure we wouldn’t have to cut staff or salaries, so I had to make some temporary shifts. I had half of our staff working on sales and trying to get more clients in the door.

And the strategy worked. Today, I’m proud of DX’s evolution — our agency has over 40 clients, no debt, and healthy savings, and our staff has grown to 44 employees across three offices.

Crowley: Based on your experience, can you share a 3 actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Rubinstein:

  1. Know that failure is not an option. Like I mentioned, it’s something my mom used to tell me as a child and it’s stuck with me. If you go into anything you do with that mindset, you’ll always find a way to succeed.
  2. Be transparent and decisive in communication with your staff. Your team needs a leader who they can trust and lean on to answer questions they have and quell any concerns. That way your employees can feel confident that things are being handled and they can get back to what they need to do in order to keep the business moving.
  3. And finally, don’t ever feel like you’re not worthy. We all have our fears and insecurities, but ultimately, you have control of your destiny!

Crowley: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Rubinstein: Yes, I have been blessed to have a professional mentor in my life that has been there for me since I started my career. It is super important to find people who have been through things you will face and who can give you their perspective, which often times is a bit wider of a view that what you are looking at. I also believe in surrounding yourself with people who push you to be better, stronger and more independent. There may not be many of them, but once you find that needle in the haystack they can be quite a powerful force in your life.

Crowley: 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. 🙂

Rubinstein: I would urge people to think of others before themselves. That’s how I raised my kids to think, that’s what I impart on my employees, and that’s what I aim to achieve each day. If everyone collectively thought of others first, the world would be a much kinder place.

Crowley: Any parting words of wisdom that you would like to share?

Rubinstein: Be serious about what you do, but be able to laugh at yourself, often and a lot.

Crowley: How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook: DXagency

Instagram: dx_agency

Twitter: @DXagency

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