Discover when you are the most productive and honor it. Schedule your day around your internal clock, communicate to your peers and leaders to ask for your time when your brain and creativity are most effective. And the time that you are NOT most productive, use it for things that bring you joy. I believe that just saying that word gives us permission to smile. As a CEO you will work SO hard and go as far as you need to make sure your team, your vision, your clients, and your company has what they need; don’t forget your needs as well.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shannon Gabor, Founder + CEO, Clever Creative, Inc.
Shannon Gabor is the entrepreneurial spirit behind female owned and operated, Clever Creative. Driven by curiosity and a desire to make work that supports brands, their big vision and bold ideas, she oversees the new business strategy as well as the direction and growth of her team, capitalizing on her knowledge of what industry experts and audiences are drawn to. A graduate of the University of Southern California, Shannon honed her passion for both sides of the creative coin by majoring in Fine Arts and minoring in Communications. With over two decades of experience building brands, Shannon got her start working in entertainment promotions for Burger King and 7-Eleven before joining Mattel on global packaging design and worldwide licensing, living abroad in Hong Kong for a year. Advocating for the human connection in branding, Shannon has taken Clever from backyard office to an award-winning and full-service branding agency that’s proudly supporting iconic brands like Warner Bros., Tastemade, Starbucks and Netflix by finding new and exciting ways to champion unexpected results that delight. Shannon is the human connector at Clever and the reason why brands keep coming back for more. With over two decades of experience in building global packaging programs at Mattel, developing new product lines for Target, and developing creative and compelling franchise partnership promotions for Warner Bros. and Netflix, she more than understands what compels a brand to hire an agency and what an agency needs to do to make that brand a success.
Thank you so much for joining us Shannon! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Throughout my career, I have been discovering how to connect the dots between creativity and business. As a Fine Art major / Communications minor at USC, I recognized the push and pull of my left and right brain. While developing myself as a creative for the first ten years of my career: agency side and brand side; it was during my 5-year mark at Mattel post a 6-month assignment in their Hong Kong offices that I needed more. It simply was not enough to ‘just be’ creative as I found myself drawn to the conference rooms where strategic marketing and sales conversations were taking place.
It was then, 2005, that I realized I needed to move on, leave stability, and a paycheck for the unknown. Clever Creative was born. Building my own agency and pulling up new chairs to the table, defining a set of values and a mission that meant something deeper, employing young, diverse talents and hiring the person not the resume. Becoming an entrepreneur, fulfilled many roles for me and continues to as I grow and develop inside my own company.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
Proposal pricing and ensuring that the value we knew we were bringing to the business or brand was clear to the decision makers in the process.
Initiative tools to inform your pricing process and strategy. Be flexible to try different ways to present your services depending on the input you are receiving from the prospect. Sometimes there are verbal cues other times, you can identify non-verbal cues during the conversation around budget. Through the past 15 years, our pricing tools have evolved. Today we have invested in an enterprise cloud-based system, Workamajig that allows cross functioning teams in our agency to ‘speak’ to each other to ensure that the work on all levels and stages is set up with the right information to be successful.
I always make sure that I am who I am in that process so at times I use questions that are natural to deliver; ‘What number would make you run away?”
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
Two factors: fearlessness and creativity.
To leave a steady role and stability, you have to be curious as well as fearless. My curiosity has never held me back and my fearlessness to explore, try, or experiment with has been a grounding pillar of my personal brand.
Over the past 15 years in running my own agency, I have a newfound value for the word ‘creativity’. It is far more dimensional than I had defined it to be in my early years of a designer.
Now, as a businesswoman, I see it as a natural superpower in how I activate, lead and pivot my company. Creativity is how I look at not only the output of the design and solutions we craft at Clever but in the way I approach sales, pitch new clients, and develop our staff.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Discover when you are the most productive and honor it. Schedule your day around your internal clock, communicate to your peers and leaders to ask for your time when your brain and creativity are most effective.
And the time that you are NOT most productive, use it for things that bring you joy. I believe that just saying that word gives us permission to smile. As a CEO you will work SO hard and go as far as you need to make sure your team, your vision, your clients, and your company has what they need; don’t forget your needs as well.
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?
There is not one person, rather a group of women who believed in me creating Clever well before I saw it. Each of them has continued to support me at various times, in small and large ways and at different evolutions of my company. Sue Davis, Amber Tarshis, Russell Arons, Suzie Domnick, and Kristan Sargeant. Too many stories to share on who, what, how but I will say that it reminds me that even though being a CEO (entrepreneur) can feel lonely at times, you are never alone if you ask for help from those who have always been your ally and want you to succeed more than their own success. That is genuine, real human, love, and support for you — -and I am grateful that each of these women are that for me and I hope that I am that for them in return.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
Professionally, I want to bring to life a line of products that I have always had a vision to add to the market. Don’t want to jinx anything so holding the concept close for now. But it combines three of my favorite things in my life. My kids, building brands and Personally, I want to live 3 months of the year with my family in an inspiring design city every other year.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
That I never lost sight of what brought me joy even in the darkest moments and that I gave myself permission to let go, move on or try harder. And that I dreamed of something that I was not afraid to build on my own, with my own money and on my own values. Showing my children that a legacy is defined by how you show up, how you love yourself, and how you treat others.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
That is a big question — -let me marinate on that and see what happens ‘live’ when asked this question again. 🙂
How can our readers follow you on social media?
The agency @clevercreative