10 Lessons Over the Past 10 Years
Crystal Ware, Location3’s VP of Partner Performance, recently celebrated her ten year anniversary with the company. We’re excited to share the lessons she learned along the way.
I recently hit the 10-year milestone at Location3 which equates to roughly 120 agency years. At the close of this historic year, I thought I would share some of what I think are the most important lessons I’ve learned over the last decade of my young career. In no particular order of importance (and with photos for a trip down memory lane):
1. Jobs are stepping stones.
I was hired as an entry-level SEO link builder. I had just graduated with my master’s and the 2008 recession was in full swing. There were days when I hated my job and thought I was wasting the very expensive degree hanging on my wall. I kept my head down and forged my own path. I found ways to make link building more efficient, tested new tools, and started learning basic SEO skills. When our SEO business took off and they needed to scale I received my first promotion, began SEO account management work, and eventually learned PPC and social media advertising. That entry-level job won’t last forever – says a now vice president.
2. Raise your hand.
Remember when mobile marketing was the “next big thing” and brands were building m dot sites? One day in a staff meeting, our president asked who wanted to figure out this mobile stuff and I immediately raised my hand. At that time I owned an awesome flip phone and text messages weren’t even included in my phone plan – I knew nothing about mobile phones or mobile marketing. I researched, I vetted vendors, I managed to text messaging response campaigns, and I built clients their first mobile website. I was asked to present on mobile during the company meetings which was a big deal to this young buck. Even though I wasn’t qualified, my managers remembered my initiative, not my lack of knowledge.
3. Change is inevitable, just roll with it.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Location3 shift from start-up to an industry-recognized leader in franchise marketing. I would need at least two more hands to count the number of organizational changes we’ve made in this company over the years. I need at least both hands to count the number of different jobs I’ve had at the company. With all those shifts, I’ve learned that change is hard and scary for a lot of people. Remember your time is a finite resource so it’s likely best spent rolling with the punches rather than pushing back on the inevitable. That doesn’t mean you just accept the changes that come, but you receive them with an open mind to what’s possible.
4. You will fail and that’s OK.
I’ll never forget the first time I truly failed and it cost the company money. I had a meeting with my boss and HR (although looking back I don’t think HR was needed) and I was so emotional that the meeting overall was not very productive. However, I learned some very important lessons about myself – how I process failure and how I react during difficult situations. Failure sucks. Learn to accept that failure is ok. Sit with yourself during these moments and reflect on what went wrong but more importantly, find solutions to make things better. From failure always comes growth.
5. Understand the people you manage.
In the above scenario, if my boss had understood how I react in confrontational situations, she might have handled it differently. Giving me some space to reflect and be upset with myself would likely have resulted in a much more productive conversation. (As I’ve grown, I’ve learned how to do this in the moment.) Understanding the motivations of those you manage will likely result in better relationships, increased productivity, and better outcomes for all involved, including the company. Good management is hard and time-consuming – invest in your employees.
6. Managing up is a skill you should develop.
I fought against managing up for a long time until I learned the difference between managing up and sucking up. You don’t have to be a “yes (wo)man”; you don’t have to be flawless; you don’t have to play favorites. Managing up is about understanding what motivates your boss and being able to communicate expectations and outcomes effectively. I’m still a work in progress and sometimes my ego gets in the way, but learning how to effectively manage up has benefited me in many ways over my career. Start by understanding the primary drivers of your boss – what are they asking for frequently, when do they offer praise, what do they seem to value, or what type of communication do they prefer?
7. Growth happens outside your comfort zone.
We’ve been investing in our technology for a decade. As our technology team grew back in 2010, so did the need for project management. I knew exactly zilch about development work and had no official project management training but I stepped up to fill the need. You know what? I LOVED it. I got the opportunity to work with a team I would never have worked with. I learned how to scrum and work in sprints. I took Kanban planning and swim lanes to account teams to improve efficiencies. I still carry all those learnings with me today – I even use swim lanes to plan my Thanksgiving dinner.
8. There is always more work.
Early in my career, I had no qualms about working late nights, due in part to leadership praising hours spent in the office but also because there was always something that needed to be done. In case you haven’t figured it out already, there is always more work than hours in a day. Start managing your time and priorities early. Learn project management systems and develop a process that works for you. Focus on quality over quantity. Ask yourself if what you have on your to-do list is providing real value to the company and if it doesn’t, ask yourself why it’s on the list. And most of all, prioritize yourself.
9. Become comfortable with financial numbers.
I am not the math whiz in the family and numbers still give me anxiety despite working in spreadsheets every single day. The more you grow in your success, the more financial acumen you need. Learn how to forecast projections, manage budgets, and understand the effects of financial outcomes. Depending on your role, you may be asked to steward dollars for a client. Make sure you understand the real impacts of making sound financial decisions for your clients or managers. And while we’re talking about numbers, practice salary negotiations early in your career. It will make the bigger salary negotiations that come later much easier.
10. You are responsible for your success.
No one is going to help you respond to your emails, meet deadlines, deliver projects, or actively communicate. No one is going to manage your priorities or manage your workload. Learn early how to effectively manage your time and workload. Trust me, it will be noticed.
Originally posted on LinkedIn, December 28, 2020.