Fresh off the back of winning the Jon Clark Outstanding Contribution to the Industry Award at the 2014 ADMA Awards, Julie Dormand, Managing Director of MercerBell, sat down with Junior Strategist, Sarah Elsmore, to discuss what it means to be an industry leader.
What do you believe is the most important trait to have as a leader?
Winning this award was a surprise to say the least. I am not someone with a penchant for public speaking, nor do I promote myself through writing articles. It’s just not me. But sometimes it feels that to be successful – in this industry especially – these are things you must do to prove your place as a senior leader.
In Jodie’s comment regarding why I won the award she said, “she is always there when we need her and is one of the most helpful people I know. Despite her demanding job, she still makes time to help the industry and is very deserving of our outstanding contribution award.”
This started me thinking about the importance of being ‘helpful’ in a business environment where success is often seen as a personal drive to achieve and helpful is rarely seen as trait of a business and industry leader. On the contrary, helpful is the School Class parent, the charity worker, the NRMA service man who saves you when stranded at the side of the road.
However, in an occupation that encourages and benefits from collaboration in the workplace, I believe that helpful is one of the most important traits to have.
What I have learned from receiving this award is that I was wrong. You can stand out without being the most visible person in the room. My advice is to not just turn up to be heard – the biggest voice doesn’t always make the most impact.
You can contribute and succeed in the industry in many different ways. Through doing. Through helping. My advice to you is play to your strengths.
How did you get started in the industry?
My involvement started at MercerBell as Nick and David (CEO and ECD of MercerBell) were avid supporters of the industry. But back then I thought the benefit of being involved in the industry was only social and educational.
Then I joined an ADMA Expert Group for Mail Marketing. Looking back I didn’t do a great job. I didn’t do anything because I didn’t really understand my role. I attended meetings and listened to many people who I thought were more experienced, and I had more confidence in their opinions than my own. I spent the year learning from the engagements, but not contributing. Looking back I should have asked what was expected of me at the start, and found more about how I could contribute.
Following this, I was lucky to then be asked to join the ADMA NSW Committee and then to speak at an ADMA Course. Over time I realized that I was able to add more by getting involved and sharing ideas. I began to understand that I could make a difference as a part of a group. With the ideas that we shared we created some great ADMA Events…. The ADMA Idol music contest back in the day, then more recently setting up 30 Below, the networking group for under 30’s, and launching the ADMA Christmas Race Day.
What have you learned from being involved in the industry?
I have learned that it is not enough to simply turn up and have the idea. It’s important to pitch in, take on the task to introduce people, ask others to get involved, write a business case, and manage the project. An idea is a great start, but the drive to deliver will get you noticed. Delivery can be under-rated compared to ideas, but without great delivery the ideas would never come to fruition.
Over time I started to see the benefit of contribution to the industry: connections. My involvement with others has created a network of people I can turn to for advice, services and support.
Early in my career, this would not have mattered. As an Account Director I had other talented Account Directors in the business to learn from. However, as I progressed within the agency to roles that were unique internally, no-one else had the same job. I have found that as you progress to senior roles, connections in your external network become guides and sources of knowledge. I now know that if I had waited until now to get involved with the industry, I would not have been able to perform my job as well.
Although it may not seem to be a great need at the time, think about increasing your external involvement even when you have a supportive internal network. These connections take years to grow, so you will thank yourself in the future for starting early.
How do you feel you have made a difference to the industry?
It is difficult to specify how my contribution has made a difference to the industry because most of what is mentioned is the result of a team effort. One of my proudest achievements is 30Below, which came out of a group who had a genuine concern that ADMA was not relevant to the young people in their teams. We set about solving this issue by thinking of what they needed at the earlier stages in their career and then did it. We made it happen.
Another achievement that I am proud of is the development of ADMA DataPass, a certificate that allows your company to prove your understanding of the Privacy Laws. This initiative came out of a discussion about what benefit ADMA can give agency members over non-member agencies. It was a shared idea that grew out of a group discussion.
So it’s not about the unique ideas I delivered alone. It’s about the time I have given to be involved, the discussions I have had in and out of the meeting room and my skills and network to get things done.
How has your role changed over the years?
Now that my network, developed over a decade of involvement in the marketing industry, has matured, I find people come to me more for advice. This takes time, but I always come back to the importance of being helpful. In spending the time to help people in my network I have become better at my job. It’s a two way street. By helping others I also benefit, whether that is learning the names of great talent to recruit, gaining information that helps me run the business, or an introduction to someone who is in need of our agency’s skills.
Do you have any advice for a junior finding their feet in the industry?
I encourage everyone to step outside of their day job. Meet people, share ideas, get involved. Most importantly, help each other advance the industry that we work in. You will reap the rewards.