Kathy Biro, Founder, Digitas
Giving free career management advice to the gathering Biro said goals and a specific written plan are essential. One must keep one's plan always in mind. "What is the plan?" "Where will you work on the plan?" What is the timetable?" She urged that whatever field you work in you should be at the "epicenter" of the discipline, like a "heat seeking missile." If you are an accountant work at an accounting firm, not an advertising firm.
She mentioned the secrets of "hyper growth." If she had to do it over it would be slower growth. But that is easier said than done. Biro called Digitas "a powerful marketing firm," which went public in 2000. She said it was the same day that President Clinton described technology as a "bubble." It was good for Digitas. She said her goal was to retire at 50 after creating something that lives on after she left. It appears she was extremely successful. She described briefly her tenure as an Adjunct Professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. There was a man there who did not see the outside of the school for eight months. He traveled underground through Tuck's famous tunnels.
Another Biro rule is "work should not be medicine." Don't take a job because "it is good for me. Do what you are good at," she said. That sounds like the Greek notion of "arete" translated roughly as excellence. It means doing what one is good at, to the best of one's ability.
Every job should add to "resume enhancement," Biro suggested. Resumes should be updated regularly even when not looking for a job. "It is OK to zig and zag," she said. When one becomes "senior management," one often realizes "I'm not making plan." Thus one should focus on passion, not a paycheck. [That may be good advice but it often leads to not eating well and having uncomfortable cribs.]
She insisted "Don't be afraid to think big thoughts." She did not explain what that meant. I studied philosophy and I've been thinking big thoughts ever since. Does God exist? Yes. No. Those are "big thoughts." Was Obama was thinking such big ones, when he revealed to the voters that he would begin lowering the oceans and healing the planet? Some thoughts are easier to say than to do.
She mentioned a lesson she learned late, that business leaders need to have "an exit plan." Few do. "You need people to take your place. You need a strategy to get out." She urged the audience to "embrace technology and change." She added, "technology is the new literacy. You need to embrace rapidity of change. Don't fear change."
"Be willing to take risks. Embrace it or be left behind."
Biro: "I have a reputation. Most of it is true."
"Can you get yourself and others excited?" [I can't remember if she made that exclusive to business.]
One young woman said she worked for a founder company led by two men and then one led by two women. She asked if Biro thought men lead differently than women. Biro said she does not think men and women lead differently. [Biro did not comment about left-handed women versus right-handed men.]
She discussed briefly measuring the outcome of advertising. Food manufacturers coupons are one way to measure the effectiveness of advertising. The companies that issue the coupons can count how many are redeemed. It is one reason why there are so many of them and why they will be around for a long time.
For some businesses it is not as easy to issue and to distribute coupons as it is for food companies. Except that with the internet, companies can and do issue coupons for discounts on their goods and services. It requires some effort to find many of them, but they are available.
Near the end of her talk she brought up the subject of languages. She explained that "marketing companies and technology people speak different languages." That is true not only for communication between marketing and technology. Lawyers, doctors, power repairmen, construction workers, all disciplines have their own specific usage of words. They can mean many different things depending on where they are used. This creates a need for people who can understand the different usages and who have the ability to communicate between groups of specially trained persons.