Dave Veale interviews Terri Riedle, Co-Founder, President & COO, Revolution Strategy as part of the Leadership Unleashed series of interviews.What immediately jumps out when you meet Terri Riedle is her positive and incredibly infectious, energy. She is also warmly direct, quietly brilliant and undeniably proud of the people in her growing company.
Terri Riedle has an interesting take on leadership and what it takes to run a creative, entrepreneurial company in a fast-paced environment. She is the co-founder, president and COO of Revolution Strategy, a public relations, marketing and digital communications shop headquartered in Saint John.
What is most fitting is the description of her on her company website, “Terri is first and foremost a conductor. She has the ability to change the world. And when all is said and done, she believes she is brave. Basically, she moves mountains for a living.”‘I’d rather have people who you have to rein in a bit than constantly light a fire under,’ says Terri Riedle, president of Revolution Strategy. I started our conversation by asking Terri about the mountains that have been moved over the last eight years as Revolution Strategy has grown from a three-person operation to full-scale public relations firm of almost 30 people with some very high profile clients. Here is her response … A: It has been a really interesting journey. For example, the last few years have seen our client roster change. In the beginning we did a lot of smaller projects for a lot of clients and then we built relationships and became a little more strategic. So, rather than having hundreds of small one-time clients we have 40 or 50 great key clients where you can really dive in and understand their industry and the competitive market – it puts us in a better position to be a valuable contributor to them. Q: So being able to make a significant contribution with a client versus doing piece-meal work is very exciting for you? A: For us to be good at what we do, we need to be able to immerse ourselves in our client’s strategy, their business and become a partner. They come to us because they have a situation, a problem or an initiative that puts them in overload or they need a certain level of creative or strategic expertise that maybe they don’t have in-house. We need to provide them with ideas and with value that perhaps they haven’t even thought of because they haven’t had the time. Q: What are you doing as a leader to attract the kind of individuals that are really going to propel your business forward? A: I will circle back to what I just said about the idea of partnering with our clients. Success hinges every bit as much on the willingness of our team to partner with us. Partnership goes two ways and we try to create an environment where we feel our people will be able to deliver excellence. I will tell you that there were times that I swear it was more difficult to find senior strategic PR and creative resources in New Brunswick than it is to find a specialized doctor at the hospital. It was extremely difficult to find really talented people so we’ve had some really interesting and creative ways of sourcing top talent through partnerships and tapping into different networks. Q: Can you give an example of how you identify top talent? A: For the most part we look for smart people with a great attitude. I think a lot of people dismiss amazing talent because they think they don’t have very specific and relevant experience on a resume – we don’t look for that. We look for transferable skill sets and not necessarily agency specific experience. In fact, up until about a year and a half ago, I don’t think we had very many people who truly had marketing or PR agency experience at our agency. There is no manual to hand to someone on how to be a great account manager at an agency. It is about good judgment and agility, analysis skills and great decision making. We had smart people with great attitudes, great commitment, great client service skills – you just find all these great attributes and values in people and then you create an environment where they can shine. Q: It sounds like you encourage autonomy and independence? A: I’d rather have people who you have to rein in a bit than constantly light a fire under. I’d much rather have a conversation with a client where someone from Revolution Strategy maybe went a little too far than have to consistently nudge people along. Q: How do you encourage creativity? A: You know what? That is a competency that is woven through every single person here, whether it is the receptionist or the accountant or an account manager or our creative director – everyone seems to have interesting hobbies or different things that they do – they are just the coolest things. For some people it’s travel, for some people it’s writing, or painting, or, in the case of our receptionist, it’s being a makeup artist. There is stuff that just makes you go, “Wow, that’s so cool” – everybody here just brings in their own unique creativity. Q: As I listen to you, what comes to mind for me is you are also encouraging an environment that values authenticity. Does this sound accurate? A: You know what it is – this environment is not anything that we created. It’s something we seeded and nurtured. It’s who we have been from the very beginning. I certainly don’t fancy myself a “creative,” but there is no monopoly on that next great idea. There have been lots of times sitting around the kitchen table over lunch that ideas begin to spark and then they ignite and they bounce and bounce and sometimes they stop and stick and sometimes they don’t. That’s how little silly things like our Christmas card dance video happened – it’s that kind of stuff that just happens. Q: You like to have fun at work, how would you describe the atmosphere at Revolution Strategy? A: I think the same way we try to create an environment where people feel like they can truly just be who they are – we are a bunch of goofballs. We call ourselves “The land of misfit toys” because most of us can’t really survive in the “real” world because we would get bored.
Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com. His column appears every other Thursday. To read past columns go to www.LeadershipUnleashed.ca
Photo: Cindy Wilson/Telegraph-Journal
Published Thursday November 18th, 2010