As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Litchfield of Litchfield Media.
Melissa is an accomplished Advertising Specialist dedicated to problem-solving, analyzing results and making suggestions to the client based on their individual results. She loves all things technology and geeks out over Instagram updates. She has been in Digital Marketing and Advertising for the past 5 years and loves creating Facebook advertisements and marketing strategies.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I’m a military wife, living in Savannah, Georgia with my husband and 4-year-old daughter, Madeline. I left my corporate marketing job at an ad agency early 2019, which was the start of Litchfield Media, a digital advertising company for online entrepreneurs. Before landing the corporate marketing job, I had just given birth to my daughter, and I had the opportunity to stay home with her for about a year and a half. During that time with her I was always itching to become a business owner, but I wasn’t sure what I’d do. I dabbled into nutrition and received a holistic nutrition certificate (lots of early mornings and late nights completing homework assignments while Madeline was sleeping). Getting a full-time position at an agency really opened my eyes to the online education space. I knew this was something that I could start and eventually have a full roster of my own clients.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting thing that I’ve learned about running a business is that you think landing clients is the hardest but that was actually the easiest for me. The hardest part of running a company is leading a team and managing remote team members.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ve made so many mistakes during my first year in business but the one mistake that makes me laugh today is that I would’ve taken any client. Any client that wanted my services, they got it. Even if they weren’t necessarily the best fit or even ready for paid traffic, they became my client. Nowadays I’m much more concerned about their longevity with the company. Who would be the best fit and who is also at a point in their business where they are ready to hire an agency.
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 about that?
It’s impossible to say I’ve completely built this business on my own because I’ve had a lot of support along the way. The one person who has been there since day one is my husband. I’m fortunate to even have his financial support during the first year of business, as I know not every business owner has that advantage. My husband listens to my crazy business ideas and rolls with it. He supported me financially when I couldn’t pay myself during that first year of business. He is there to care for Madeline when I have scheduled business trips. He is my rock.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Without a diverse team, the doors are closed on originality. You’re not letting in the idea that new perspectives could ever be formed or proposed. You’re telling your audience and clients that you’re not inclusive. Having that diverse team — especially within leadership — tells your audience you care about the people you work with.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
The steps begin in your mission, vision, and values. If you aren’t willing to express those beliefs in the foundation of your business, the misconception of “inclusion and diversity” might not hold true. It’s important to express that these are key factors in creating a cohesive team and that you’re intentional about your approach to your business workflow and strategy having the consideration of people of all backgrounds. Think about how you want consumers to feel about your company and brand and how others want to feel once they start working with your team. What phrases and words come up once you think about the previous question?
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
A CEO is, most of the time, the face of the company. Having a CEO who is active, engaging with everyone, takes the time to get to know the team, doesn’t just look at the bottom line, is what could make or break the company dynamic. You can have an amazing manager or leader, but at the end of the day, if the CEO of the company you work for doesn’t exude the mission, vision, and values it holds…. Red flag. It’s more than the numbers. It’s more than having a certain high-level client. It’s about connection, relationships, consistency, and participating at every level. Not taking ownership of final deliverables but recognizing those who help you achieve what you’re out to achieve in the first place.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
Myth, being a CEO means you work less. Sometimes, being a CEO looks like longer work hours than most would think.
Myth, being an executive means you have weekends & holidays off, with unlimited paid time off. You’re usually working (yes, on the weekends) because your brain’s thoughts, ideas, and concerns don’t turn off just because it’s a Saturday.
Being a CEO is more hands-on than most expect. This is YOUR company. This is, essentially, the definition of YOU. It’s not a celebrity-label or one that comes with freedom to never show up or do anything. It SHOULD BE the core of what holds your team and company together.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The striking difference between perception and reality now that I’m a CEO, is that sometimes I feel like all I do is put out fires and respond to emails all day. There are so many slack messages and emails to get too, I definitely see the need for an executive assistant!
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
Yes and no. If it’s truly something you desire, you’re going to make the effort and show up. If you are relying on simply motivation to get started on a new business — it’s not going to magically happen. If it’s more of a physical achievement that you want to achieve and then say, “I did it, now I don’t have to work as hard.”, then it’s not for you. It takes effort. It takes consistency and being intentional behind your individual values and the reason why you want to be an executive in the first place. It’s more “care” than you would think.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
Be engaged. Be present. Be open to new perspectives. Consider others, even if at first you might not think it could work, because you truly never know until you try. Be personable. Don’t just check the boxes when you’re hiring. Hire for who the person is, what they stand for, and their dynamic. Don’t just hire for getting things done.
I know people leave a position for a few different reasons:
1. They like who they work for or where they work.
2. They like what they get paid.
3. They genuinely love what they do.
I can control all three of those reasons and I’d like to think that our company lunch and learns, virtual happy hours, and team retreats help improve company culture.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I love educating others on digital marketing and how one can utilize it to ultimately enhance their quality of life. I also get excited to know that I have the capabilities to produce jobs nationwide, jobs that don’t require you to “clock in” or commute to a toxic work environment.
Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Before I became a CEO, I wish someone told me…
- Most of the time, you’re always “on.” You’re saying no to friends and family because you’ve got too much on your plate, deadlines to meet, and a team to check on. It means messing up and disappointing people, then having to have tough conversations that you would rather delegate to someone else.
- That it’s a rollercoaster of emotions. Client relationships can change, and one minute you are upset and crying because you lost a client, then beaming moments later because a dream client just came knocking in your direct messages. You’ll even experience feeling alone, despite being surrounded by your team, and clients.
- There will be times where you are incredibly scrappy to make things work. Delivering a project on time can get messy, especially when other deliverables, tasks, responsibilities, etc., fall through because of circumstances that are out of your control.
- The feeling of “blindness” of an investment, and putting all your eggs in one basket, can feel like free-falling off a cliff hoping the huge amount of money you invested pays off, and how it can feel that way until months later (after working endlessly and tirelessly praying it works out) when you find out if it did or not.
- That creating a successful team, means trusting people to love, care and support your business as much as you do. Which can be INCREDIBLY scary.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
A movement around the toxic hustle culture. Working nonstop and losing sleep isn’t the only way to become successful. Just because you don’t have a 5am morning routine doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out to be a CEO. Id’ like to redefine what it means to be truly successful AND happy.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A new one that I’ve seen on social media, “Nothing bad happens when women make more money. — unknown”. It’s this notion that we need to put more power into the hands of women because there are truly great things that can happen.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Lori Greiner, because of her spunk and tenacity, not to mention her creativity and business knowledge. She is truly “the queen.”