Don’t step into solutions too swiftly. It’s important to always listen more than you speak. Each of us will never have all the answers, and therefore it’s important to hear others out and gain all the facts before making firm decisions.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikki Vegenski, VP Marketing & Strategy of PowerChord. Nikki Vegenski has spent the last decade helping her client’s brand-to-local digital marketing strategies come to life. As PowerChord’s VP of Marketing and Strategy, she understands her client’s long-term vision, her firm’s ambitions, and helps to ensure both sides are in sync. She strives for success in providing thought leadership and strategic guidance across current and future customer adoptions of PowerChord’s SaaS and digital advertising solutions. She is an agent for change within the organization as it relates to product evolution, digital advertising, and cross — department leadership and employee mentorship. Nikki’s greatest strengths are her integrity, drive and leadership. She thrives on challenges, particularly those that expand both her company’s and clients’ reach. As the VP, she will continue focusing on sales growth, client retention and the formulation and nurturing of ambitious digital solutions that help her customers conquer the online ecosystem. She has been responsible for the maturity and health of PowerChord’s customer portfolio — driving more than 20% y/y growth across multi-million dollar national and international brand accounts. Nikki completed her undergraduate work at Florida State University (2006), followed by her Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Internet Marketing from Full Sail University (2015) where she earned the Advanced Achievement Course Director’s Award.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My passion for marketing and advertising are what drove me to PowerChord. I was laid off from Valpak (first “real” job out of Florida State University) back in December of 2008 and it was then that my adventure at PowerChord began. I took what was a professional heartbreak and turned it into an opportunity.

After meeting with Pat Schunk (founder) and learning of his mission to solve multi-location marketing and website experience needs I knew this was a perfect fit to get my feet wet within the digital advertising world. I knew I desired to follow a fearless leader and that was what Pat offered. I saw opportunity in PowerChord, that’s what initially sparked my interest in the company.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I’ve had a fascinating 10 years at PowerChord. I began as a Junior Account Manager (2009), working on PowerChord’s single largest client and now I direct a team of strategic account leads across all of PowerChord’s 25+ customers. I also play a critical role across PowerChord’s various business units including our digital marketing, sales, and engineering business units.

It’s not often in today’s technology world that employees stay at a company for more than a few years, PowerChord has made me an exception to that rule. For me to have grown from an Account Manager to the Director of Digital Marketing to the Director of Strategic Accounts and now to VP of Marketing & Strategy is pretty remarkable. I’ve found rich success in my ability to understand various roles and responsibilities within PowerChord’s different business divisions and strongly feel this has played a firm role in my professional accomplishments.

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?

One of my most embarrassing moments was during one of my first scheduled group client webinars. I had about 25 people on the line for an overview and unveiling of a new product launch and not once, not twice, but three times I accidentally ended the call and had to require everyone to hold while dialing back in. Not to mention I was nervously speaking gibberish after the third hang up. During the call, one of the clients called me out mid-discussion telling me to take a breath and that I was doing great.

It was a true professional lesson! While our clients were more than patient, I knew this meant that I needed to be more prepared for future client conference calls. It was a simple, yet very important lesson, that still sticks with me today. It wasn’t just about the phone call; it was the fact that you can never fully prepared for anything. Life will through you strikes but also curveballs, and the reason is that you have to swing and miss a few times so you can really appreciate and sit in awe of the home runs.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Hands down, the people of PowerChord are what makes the company stand out. In the last ten years, I’ve seen many people of PowerChord both come and go. What makes PowerChord special is the talent behind their glass walls and MacBook Air computers. PowerChord inspires employees to be themselves and encourages and values strategic thinking across all teams and roles. Male, female, younger, older, seasoned or a new professional PowerChord really empowers its people to take pride and ownership in what they do.

Examples include all the recent promotions, in particular when it comes to PowerChord’s female leadership. Look at Stephanie Shreve and Michelle Tipton as examples. Not to mention Kim Williams and Danielle Beckman, both who recently advanced their careers within the digital marketing team. These ladies all worked diligently to earn their seat at the table. The reason they shine is that at PowerChord their voice is heard.

In all my years at PowerChord I have proudly watched many fellow colleagues advance their careers in the direction and determination of their choice while also benefiting the prosperity of PowerChord. It’s the perfect backdrop for a winning formula.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Always! My team is currently working across our clients to introduce Joint Partnership Plans. These two-way communication tools will enable PowerChord to ensure each of our client relationships remains thriving. It also allows us to make sure each client keeps their primary business goals and areas of focus intact. Day in and day out, my team works hard to make sure each client truly values PowerChord as a partner and an extension to their management/business teams; we never seek to just be a “vendor”. These plans will enable PowerChord to formulate paths to success for each of their respective clients.

Another new project is our reinvention of the PowerChord Digital Advisory Council. This one is top secret, and you will need to follow PowerChord to find out more in the near future! Be prepared to be inspired by all the digital and technology advancements coming in the next 365 days and beyond.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

First and foremost, surround yourself with people who inspire you yet challenge you. Never let fear paralyze you and instead let it push you to be better, smarter and hungrier every day. Let others teach you by always listening more than you speak and by embracing others’ viewpoints which in turn will always help add clarity to your own.

Learn from failures but never dwell on them. When challenges get in your way, simply build yourself a new and brighter path.

Lastly, you must be your own biggest fan, and you have to believe in yourself. Don’t question your abilities and instead get inspired by your limits.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Always be an active and present listener. As a leader, it’s important for your team to genuinely know you have their back. While team members are often seeking advice, they are more often looking for a listening ear and someone to talk through their challenges or ideas with. Be bold, be assertive but in a calming and relaxing way. I’m not one to lead by fear I prefer to lead by opportunity.

I like to focus on building relationships with my team members. Keeping the discussions conversational helps avoid the feeling of micromanagement and instead instills open and encouraging dialogue. This helps everyone stay in tune with everything that is going on.

Lastly, delegate. To be effective you cannot do everything, and you must depend on and trust your team members to carry their weight. It not only affords you an opportunity as a leader, but it also empowers and strengthens your team to grow as well.

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?

While I’ve had many wonderful leaders in my life, one that I’m quickly reminded of is Mark Regan. Mark was previously the Chief Digital Officer at PowerChord. During Mark’s 5+ years at PowerChord, he helped drive me towards my goals of becoming a Director (and now VP). He supported me in achieving my master’s degree while working full time in 2015, he pushed me towards more challenging client conversations and projects, and he routinely worked with me to re-establish my next professional goals.

Mark would both encourage and acknowledge my self-development. What was interesting about Mark’s leadership style too is that is was the opposite of mine. Mark was more of the micro-manager, high octane type — while I wasn’t built that way. It was the balance that enabled me to learn from Mark while paving my own style when it came to both client management and team leadership.

Sometimes it just takes people believing in you to bring forth your best self. Mark did that for me.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I aim to bring positivity to the world each day. It is real in both my personal and professional life. I devote myself towards giving my employees a place to work that is safe, fun and challenging. Being a key leader, I appreciate the value of being a player/coach. I firmly believe this is what brings such dedication and commitment amongst my team.

It’s no secret that life is short; I strive to bring happiness each day into the workplace as it’s my goal to make sure each of my team members is thriving and happy at PowerChord.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Empower and trust your team. Work with them. The most successful leaders are highly collaborative. You must depend on and believe in your team members. It doesn’t matter the role, title or length of tenure; each of your team members working together is what generates success. If you have a weak link, teach them. If you have a weak link that doesn’t want to be taught, let them go.

2. Don’t step into solutions too swiftly. It’s important to always listen more than you speak. Each of us will never have all the answers, and therefore it’s important to hear others out and gain all the facts before making firm decisions.

3. Be authentic, passionate and even emotional about what you believe in. It’s okay to care. I hate the words, “it’s just a job”. It’s not just a job. It’s where you spend 40+ hours a week.It’s where we spend 1/3 of our lives. You should be passionate about what you do. Good days should make you smile and bad days should make you frustrated. Own your role and don’t be afraid to show that you care. If you don’t care or if you stop caring, it’s time to get a new job.

4. Keep trying. Always learn and reflect on the more challenging times but don’t dwell on them. Each lesson is just that, a lesson. Learn from your stumble and apply those learnings to your next endeavor. Embrace failure and celebrate your wins — wins wouldn’t exist without the losses.

5. Act with integrity always. Your team is always watching you. They will learn from you and grow with you. Every decision and action counts as a leader.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would want to inspire a movement that reminds people that life is short, and no moment should be missed. My movement would be the “work/life” balance movement. People need both to survive, and balancing them is a true requirement for success. 4-day work weeks would be the real deal, and PTO wouldn’t exist. Employees would be amped up to contribute in their workplace and then equally as excited to have a mimosa at the beach on Saturday. This movement would give ownership to respective individuals understanding that their work commitments would be met without question and the reward would be the freedom to manage their time accordingly.

Secondarily, I would love to start the “no email” and “2 meetings per day” movement, but I haven’t yet tackled how to do so successfully. I don’t believe anyone would disagree that taming the inbox needs to be solved and pre-defined 30- and 60-minute meetings are often filled with wasted time. The way we’ve learned to communicate is lazy and defensive if we got rid of those two notions everyone would have far more productive collaboration and communication.

Some of the biggest 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 🙂

If I could sit down with anyone from a business perspective it would absolutely be Richard Branson. He is inspirational in many ways, and I love his zest for this world and the people in it. He works hard but more than anything else he gives back and loves fiercely.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have two favorite quotes by the admirable Richard Branson. “Respect is how to treat everyone, not just those you want to impress”. Followed by, “train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

I’m all about people! Whether it’s a colleague, clients or family and friends for me that’s what life is all about. I take real pride in my passion for work although it doesn’t always come easy. It’s the people by my side that inspire me to keep going and to keep challenging myself. Pushing myself allows me to play a key role in both my clients and the company’s success. By challenging my team and giving them the means to thrive it affords me the best reward of all and that is their success.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

Women Of The C-Suite: “Don’t step into solutions too swiftly” With Nikki Vegenski of PowerChord was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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