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Women Of The C-Suite: “By ultimately being true to who you are you’ll show your team that they can bring their authentic selves to work” with Retta Kekic and Chaya Weiner

Be yourself. So often as women in the workplace we feel like we need to be more of this, or less of that. By ultimately being true to who you are you’ll show your team that they can bring their authentic selves to work. Doing this you’ll be able to channel all the energy that went into trying to be someone else into your work and ultimately you’ll find yourself in a better work environment.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing I had the pleasure of interviewing Retta Kekic. Retta is the Vice President of Marketing for Qwick, a high-quality hospitality staffing platform for food and beverage professionals and businesses where she oversees all market growth efforts and branding for the rapidly expanding startup. She boasts nearly a decade of marketing experience working for Uber and Banner Health, with expertise in strategic gig economy marketing, brand development, digital marketing, project management, partnerships, and team leadership. At Qwick, she oversees the strategy and execution of all marketing programs including lead generation, marketing automation, the website, branding, search engine marketing, PPC advertising, and content marketing.

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

I ended up in marketing after dreaming for years of becoming a broadcast journalist. After a few internships that included getting man-on-the-street stories in 110 degree heat (yikes), I realized I just wasn’t that passionate about it. I ended up getting my next internship in marketing and loved it. I specifically love utilizing data to help drive decisions and influence behavior while still getting to be creative.

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

What’s been incredibly interesting to me since I began at Qwick is what I’ve learned about myself. This is my first role in a leadership position of this capacity and I have learned more in the last 6 months than I have in my career. Our CEO, Jamie Baxter, and COO, Blaine Light, have put complete trust in me and it has allowed me to put that trust in myself. In doing so I have pushed myself beyond what I thought I was capable of and have surprised myself. I’m so proud of the team that we’ve put together and so grateful for this wonderful career growth opportunity.

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?

What sticks out to me as the funniest (although not funny at the time) mistake that I’ve made was when I was managing content marketing in the South West for Uber. The Thursday before Labor Day I sent a “Things to do over the long weekend” email that included the most Ubered to locations in users’ respective cities. Turns out there was an issue with the CSV file for the personalized send and Phoenix got Albuquerque’s email and Albuquerque got the email for Phoenix. Having some perfectionist like tendencies, I felt like my world was ending. But it didn’t, I was able to monitor all of our responses and personally respond to anyone who reached out, and was able to put some gates within our email service provider tool to ensure that only the correct users got city specific marketing. Sending large emails haunted my nightmares after that and still pops up from time to time.

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

What stands out about Qwick is that we are a people first organization. Our platform is built to help food and beverage professionals earn additional income and to help hospitality businesses to be successful and grow. A recent story that really highlights how far we’ll go for the people on our platform was when a caterer that utilizes our services suddenly lost several members of her full-time staff. She came to us for help and instead of just filling the shifts she needed temporarily we took it one step further and sought to replace her full-time employees. We put together a campaign to the top performing professionals on the Qwick platform and advertised her full-time roles. While we may not be able to utilize those top-performing professionals as much, we were able to help both a business and professionals on our platform, and ultimately that’s what it’s all about.

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

We are currently working on building for scale as we launch across the United States to ultimately help us to grow effectively and efficiently. We’re currently bringing on quite a few new team members and working on how to build out our team to serve the future of Qwick and maintain our amazing team culture. We are trying to strike a balance between building out processes to help us grow, while still maintaining the startup feel that allows us to test and try all of our great ideas. Building out our team to scale helps people because we can bring hundreds of thousands more professionals on the platform allowing them to earn additional income. Our entire business is about helping people, which is so rewarding.

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

Be yourself. So often as women in the workplace we feel like we need to be more of this, or less of that. By ultimately being true to who you are you’ll show your team that they can bring their authentic selves to work. Doing this you’ll be able to channel all the energy that went into trying to be someone else into your work and ultimately you’ll find yourself in a better work environment.

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

Make time for your team. Spend time with each individual and learn about what motivates them, what gets them excited, and who they are personally. By developing a personal relationship you’ll be able to much better understand that person and their needs, and they’ll be more willing to go the extra mile.

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?

One particular person that stands out as a great leadership example and really helped me to develop my leadership style was Julie Sherman, the VP of Brand Services at Banner Health. She was so compassionate and so proud of the work that her team produced. She was willing to do whatever it took to showcase the great work that her team did and was willing to take the fall when mistakes were made. She was a layer removed from me but still took the time to get to know me and help me grow. Being right out of college it was so wonderful to see that leadership style and to have a female leader to look up to.

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

The work that we’re doing at Qwick is inherently bringing goodness to the world by allowing freedom and flexibility to food and beverage professionals and allowing businesses to grow and scale with flexible and more cost-effective staffing options. This is something near and dear to my heart as I am so passionate about doing things for the greater good. As I was looking for my next career opportunity I really had one non-negotiable and that was, I wanted to help people.

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

  1. Praise, even for small things done well, is an effective way to motivate employees to perform at an even higher level. I remember the first time that I had a manager that gave positive feedback without following it up with something I needed to work on. It was a profound moment for me as I had always viewed feedback as a negative thing. I left that 1:1 feeling so empowered and excited to get to work and knew that as I grew into leadership, I would focus more on the positive than the negative.
  2. Own a mistake and move on. In a startup we are moving super quickly and mistakes happen. A great example of this was when a text message was sent out to all of the professionals on the Qwick platform that had an error in it. As an organization, we know we have to own our mistakes so we sent out a text poking fun at ourselves, it ended up being so well received that it was a positive brand sentiment moment for us, all because we weren’t afraid to own up to our mistakes.
  3. Great ideas come from any member of the team. Some of the best ideas at Qwick have come from every level of our team, especially the people who are interfacing with customers the most. One of our biggest revenue generating tools was derived from someone on the ground listening to feedback from our customers.
  4. Sometimes it’s more important for people to fit in well with the team as a team player as opposed to being an all-star performer. Ultimately it’s all about building a great team that works well together. I have had the most success working with teams that work together and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses than with someone who tries to do it all themselves. There’s greater efficiency in teamwork, and better camaraderie and culture.
  5. Do the right thing. This is one of our cultural values at Qwick, and something that I believe is crucial for leaders. Being in a leadership position you have to have tough conversations and sometimes tell people things they don’t want to hear. Doing so helps your employees, your customers, and ultimately your business.

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. :-)

If I could inspire a movement it would be to be more environmentally friendly, eating less meat, using less plastic, and committing to making major changes as society and the way people run businesses. Some of my greatest joy comes from exploring the beauty of the outdoors and I want to preserve that for future generations.

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

Only worry about what you can control. It’s so easy to get stressed out, anxious, and caught up in major projects, or things outside of your control. If you instead focus on what is in front of you, or build a plan to address it you’ll not only feel much better, but you’ll have a plan of action to address the problem.

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 :-)

Michelle Obama, she leads with such humility and grace and has accomplished so much in her career and as a first lady.

Thank you for all of these great insights!



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