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“You Might Have To Kiss A Few Frogs” 5 Leadership Lessons with Julie Leffler, of Big Hype Marketing

“When I first started hiring employees I made some poor choices and ended up having to replace people. I have since gotten a better feel for what I should be looking for in the right candidate. For most of the positions I hire for, my first priorities are to look for someone who is creative, has good writing skills and is self-motivated. A lot of the other skills needed for a job can be taught but I can’t teach someone to be creative, write properly or to be proactive. Figure out what you need to look for in a candidate and teach them the rest.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Leffler, Owner and Creative Director of Big Hype Marketing & PR, a full-service marketing, public relations and website design agency located in Costa Mesa, CA. Julie and her team at Big Hype Marketing work with small to medium size businesses nationwide to provide creative design services, and strategic online and traditional marketing initiatives that help businesses reach more of their target demographic, therefore standing out against their competitors, increasing revenue, and building HYPE for the brand and its services.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I have worked in marketing and public relations for almost 20 years promoting both individuals and businesses across a variety of industries including, celebrities, fashion, events, charity, consumer products, service industry, theatrical movie releases, home video and non-profit organizations. Earlier in my career, I worked at a PR agency in Hollywood representing home video releases and then I worked for one of the biggest celebrity PR agencies in the business. I worked directly under the publicist that at the time, represented Ben Affleck (pre-J-LO and Jennifer Garner), Justin Theroux (pre-Jennifer Aniston), Jared Leto, Michael Clark Duncan, Scott Caan, Stuart Townsend, Tom Welling, Jessalyn Gilsig and more… I worked at movie premieres, theatrical movie releases, red carpets, press junkets and photo shoots and met countless celebrities. It was a great experience and a lot of fun.

I later managed both marketing and public relations at action sports company, Hurley. In 2006, I launched my own public relations agency, where I represented mostly fashion and lifestyle brands. After taking a few years off of work to be a mom, I decided to jump back into the workforce and launched, Big Hype Marketing and PR in 2015 with the goal of helping entrepreneurs like myself with marketing their companies and brands.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company.

The funniest and most interesting thing is that our clients think of us as their internet and email help line. At least once a week we have a client that needs help figuring out how to work their email, the internet, how to reset passwords, etc., things that they just need help with and that are not part of the service that we are providing them. We are happy to help our clients when we can, who else are they going to ask?

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story? I think there are two things that make us stand out….1. We work with small to medium size businesses so we are usually working directly with the owner of the company or at least they are aware of what’s going on with our marketing strategy and efforts. I like making a difference in a business that is individually owned, where our efforts are directly making a difference in the lives of the owner, their family and their employees lives. 2. At a lot of other web developing companies, a developer is designing the websites on their own. Although they have the knowledge to build a website, they don’t usually have the creative side. At Big Hype Marketing, our creative team plans out the website, chooses the photos, comes up with the creative, content and design and then brings in the developer to discuss more ideas, different functions of the site and gets his input on the project before he then builds the site. I also review all website creative before it goes into production to make sure it is up to my creative standards as well as includes all of the necessary information for that business. This process allows our websites to have a certain design element that you don’t see at a lot of other web design companies.

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?

My dad is a marketing consultant and has worked with many hi-profile celebrities including Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, R.L. Stine from Goosebumps, Jane Fonda, and Richard Simmons to name a few. I tagged along with him when I could when I was young and got to see what goes on behind the scenes of filming, photo shoots, press junkets, VIP travel and celebrity life. My dad definitely inspired me to pursue marketing and I often call on him as a sounding board.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? It’s not quite making an impact on the world but as a female business owner, I hope to show my two daughters that women are equal to men. That we can succeed, be smart, and that they can become anyone they want to be.

Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

I would say my three favorite books are:

1. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls — This is a true story of a woman who had a bizarre childhood with unconventional parents and is now a successful writer and author.

2. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty — I was sad when this book ended and thrilled when they made it a television series.

3. Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood — This book was written back in 1985 but is very relevant, however more extreme, to issues we face today in society and in government. It is thought provoking and shocking and a story like no other I have read before.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Get ready to step outside your comfort zone — As an entrepreneur and a lady boss, I have to be a tough cookie sometimes which is somewhat outside of my comfort zone. With employees and with clients I have to stand up for what’s right and what I want for my company. Sometimes I’m afraid of confrontation but I don’t have a choice. I have to ask for what I want and say what I need to say because there is no one else who can do it for me. All women should work on asking for what they want. You will not get anywhere in business or in life if you sit back and wait for things to fall into your lap.

2. Keep an eye on your P&L, especially your expenses. — Know what every expense is and why it is the amount it is. I check my P&L every day and go through my expenses regularly. Even though I monitor my expenses, I often find items that I can either reduce or get rid of entirely, depending on our current clients and needs.

3. You Might Have To Kiss A Few Frogs — When I first started hiring employees I made some poor choices and ended up having to replace people. I have since gotten a better feel for what I should be looking for in the right candidate. For most of the positions I hire for, my first priorities are to look for someone who is creative, has good writing skills and is self-motivated. A lot of the other skills needed for a job can be taught but I can’t teach someone to be creative, write properly or to be proactive. Figure out what you need to look for in a candidate and teach them the rest.

4. Learn how to do everyone’s job — As a business owner and leader, I have to be able to show my employees how to do their job the way I expect it to be done. Also, I have to be able to fill in if that job becomes vacant or if we get too busy. If someone quits or is out or our pipeline is overwhelming, someone has to pick up the slack. As the boss, I can’t expect a manager or counterpart to absorb ALL of the extra work. As the owner of the company, sometimes I have to help out and in order to do so, I need to know what everyone does and how to do their job. Understanding how everyone contributes and how to do their tasks is also valuable for evaluating productivity as well.

5. Be flexible and adaptable to change. — When you own your own business, there is always something popping up and changing. The world of digital marketing, social media marketing and the internet as a whole are constantly evolving. One day one strategy will be the most current and valuable way to market, and the next day it’s completely invaluable and something else is the best and most productive way to market a product or service. As a marketing professional in the digital world, it’s important to stay ahead of the game. I need to constantly educate myself, read and research, share information, and foretell the future. My skills and goals are constantly evolving and changing and I have to keep up.

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 whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg — She is the ultimate female role model and one badass B! She is 85 years old and still fighting for what she (and I) think is right. She has made HUGE contributions to women’s rights and gender equality.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.