Buying my advertising agency from my partner of 23 years during a global pandemic has been the boldest move of my career.
He and I started off as starry-eyed, ambitious (yet naïve) 25 year-olds who thought we would be partners forever.
When I first brought up the idea earlier this year, people thought I was crazy. Clients were pulling back advertising budgets, while video productions—which make up a large part of our business—had ground to a halt. It seemed like the worst possible time for a big change.
But I dreamed of leading a business in an industry where so few agencies are women-owned. I was scared as hell, but I knew I had to push forward.
I’m not sure I would have found that courage if not for the 50-plus executives and entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed on my podcast, She Dynasty. Here are the three most important lessons they taught me.
1. Fear and bravery go hand in hand
Nearly every woman I’ve interviewed has had significant breakthroughs at their most vulnerable moments—and they still found the confidence to act.
OPI co-founder Suzi Weiss-Fischmann put fear aside to shift her business from a dental supply company into one of the largest nail-polish companies in the world. And at the peak of her career as an NBC executive, Paula Madison found the courage to walk away from it all to search for her long-lost grandfather.
2. Success follows people who don’t make the goals all about themselves
Highly successful people tend to be passionate about lifting up those around them. Kim Getty, CEO of Deutsch, agreed to be on my podcast even though she could see my agency as competition. But the idea of “women helping women” is how she got to where she is today, she explained, and that there is more than enough work to go around.
Xanthe Wells, a senior director and executive creative director at Google, spoke about feeling a great responsibility to advocate for the people she leads and push their careers forward.
I came to realize that for many years, I was focused on perfecting my own skills to live up to my partner’s expectations. But I had finally reached a point where I could give back to younger creatives, and it gave me that push to strike out on my own.
3. Never reach the destination
Objectively, all of my interviewees have reached the pinnacle of the business world. In some cases, they’ve built companies from the ground up; in others, they’ve climbed the ranks to reach the C-suite.
Yet none of them feel like they’ve reached their full potential. That isn’t to say they’re self-deprecating or have low self-esteem; they just have the insatiable drive to exceed their goals and immediately set new ones.
I realized that although my partner and I had grown the business beyond our wildest dreams, we had hit a ceiling that neither of us could break through. We had learned all we could from each other. Since striking out on my own, I’ve added new members to my team who force me to look at things differently. I’ve also taken on the dual-title of CEO an CCO, which comes with a new set of responsibilities that I’m excited about.
I thought I was already set on my path, but I was wrong. If you had told me in 2019 that I would be the sole owner of my agency, I would have thought you were out of your mind.
And that’s a good lead-in to what’s probably the most important thing I’ve learned: if you stay open to learning new things, especially in times when it may seem terrifying, your career can evolve in ways you never would have imagined.
Valerie Moizel is Founder and CEO/CCO of LA-based independent agency, The Woo, and Founder/Host of the She Dynasty podcast.