Velvet Badger founder and CEO. Experienced project leader and chief operating officer with a proven history in marketing, experience and advertising. Expert in brand, design, digital, content production and web 3.0 project team management.

LBB> What was your first leadership experience?

Kerry> Manage a full design team, freelance producers and attempt to augment the internal structures of a growing brand agency. Being part of a company that moves rapidly from 10-30+ people is the most crucial time in the growth of a start-up as it is the turning point and the most challenging of any growing business.

LBB> How did you understand what kind of leader you wanted to be or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be?

Kerry> Experiencing the kind of leadership that I had no respect for in past positions, I began to subconsciously build an image of the kind I would be. He has come up with some key points for me ..

1. Never ask someone to do something I wouldn’t do myself

2. Always have an open door policy

3. Allow others who follow you to teach you new things. Never assume that you have all the answers or that you know everything.

4. Reward big hits.

LBB> What experience or moment gave you your greatest leadership lesson?

Kerry> When I think back to when I was directing big production team projects for auto show roadshows, at that point I really thought that I had a process and that I could solve problems whatever was thrown at me, find solutions or just work harder and longer to ensure successful delivery. However, nothing prepares you for what it takes to be an employer. It’s all of the above, but with the added responsibility of so many other hats. A start breeds a new “roll up your sleeves” attitude, which means you have to be HR, Operations, Accounts, Legal, Management and so much more. Velvet Badger forced me to see leadership in a very different light.

LBB> Did you know you’ve always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so, how did you work on it and, if not, when did you start realizing you had it inside you?

Kerry> Becoming a leader has never been a lifelong goal. It is not yet. Having worked with large broadcasting and experiential agencies since the beginning of my career, I have always viewed leadership as something or someone with whom I had to measure my performance to improve.

Becoming a leader today is a byproduct of another goal which was to achieve the things that all the places I had worked left to be desired. These are, the ability to decide the type of what I wanted to undertake. Be in control of execution decisions. And create an agency where people wanted to show up.

LBB> When it comes to “leadership” as a skill, how much do you think is a natural part of the personality, how much can it be taught and learned?

Kerry> I believe one fits into the other and flows and ebbs depending on whether you’ve experienced the situation in the past or whether it’s all new and a learning experience. But they are both valuable in equal measure.

LBB> What aspects of leadership do you personally find most challenging? And how do you solve them?

Kerry> There are two areas that I personally find inspiring in leadership.

One is the consistency required to have all the answers and knowledge can be daunting. You can see a leader as someone who has been there, has done it and can walk the path for them. When actually running your business is a continuous path of unknowns. The second is capacity and time management. As a native producer, I would always have a to-do list and set my daily goals. But no one can prepare you for the unknowns that arise in the day-to-day running of an agency that can throw you out in an instant.

LBB> Have you ever felt like you failed while he was in charge? How did you deal with the problem and what did you learn from it?

Kerry> The impostor syndrome is real! That constant “I’m doing it right”. They say having a baby is the best and scariest thing you can do in life as you have this being that requires 24/7 nurturing and full attention. I say the same in business and starting a creative agency. I feel a level of failure every day, in one form or another. Whether it’s not being able to finish something or not responding to someone or not being able to pay attention to the one person who really needs it. You learn to overcome, keep that information for future use, and move on. The only way I feel that something isn’t bad is to use that knowledge to prevent it next time.

LBB> In terms of leadership and openness, what is your approach? Do you think it is important to be as transparent as possible in the service of authenticity? Or is there a value in being attentive and considered?

Kerry> Opening generates openness. If I want people to feel that they can get close to me it is because I offer them some form of authenticity and unity in return. There are limits to privacy, but I believe employees should feel able to get close to me and know that I’ve met them halfway with all the details I’m willing to offer. I also believe that people need to know a little more than the bare minimum. Context is the key to understanding and solving problems.

LBB> When you developed your leadership skills, did you have a mentor, if so who was / are and what did you learn? And on the other hand, do you mentor aspiring leaders and how do you deal with this relationship?

Kerry> It’s only now that I look back and see who my mentors are / were now that I’m faced with things I’ve seen them go through. I always look back and think about the approaches they would have taken to make sure I don’t act fast. I will say that they are all women in leading positions in my industry. It’s been a really busy year and that’s an understatement.

LBB> How do you face the responsibility of leading a team in such difficult waters?

Kerry> Be honest and informative. I argue that it is fair and where fairness may have no place, honesty will provide the explanation. I think this year has been less demanding than the previous two as our business seems to be the most stable from the team’s point of view.

LBB> How important is your corporate culture to the success of your business? And how did you manage to keep it alive with staff working remotely in 2020?

Kerry> Fortunately, our industry is digitally driven. we were half our current staff quota in 2020 and therefore it was easier to manage, communicate and maintain the strength of relationships during that year. It was important to me that our employees at the time felt cared for and that feeling remains. Finding the time to have fun and bring the team together is difficult but always achievable, planned or not. It is important that the team know they are appreciated and I hope they feel that this happens consistently.

LBB> What are the most useful resources you have found to help you on your leadership journey?

Kerry> On a daily level, my notebook. I am a supporter of a pad and a pen. Writing something from brain to paper is one way to make sure he’s satisfied, and a to-do list requires that achievability. As an entrepreneur and manager, it is all the proven processes that I have kept in my arsenal that feed the organization. A good old Excel spreadsheet is a comfort to me.

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