NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The second annual Women in Business-to-Business honors recognized four industry women with the Gertrude R. Crain Honor last night in Manhattan at the Prince George Ballroom. Those honored included Carla Hendra, co-CEO, Ogilvy North America and chairman, Ogilvy New York; Judy Hu, global executive director, advertising and branding at General Electric; Marion Minor, president-CEO of M2Media360; and Victoria Chu Pao, president, Platts, McGraw-Hill Cos.
Breaking into the business
The evening included a roundtable discussion moderated by CBS News correspondent and 2008 Women in Business-to-Business honoree Erin Moriarty. The discussion ranged from how each had made it to their positions, balancing work and family life and their advice on how to break into the industry.
Ms. Hendra, who is also the driving force behind WPP-owned Ogilvy's digital-marketing unit, Ogilvy Interactive, credits her parents with instilling a work ethic that "got me where I am." Ms. Minor said her ambition to be in charge dates back to her youth. "I just always wanted to run things when I was younger," she said. "That helped."
But like many, their individual roads to success weren't always paved with triumphs and, in fact, at times it was their failures that proved to be more beneficial over the long run.
Learning from mistakes
"You can learn more from a failure than a success," said Ms. Hendra. "We lose business, it happens. But if you're smart you look at the situation, figure out why you lost it and figure out how to not let it happen again. The direct-marketing industry is about testing and learning what works and what doesn't and that has made me open to failure and helped me develop an appetite for taking risks."
Ms. Pao said it was the first time that she was let go that taught her a lesson she has continued to live by. Back when she was working for Macy's as a sales rep, she was promoted four times in five years due to outstanding performance. But when the company was bought by Federated she was let go based solely on her short tenure at the company.
"One day I was on top of the world and the next day I was handed a pink slip," she told the audience of 50 or so people. "I learned that day to never take anything for granted."
Ms. Pao also announced last night that she would be stepping away from her role as president at McGraw-Hill, where she oversees 600 employees, because of a job offer her husband is going to take. "He was supportive of me while I was traveling and working and it's about give and take with your partner," she said.
This segued into a discussion about the proper balance of work and family in which Ms. Minor, whose publishing and business information company services the adult beverage, tobacco and natural-food industries, said she realized the idea of being a super parent and managing to work long hours and then run a home is a myth. "It's very hard to do and I couldn't do it," she said. "Spouses are very important."
When asked what advice they had for other women trying to break into the marketing and communications industry, Ms. Hendra spoke to the need for understanding digital.
Get to know digital
"The business is changing, and anyone who shows initiative and an understanding of how to tap into new possibilities will have a chance," Ms. Hendra said. "Agencies are still struggling with mobility and portability, and if you have ideas, this is the time people are going to be very willing to listen."
"Know anything and everything digital," Ms. Pao said. "Project-management skills are also vital at this time as well."
Ms. Hendra noted that while 2009 was going to be very tough, it could be a blessing for those with original ideas. She said: "Coming in with ideas that people are not thinking of or imagining is the way to get noticed.