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Amy Vernon: business leader showcase

What tools do business leaders use to stay ahead of the pack? How do they balance work and family? How did they come to be so well known? Today we talk to Amy Vernon for her take on how she got to where she is now.

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Amy Vernon, Social Marketing

Amy Vernon, Social  Marketing

Business leader showcase

In an effort to improve our own professional lives, we often look to business leaders for inspiration, as knowing how they tick can help us to understand what makes a great leader. Amy Vernon is the GM of Social Marketing at Internet Media Labs, and is a well known industry leader in the social media field. A former journalist, Vernon is known for her keen insight, her wit, and for unveiling problems most people never even see.

She has over 67,000 subscribers on Facebook and over 20,000 followers on her personal Twitter profile, but in the interview below, it is heartwarming to see how a real social media expert keeps her focus on her family.

Tell us about yourself and your work.

I’m general manager of social marketing for NYC tech startup Internet Media Labs. That means I deal with overall social marketing strategy for our company and our clients, as well as day-to-day operations on some accounts. I coordinate our blog and relationships with other companies that provide services and resources we don’t. I do hardcore QA on our own products, as well. I tend to work the tools I use very hard.

Walk us through a typical day in your life.

I wake up about 6 a.m., usually when one or more children is bouncing on me for “Operation Wake Up Mommy.” After herding two boys around to get ’em ready for school and they’re dropped off, my husband drops me off at the train and I head into Manhattan. In between, I’ve already begun checking my social accounts and the resources I use to find content I share – Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Triberr and Plugg.io. I start scheduling shares of some of that content, otherwise I’d barrage my followers with a dozen links all at once. I prefer to spread them out throughout the day.

Once I get into work in Chelsea, I’m basically going back and forth between my social accounts and client accounts all day, as well as writing or editing blog posts, meeting with current or potential clients, and putting our products through their paces. SeeS.aw, which is in public beta, visualizes your social feed and enables you to find the best content from it. oneQube, which is in closed beta, helps you find relevant people and conversations.

I’m a pretty hardcore product tester, so I tend to surface unexpected problems, as friends of mine can attest to. I once got an error message on a friend’s product that said merely, “Oh, crap.” The engineer knew exactly what it was, but said I wasn’t supposed to be able to get that particular message.

On days when I don’t have an evening event, I try to get out of Manhattan by 6 p.m. or so, so I can spend some time with my boys before bed. After bedtime, I have my laptop on and continue working while I watch TV with my husband. If I have a nighttime event — which can range from New York Tech Meetup’s monthly showcase to a social event with Girls in Tech or New York Tech Women —  I may be in the city until 10 or 11 p.m., take a train home, stay up a bit longer working and then go to bed.

Where were you raised? Where all have you lived?

Born and raised on Long Island, went to school at Northwestern University in the Chicago suburbs, then lived in South Florida, outside of Phoenix, Az., and in Westchester County, NY. Now I live in Elizabeth, N.J.

How did you get into your current career?

I was laid off after 20 years in newspaper journalism. I’d gotten into Digg, StumbleUpon and other social media sites to help drive traffic to our newspaper’s blogs, and that set me up well for a post-journalism career. Basically, the day after I was laid off, I had my first contract for consulting.

What is something unique that you do to balance work and life?

That’s tough. I feel as if I don’t do a particularly good job at that. But if I had to point to something, it would probably be that every night that I’m home before the boys’ bedtime (I have two young sons), that time until bedtime is “family time.”

What keeps you up at night?

Oddly, I sleep pretty well. When I do have problems, it’s usually work-related. Something I forgot to do, or something I just thought of doing that I’m really excited about.

If you could spend one day in the life of another industry leader, who would it be?

Gini Dietrich or Shelly Kramer. Can’t choose between them. (Fight it out, ladies!) They’re both totally the tops – and good people, hard-nosed, hard-working, funny as heck, smart, and NICE.

At age 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A newspaper reporter.

What about you would most people not believe unless they knew you?

I was SUPER-shy as a child. Had major problems talking to people I didn’t know. Sometimes even people I did know.

What inspirational quote has stuck with you the longest?

I tend to dislike “inspirational” quotes. Most of the quotes on my FB profile, for example, are from Midnight Run or 24.

So, in lieu of that, here’s a quote I really liked when when my first child was a toddler: “Our job is to civilize them, to teach them to say please and thank you, don’t spit and scratch and don’t pee anywhere you want. These are the jobs you have with a toddler.” — Dr. Harvey Karp

The reason I like that quote is because it oversimplifies, but in a way that isn’t oversimplified. At its core, that IS the job one has with a child. Sure, it’s not as simple as that, but it is, also. And I think we tend to overcomplicate most things in life and should step back sometimes and figure out what we really need to get done and do that. And that applies to a lot of things in life.

What tools can you not live without?

Actual tools/gadgets – my smartphones. I have an iPhone and an Android. I like each for different things, though my actual Android is a horrible phone (Droid X2). Between the two, I’m able to do most things I need to while I’m mobile. In terms of platforms/software/apps – Twitter app, Google apps that enable me to email from 6 different addresses via one mailbox, Card Munch, which enables me to scan a business card and then connect with that person on LinkedIn, and GeniusScan, which eliminates the need for a scanner.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. ginidietrich

    November 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Oh ha! I see the duking it out now! LOL! Couldn’t you just spend time with both of us? I mean, Shelly has the Chili Peppers and she’s more funny than me so she naturally wins, but I have Jack Bauer and I can cook like a celebrity chef (at least in my head).

    • AmyVernon

      November 12, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      @ginidietrich See? that’s why it’s so hard. Honestly, there were a bunch more ladies I easily could have named, too – Tonia Ries & Tinu Abayomi-Paul chief among them. Not Danny Brown , though, because I look funny in a kilt.

      • ginidietrich

        November 13, 2012 at 7:36 am

        @AmyVernon  And you’d have to stop shaving your legs.

        • AmyVernon

          November 13, 2012 at 9:38 am

          @ginidietrich Why do you think I wear pants?

        • ginidietrich

          November 13, 2012 at 10:16 am

          @AmyVernon LOL!!

  2. Tinu

    November 13, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Hi wife friend!
    There are some many fascinating things I know about you but one I didn’t know is that you were super-shy. Me too. I was that kid who cried when I met Santa. Did you ever cry meeting strangers?

    • AmyVernon

      November 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm

      @Tinu I didn’t cry that much, I just kind of melted into the background. I find it so hard to see you as shy, except that I know a lot of people feel that way about me, too. We were just late bloomers, eh? 🙂

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Business News

This web platform for cannabis is blowing up online distribution

(BUSINESS NEWS) Dutchie, a website platform for cannabis companies, just octupled in value. Here’s what that means for the online growth of cannabis distribution.

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A small jar of cannabis on a desk with notebooks, sold online in a nicely made jar.

The cannabis industry has, for the most part, blossomed in the past few years, managing to hit only a few major snags along the way. One of those snags is the issue of payment processing, an issue compounded by predominantly cash-only transactions. Dutchie, a Bend, Oregon company, has helped mitigate that issue—and it just raised a ton of money.

Technically, Dutchie is a jack-of-all-trades service that creates and hosts websites for dispensaries, tracks product, processes orders, keeps stock of revenue, and so much more. While it was valued at around $200 million as recently as summer of 2020, a round of series C funding currently puts the company at around $1.7 billion—approximately 8 times its worth a mere 8 months ago.

There are a few reasons behind Dutchie’s newfound momentum. For starters, the pandemic made cannabis products a lot more accessible—and desirable—in states in which the sale of cannabis is legal. The ensuing surge of customers and demand certainly didn’t hurt the platform, especially given that Dutchie is largely responsible for keeping things on track during some of the more chaotic months for dispensaries.

Several states in which the sale of cannabis was illegal also voted to legalize recreational use, giving Dutchie even more stomping ground than they had prior to the lockdown.

Dutchie also recently took on 2 separate companies and their associated employees, effectively doubling their current staff. The companies are Greenbits—a resource planning group—and Leaflogix, which is a point-of-sale platform. With these two additions to their compendium, Dutchie can operate as even more of an all-in-one suite, which absolutely contributes to its value as a company.

Ross Lipson, who is Dutchie’s co-founder and current CEO, is fairly dismissive of investment opportunities for the public at the moment, saying he instead prefers to stay “focused with what’s on our plate” for the time being. However, he also appears open to the possibility of going public via an acquisition company.

“We look at how this decision brings value to the dispensary and the customer,” says Lipson. “If it brings value, we’d embark on that decision.”

For now, Dutchie remains the ipso facto king of cannabis distribution and sales—and they don’t show any plans to slow down any time soon.

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Business News

Ford adopts flexible working from home schedule for over 30k employees

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ford Motor Co. is allowing employees to continue working from home even after the pandemic winds down. Is this the beginning of a trend for auto companies?

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Woman in car working on engineering now allowed a flexible schedule for working from home.

The pandemic has greatly transformed our lives. For the most part, learning is being conducted online. At one point, interacting with others was pretty much non-existent. Working in the office shifted significantly to working remotely, and it seems like working from home might not go away anytime soon.

As things slowly get back to a new “normal”, will things change again? Well, one thing is sure. Working from home will be a permanent thing for some people as more companies opt to continue letting people work remotely.

And, the most recent company on the list to do this is Ford Motor Co. Even after the pandemic winds down, Ford will allow more than 30,000 employees already working from home to continue doing so.

Last week, the automaker giant announced its “flexible hybrid model” schedule to its staff. The new schedule is set to start in the summer, and employees can choose to work remotely and come into the office for tasks that require face-to-face collaborations, such as meetings and group projects.

How much time an employee spends in the office will depend on their responsibilities, and flexible remote hours will need to be approved by an employee’s manager.

“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent — you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” David Dubensky, chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, told the Washington Post. “Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful. … It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”

Ford’s decision to implement a remote-office work model has to do in part with an employee survey conducted in June 2020. Results from the survey showed that 95% of employees wanted a hybrid schedule. Some employees even reported feeling more productive when working from home.

Ford is the first auto company to allow employees to work from home indefinitely, but it might not be the only one. According to the Post, Toyota and General Motors are looking at flexible options of their own.

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Business News

Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.

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Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

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