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Joan Schneider profile Document Transcript

  • 1. Sofia Barbieri 1 The secret to success? For Joan Schneider hard work and creativity “I come from a long line of entrepreneurs: my father was an entrepreneur, my mother was anentrepreneur, my grandmother, who came from Russia, was an entrepreneur…there was no hope forme. I had to be an entrepreneur.” Even though Joan Schneider seemed to be destined to follow in herparents’ steps, it was not an easy route, one which would lead to the successful career she enjoys today.A strong personality, a creative mindset and a willingness to take risks andconfront hardships were the secret to her success and what continue todistinguish her in the business world. While at first glance Schneider would come across as a simple,“Plain Jane” type, this 5’2”, middle-aged blond is definitely one-of-a-kind: behind her friendly and wittysmile lies an unparalleled passion and devotion to her business. For four years after opening hercompany, Schneider never took a vacation and still today she often works seven days a week. “I am a really tough boss,” said Schneider. “I demand a lot from my colleagues, but I would liketo think that I am fair and treat them fairly as well. But ultimately, the person I am the hardest on ismyself.” Since her teenage years, Schneider’s hard work has paid significant dividends in establishingherself as a leader and innovator in each of her many undertakings. During her senior year at a small,
  • 2. Sofia Barbieri 2Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania high school, Schneider wrote a column for The Scranton Times andwon a scholarship to study journalism at the prestigious Blair Academy in Blairstown, New Jersey.During the summer program, Schneider started to learn for the first time what it really meant to workunder pressure because of the rigorous deadlines imposed on participants, while simultaneouslyperfecting her writing skills. The experience reinvigorated her commitment to her future and it waswith that same passion and commitment that, four years later, she would earn a Bachelors of Science inCommunications from Boston University. While eight years of working in various public relations positions for outfits such as HarvardTrust and WBZ-TV would provide new, rewarding learning experiences, Schneider realized that shewas still unsatisfied with her achievements. As she happily recalls, the turning point would come duringThanksgiving weekend 1979. At the dinner table, in between bites of turkey and stuffing, Schneiderconveyed to her parents her dissatisfaction at her current job and desire to seek something morechallenging. She needed a change and that change needed to come soon. A $5000 check from her father—given to her with the promise of quitting her position atNewsome & Company (which later became Hill & Knowlton)—was all the motivation she needed, and rdon January 3 , 1980 she founded Schneider Associates and took the first step to fulfilling one of her
  • 3. Sofia Barbieri 3lifetime goals: becoming her own boss. While her first office, located in the sunroom of her Newton,Massachusetts home, leaved a little to be desired, it more than served its purpose. “It was about 100-square feet,” said Schneider. “Big enough for me and my typewriter.” Littledid she know that Schneider Associates was on track to becoming one of the most successful publicrelations and marketing communications firms in the Boston area. Today, Schneider Associates office,located in the heart of the Financial District, reflects in every aspect Schneider’s personality: creative,witty and dedicated. Upon entering the office, the bright and flashy different colors of the walls hintthat this is not one’s typical public relations firm, but much more. “When I was planning the layout of the office, I wanted it to be able to inspire and stimulate thepeople that work here,” said Schneider. “How can people be creative and accomplish day-to-day tasksin a boring environment?” The polychromatic walls of the office show how she wanted people to be exposed to a myriad ofdifferent perspectives and stimuli and be able to adapt to them interchangeably. This would be one ofthe focal points of her work philosophy: to look at things from different perspectives and satisfy every“color.” The unusually colorful environment is further evidence of the link between her goal ofconnecting her creative personality with those of others around her. However, as Schneider points out,
  • 4. Sofia Barbieri 4“Failure is not an option,” and she actively seeks not to be strict and to remain flexible with her teambest respond to the new and ever-changing needs of the clients and the business world. “From the very first day I met Joan, it was evident that her approach to work was highlyenergetic, passionate and focused,” said Chief Operating Officer Phil Pennellatore. “Now twelve yearslater, after working on hundreds of client campaigns together, she still approaches each assignment withthe same kind of energy, curiosity and compassion that I initially observed during my early days atSchneider Associates.” The ability to adapt and modify her firm to the market and to her clients’ requests is what setsSchneider apart from all the other business owners and has been a key driver in her thirty-plus years ofsuccess in industry. When a determined category of clients would fade off the market from recessionaryenvironments, economic crises or other reasons, she was always able to modify her business, attractother clients from different sectors and respond to their needs. At the start of her career, Schneider focused heavily on public relations for residential andcommercial real estate, which was the then hot sector. For a while, this strategy worked, bringingSchneider the initial confidence to keep going strong. She built her business to $3 million in annualrevenues by 1989. When the real estate market crashed in the late 1980s, Schneider Associates lost 80
  • 5. Sofia Barbieri 5percent of its clients, went from twenty-five employees to six, and saw revenue drop to $400,000 by1990. Still, Schneider was determined to move ahead. In 1989, she enrolled in the Owner PresidentManagement Program at Harvard Business School, a program to which she attributes the positive shiftin how she viewed herself and her business. Among the many takeaways from the program, she learnedthat the key to success was differentiating and innovating. A new strategy for Schneider Associatesneeded to be found if it was going to make it through the next decade. She shifted her focus from real estate clients to what is now her expertise: Launch PublicRelations®, a proprietary, multi-disciplinary process that successfully propels new products and servicesinto the market place and sustains them beyond their introductory period. Launch PR would become forSchneider her key to several decades of unbridled success. “You would be hard pressed to find a more driven, dedicated, astute and passionate businessleader than Joan Schneider,” said Tom Ryan, Marketing Manager at Schneider Associate. “Not onlyhas she built the brand of her firm, Schneider Associates, with a focus on the understudied area ofLaunch Public Relations®, but she has instilled a commitment to learning and growth that has helpedher guide the firm through several recessions.”
  • 6. Sofia Barbieri 6 For Schneider to turn around her business and become the nationally recognized expert onproduct launches that she is today was not an easy undertaking and required a dramatic shift inthinking and a plunge into the unknown. “Since 2001 we have been doing proprietary and primary research about launch,” said Schneider.“Because Product Launches was such an unexplored area, we had to do all the work. So we startedcollecting data, writing about it, and blogging about it.” Finally, in 2004, with several years of study,analysis, and trial-and-error at her back, Schneider published her first major book, “New ProductLaunch: 10 Proven Strategies”. “This is the first book that really looked at our research with hundreds brand managers,” saidSchneider. “We asked them about the best practices in launch and the feedback was invaluable.” Aftermany more years of research and focus on product launches, in 2010, Schneider, together withExecutive Vice President Julie Hall, published a new book, “The NEW Launch Plan: 152 Tips, Tacticsand Trends from the Most Memorable New Products.” “The new book is a compilation of what webelieve are the most memorable and successful product launches from the best companies in the UnitedStates,” said Schneider. Even though, over the past ten years, Schneider has been busy with her continuously evolving
  • 7. Sofia Barbieri 7and new business endeavors, her personality and demeanor have a contagious influence on the peoplearound her and that work for her. “Joan’s energy and entrepreneurial spirit guides me every day,” said Julie Hall, EVP/Partner.“Her creative approach to every single thing she does is inspiring and has been a huge influence on mycareer and has made me not just a better practitioner but a better person as well.” Despite many years of overcoming hardship, being at the cutting edge of innovation in the PRindustry, and achieving commercial success, this is just the beginning for Schneider. Looking into 2011,things on the horizon appear highly promising. “In April, I will finally realize one of my other dreams ofseeing my name in the Harvard Business Review,” said Schneider, talking about the upcoming printingof a feature article in the world-renowned publication. “After all these years specializing in successful product launches, I was asked to write an articleabout product launch failures but I made it work,” said Schneider. “Being published in the HarvardBusiness Review is a lifelong career goal of mine. They wanted me to write about product launchfailures? I gave them some of the most interesting product launch failures from recent times.” Despite her constant, keen focus on successful business outcomes and tactics, Schneider hasgarnered the respect and appreciation of both her peers and her employees, particularly in light of her
  • 8. Sofia Barbieri 8genuine sense of concern for the growth and well-being of others that she shows on a daily basis. “Through her thirty-one years as President and Creative Director, Joan’s clients, colleagues,friends, family and even the agency’s competitors always know when she’s committed to something, shegoes all out, will not take no for an answer and never settles for less than the best,” saidPennellatore. “Over many years, I have heard others who know Joan well describe her in the same way:a relentlessly generous, loyal and caring friend and mentor – that description could not fit any otherperson more perfectly than Joan Schneider.”