Lead Like A Girl
Judith Berger | Feb 27, 2013, 9:14 a.m.
It was in 2009 that Meaney had a breakout role. “You need to innovate and adapt to opportunities. I had the drive to start something new. What did I have to lose? I went for it!” She partnered with Al Krueger and started Comet Branding + PR in Milwaukee. She admits it wasn’t the best time to start a business. The new firm helped companies and organizations use strategic storytelling and personality to drive branding, marketing, PR and social media efforts. Even in a flagging economy, the company saw growth, she said. “Within 18 months, we had 10 employees and needed more space. We looked at space on the fourth floor of the building Hanson Dodge is in.”
Hanson Dodge Creative is a design studio and interactive advertising agency in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward with clients such as Wilson Sporting Goods Co., Trek Bicycle Corp. and Thule.
It wasn’t long before HDC merged with social-media specialist Meaney and Comet Branding + PR. Meaney and Krueger became equity partners in HDC, which employs 65 people. In 2011, Meaney was named vice president of social media and public relations. “My role was growth and social media practices,” she said. “All new knowledge gives us new ways of growing. That’s the sign of a good merger.”
Since that time, Meaney’s position has shifted to business development and marketing. “I build relationships, speak publicly and oversee social media practices and growth.”
Meaney is in the business of figuring out what motivates people to buy, to work, to collaborate and to respond to a message. For her, mentoring is part of motivating a staff. “Men’s and women’s needs are different when it comes to mentoring. Female employees build bonds differently; there are different lines of conversation between women. With women, you build trust as you build skill development.”
Men are more action and result-oriented. Men want specific goals, Meaney said. “But as an employee, no matter the gender, you always want to feel like someone has your back.”
At 38, life is busy. Meaney loves a full schedule, engaging the staff, adding value to meetings, helping to solve problems, having time to reflect and regroup. “For me, a satisfying day comes from being effective and having fun at the same time.” A good day always includes laughter, she said.
As a single mother, Meaney shares parenting responsibilities with her ex-husband. She considers motherhood challenging, but exceedingly rewarding. “My time with the girls is precious. In the mornings, we snuggle in bed talking about our day. It’s sharing and listening. I love it,” she said of time with her daughters. In the evenings, it’s homework and dinner together with no phone at the table. The day wraps up with bedtime stories and closeness. “Raising little girls, you need to manage emotions and teach them how to communicate their emotions, how to solve their own problems, develop self awareness and to be self-confident.”
Meaney is passing on lessons she learned from her mother. “I learned leadership from her. She taught me to be independent and reliable,” she said. “My mother would say, ‘Say what you will do, and do it.’ Honor your commitments. Your value is to be accountable. That’s the price of entry. A fundamental in success is to be accountable.”
As president, Meaney is accountable to a company she now helps to lead. “My job is to influence and motivate a team of talented people,” she said. No one doubts she has figured out the secret to feminine leadership. Maybe someday she will write a book about it? You can bet it won’t be pink or written in a pretty font. l
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