Ep. 58 - How To Run An Influencer Marketing Company with Adrienne Lahens

Ep. 58 - How To Run An Influencer Marketing Company with Adrienne Lahens

Working with leaders who also want to be influencers is challenging, especially in allowing yourself and those under you to grow. Our guest today is Adrienne Lahens, the COO of Influential and an Operations Executive who has helped grow nascent startups into industry-disrupting unicorns. With expertise in media and technology and a passion for innovation, Adrienne has cultivated dynamic teams and established an iterative structure to support exponential growth through influencer marketing. In this episode, she talks about running Influential, establishing proper communication among employees, and hiring talents who evolve to be influencers. She shares how she has advanced her leadership styles through the years and how she works with different leaders and workers in the industry.

How To Run An Influencer Marketing Company with Adrienne Lahens

Adrienne Lahens is an operations executive who’s helped grow nascent startups into industry-disrupting unicorns. With expertise in media and technology and the passion for innovation, Adrienne has cultivated dynamic teams and established an iterative structure to support exponential growth. She’s overseen the development and execution of hundreds of influencer marketing and branded content campaigns for Fortune 500 companies, grossing billions of views, provable ROI, and actionable business results. Adrienne is the COO at Influential, an AI marketing ecosystem that delivers market intelligence, influencer technology and social activations. Adrienne sets the strategy for managed service offering, leads GTM strategy for the SaaS business, and runs all operations for the company. Prior to Influential, Adrienne held several leadership roles at BuzzFeed and scaled the operation to support well over $150 million in revenue. She led initiatives to foster international expansion into Europe, South/Central America, and Asia and brought new products such as branded video, quizzes, and editorial sponsorships to the market. Adrienne, welcome to the Second in Command podcast.

Thank you for having me.

First off, a very interesting background in bio, but also a cool niche that you’re in as a company. Why don’t you give us a little bit more detail as to what Influential does?

We definitely play in the influencer marketing space, although we don’t think of ourselves as a traditional influencer marketing company, because most influencer marketing companies are focused on things like reach, engagement and vanity metrics. What differentiates Influential’s offering is our ability to drive provable ROI, to be able to measure the effectiveness of our influencer marketing campaigns. We work with influencers as a tactic for distribution and as content creators, because we find that influencers tend to be the most effective content creators in this day’s digital and social world and then we marry that with more traditional measurements, capabilities and being able to track back real-world attribution. For example, were you exposed to the ad and then did you walk into the dealership and test drive the car? Were you exposed to the ad and did you tune in to watch that show? Were you exposed to the ad and then did you go to that quick service restaurant and actually buy that product or into the Walgreens and swipe that products at the register? These are things that we focus on as a business and something that isn’t unique to our capabilities on the influencer marketing side.

Is this all happening behind the scenes? Does the average customer know that this is all happening? Is this the attribution and the ROI measurements you’re giving back to the companies that are hiring you? Is this the data that they’re using for more of their marketing?

It’s about audience segmentation in a way that is completely compliant with social platforms and completely compliant with all of the laws and regulations. There’s nothing that we’re doing that’s on a 100% above. What we’re good at is, number one, we have proprietary technology that enables us to identify the right talent, the right influencers, the right content creators to effectively work with, based on things like audience demographic data, and it’s all aggregated and anonymized. It’s not like you specifically are being targeted and we know specifically that it is you. It is part of a pool and audience segments if you will. We partner with a number of third-party data providers rather than just buying audiences off the shelf in Facebook, for example, which we do to some extent. When we’re looking at competitor conquesting, for example, we wanted to target people who have been in this quick service restaurant in the last ninety days or this segment of quick service restaurants in the last ninety days but haven’t been in the restaurant of our client. We’re trying to conquest their competitive set.

That is something where we will partner with third-party data providers, third-party audience providers, and we’ll be able to effectively target in that way. We can match back and measure the effectiveness of that advertising. That is where every other influencer marketing company is focused on, like how many engagements and what was the reach. Cheapening it down to how many pieces of content were they creating, what’s the number of impressions that we delivered, and how far did that exceed. These are very basic things that we consider as part of our standard delivery, but what we’re measured on with our clients is do we actually move the needle for them? Do we solve a business challenge for them? Do we drive sales for them in a way that is attributable to our efforts?

Would you dovetail up to or would you be closely related to the higher-end affiliate marketing, not the lower-end like Commission Junction or LinkSure stuff, but more the stuff like maybe Acceleration Partners might be doing? Is that a component of what you do?

There’s a component to that, but we don’t consider ourselves in the affiliate marketing space because that specifically tends to be a slightly different business model. We are still billing our clients in a medium model based on guaranteed CPM or CPV, but what we’re reporting back to them is the measurable impact of the campaign. We’re not necessarily hiring influencers and contracting with them based on how many sales that influencer specifically delivers against. There are companies that focus on that side of thing. That’s not our business model or what we find to be most effective in the way that we work. Also, affiliate marketing tends to be very online-to-online conversion, which we absolutely do and can do. That’s simply appending a pixel to an ad and measuring conversion. What we do is a bit more complex than that from mapping back to real-life experiences and/or like in-store purchases and/or TV tune-in where that measurement has to happen, if that measurement is a bridging and attribution of the data in a way that is a little less turnkey than a typical online attribution campaign might be.

It’s unbelievable how marketing has become a science. I think it’s almost like the creativity of marketing is almost not irrelevant but very secondary compared to the science and the mathematics of it all now, isn’t it?

I would say it’s bull, for sure. We dealt a lot with this at BuzzFeed. That’s definitely the world that I came from, which was looking at analytics and data to inform things like content strategy. You also have to be a human at the end of the day and create content that is going to resonate with other humans and what you find when you lean too much into the algorithms as you end up creating content just like everyone else. You blend in and you might get a lot of clicks, but that’s not going to actually create real impact. That’s something important. It is being able to break through that noise.

Let’s back up a bit and tell us how you got involved with Influential. How did they find you or how did you find them? What was it that both attracted you to their organization, that attracted them to you to commit at the COO role?

Before Influential, I had been at Buzzfeed. Before that, I was in eCommerce and the travel technology space, Jetsetter, and before that at Gilt Groupe. It’s interesting because media companies are becoming brands and brands are becoming publishers. It’s like it’s always been the same thing. When I was at BuzzFeed for some time, I was noticing a lot of trends as it related to the upcoming influencers. They were influencers that were disrupting digital publishers in the same way that digital publishers were disrupting more traditional media and that acceleration happened very quickly. There was an influencer component to what we were doing at BuzzFeed as it relates to, especially video. We had a number of in-house influencers that we had developed within BuzzFeed.

We hired an exceptional talent and oftentimes, the talent that we hired, some of them started as interns and then became influencers in their own with millions of followers themselves. I was starting to see this trend and I liked the idea of democratizing that and a concept of that being fully democratized. When I was at BuzzFeed, I started there where there was like a hundred people, one office in New York, it was such a small nimble team and such a startup environment. It came to the point where there were 1,500 employees, offices around the globe, and leadership had changed. I loved the BuzzFeed. I loved everything about my experience there. I just needed to go back to my roots which is building and startup mode because that’s what motivates me to get up in the morning. I felt like we had innovated so much at BuzzFeed and at a certain point, it was more of a bigger company.

When I left BuzzFeed, I took a little bit of time and thought about what I wanted to do next. I had been talking to a number of other media publishers in the space, a number of MCNs in the space and Influential reached out to me and I met with our CEO, Ryan. I saw that he had such a vision and such an understanding of how important data is in influencer marketing that it felt like a good mix and a good match. We had a good chemistry right off the bat, a lot because of my background at BuzzFeed and how important analytics was in that process as well, getting to know and see the technology component to how the company was helping to match brands with influencers and ultimately with audiences. He spoke to me and reminded me of the early-on innovation that we experienced quite a bit at BuzzFeed.

SIC 58 | Influencer Marketing
Influencer Marketing: Influencer marketing companies focus on engagements, reach, cheapening number of content pieces, impressions, and how far it exceeds.

 

You went back into wasn’t quite a startup, but how small were they when you joined them at Influential?

It’s definitely startup. We were about, I want to say, under 100 employees. It’s interesting because we haven’t actually grown in the number of employees here. We might even be slightly down from when we started. Our revenue has grown hockey-stick, so that is something early-on. I focused on how do we create more process and establish roles and responsibilities effectively, to ensure that we can handle quite a bit more revenue so we could be a profitable company. That was an enlarged part of my role, which isn’t always the most popular role in the company early on, but we got through some of those early challenges.

I love that you identified right away for me that you actually had cut back on the number of employees. I remember, I was coaching a CEO of a digital marketing firm in New York called Elite SEM and they had a goal to get to, I think they’d like 30 employees. They want to get to 100 and I said, “The number of employees is not the goal. It’s never the goal. It’s about customer engagement, employee engagement, your profit and your revenues. It’s not about how many people. That’s the exact opposite direction you want to go in.” It’s cool that you guys have done that and are focused on that. A quick question that I’m just intrigued by. We hear all the stories of, Caitlyn Jenner was paid X to do one little Instagram photo. What are the normal influencers get paid for a post or for some kind of something?

The answer might not be that satisfying. Somebody who has over 10,000 followers in the United States on Instagram there are 800,000 of those people. It’s massive and everyone demands different pricing depending on what is the type of content that they create. Are they creating video content? Are they creating static content? Are they being required to attend some event? What is the usage terms of that creative? How many followers do they have? What is their engagement rate? Are they represented by agents or managers? There are so many variables.

Generally, we tend to see CPMs in the range of call it $8 to $10 for the influencer. That is based on the number of followers they have, but that could scale all the way down to $2. It could scale all the way up to $40 depending on who you’re working with, if there’s travel involved. There are quite a lot of variables. Something else that we did early on was we built a dynamic rate calculator that factors in all of these. The factors in all these different variables spits out a rate depending on 25 to 50 different things that can factor into what would determine a rate.

It’s not just about that single post that they’re doing as well. You identified a whole bunch of other areas they could be involved in or required of them as well so that makes sense. What was it then about the vision that Ryan shared with you? What was it about the vision for the company that excited you? How did he communicate that to you? I don’t think we ever joined the company for what they are now. We join them for what they’re going to be in the future.

Early on too, I knew Ryan is an exceptional salesperson and I think that I saw that immediately. There were some things that I saw early on. I was like, “I see the vision and I know that I’ll be able to help you get there,” but he was so confident in his delivery and in his vision for what he expected it to be and all of those things have run through over the years. What I appreciated about his vision was the ability to identify influencers and match influencers based on extremely granular data points. There’s a quote that he said, “Social data is the largest crowdsourcing of public opinion in human history. If you can structure that, you can predict the future.” That is ultimately his vision and that’s why for me, it’s all of the different product offerings that we have.

We understand the other finger on the pulse of what is social consciousness through a lot of the incredible technology that we’ve built as well as the partnerships that we’ve established like IBM Watson. Also, partnerships that we’ve established to a number of other third-party providers and being able to marry that all together and inform things. We have a market intelligence offering that sits completely outside of the world of influencer marketing. It varies a number of these different data sources to inform like go to market strategies for brands or product development based on what is being talked about on social and then the audience that we’re trying to target. Do they have a propensity to buy that specific product and marrying those things together and informing a number of insightful strategies and data-informed strategy? That’s our market intelligence offering. We didn’t have that offering when I started. We didn’t have a self-serve technology platform. There’s been this constant drive towards innovation and I would say that’s probably the throughline to everything. I just saw Ryan as an innovator and a leader from that perspective and always being the first to do something and pushing the boundaries and driving the market forward. That’s what got me excited to join the team.

You’re joining someone like that who gets it at the level that he gets it and you’re coming from a similar industry but how did you divide and conquer their roles? You talked a bit about the roles and responsibilities. How did you two decide who’s going to keep what and who’s going to focus on what areas of the business? I always see the CEO and COO is the two in the box.

It happened naturally because we have different strengths as leaders, and I think we both recognize where the other’s strengths lie and we both very respectfully lean into that. I tend to be more of an inward-facing leader and Ryan tends to be more of an outward-facing leader. He’s doing a lot of the press and sales and on the road a lot. I tend to be more nurturing the company internally. It fell into place from that perspective. Although, things have naturally shifted a bit where our staff’s business is something that I have taken more ownership of because he’s focused on the overall company but also on the managed services portion of our business which is essentially our bread and butter. We’re starting to launch a few self-serve tools.

I am starting to be a bit more involved in sales. I lead the sales organization. That’s a separate division under Influential. It’s a separate sales division, but it works in collaboration with our existing sales team. We have created this ecosystem play that incorporates market intelligence and self-serve technology and then our managed services business. I think there was a question that you had sent me early on about what you wish you had known before you started your role. I would say, at that point it is that chemistry is so incredibly important that some people might liken that to politics. It’s maybe a more optimistic way to put it is that, it is the chemistry between the leadership as well as how you’re able to motivate different people and adjust your communication style and different ways to be more effective and persuasive as a leader. Coming on board and making sure that as a COO, as a second-in-command, you have a great dynamic and chemistry ultimately with your CEO and that you work as partners together. I definitely feel lucky to have that with Ryan.

How have you evolved then? How have you evolved your communication and your leadership styles over the years? How have you had to evolve as well? It would be part two of that.

Because we are constantly innovating in the market, our business like the evolution of our business is it changes so rapidly, we evolve so rapidly, our product offering develops quickly. Being nimble is extremely important and our business has also matured quite a bit. While we still have about the same number of employees, I have a lot more senior-level employees on my team. I’ve brought in exceptional talent from media strategy to create a strategy to campaign operations to have an incredible SaaS sales executive leader who we brought on board who comes from Adobe and Sprinklr and all these incredible companies. I would say my communication style mostly internally has been the evolution. It’s higher, exceptional more senior talent and obviously empowering them to make a lot of decisions and to lead their departments effectively, and that’s different than managing more junior level employees.

You kind of, “gee, shucks” your way over that too and it’s actually a huge area for anyone to learn from. Can you walk us through how have you been able to recruit and attract and then on board the senior talents? I think there’s one part, is recruiting and attracting them to your company. The second part is how do you on board them into your culture when they’re used to either being with a bigger brand or a larger company coming into this more entrepreneurial environment? How do you that?

When I say senior, I know I did drop a couple of bigger brands. I don’t necessarily mean that you have to go out there and hire someone who has come from a big company. That’s such an important distinction because seniority doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve worked at the biggest brands in the world. Seniority could be that you’ve worked at a number of startups and you’ve seen the growth in a startup, you’ve seen the failure of a start-up, you have started your own startup. There’s a lot of amazing experience that comes along with that. For something like a sales role, it’s important that you bring on someone who has seen a lot of success from a sales perspective and oftentimes making sure that you identify someone with the cultural fit of a startup. It’s so important.

SIC 58 | Influencer Marketing
Influencer Marketing: Seniority means that you’ve worked at a number of startups and you’ve seen their growth and failures.

 

Someone who has both the bigger name brand and like a sales role but also has worked at startups and has been effective at startup. Maybe this smaller startup was acquired by the bigger company that they worked at and then they have left the bigger company because they wanted to be at a startup again but they have the experience at the bigger. You want to understand the whole picture of that person and the whole story because it’s a very different type of person that works in a growing startup organization compared to someone who has a defined role and is dealing with a lot of red tape, maybe in a larger organization.

You’re talking about bringing on the seasoned skillset, not necessarily the pedigree brands background of somebody.

It does depend on the role, so for example, with sales, it might make sense to bring someone on board depending on the stage that your product is at. At Influential, for example, our SaaS business is extremely new and we’re tapping into a new market with that, but we have a lot of momentum because we have this mature managed services business. If we didn’t have that mature managed services business, it might make more sense to hire someone who’s a little bit more exclusively startup-oriented. Because we have that wind behind our sails bringing on some big muscles from a bigger company name, they can lean on the fact that we’ve done X amount in revenue with X clients. They’re confident going into the room versus if your business hasn’t achieved that success in other revenue lines, you might want to rethink that strategy.

You’ve got this team in place now. How do you actually lead them and manage them day-to-day and week-to-week? Where do you spend your time?

It depends on the day. It depends on the time of the quarter. I spent a lot of my time right now on building the newer part of our business which is SaaS and managed services. We’ve changed quite a bit in our market intelligence offering of the last couple of months. We’ve made a lot of great breakthroughs in terms of what we can achieve from a business outcome perspective. Working on nurturing, I spend a lot of my time positioning the products effectively and crafting what the story is on, how we want to position the product in the market but also what is the go-to-market strategy.

I spend a lot of my time on that presale side of things. On the managed services side, I have an incredible VP of campaign operations who over the last couple of years, we have worked closely together to build out that operational structure where it’s a well-oiled machine at this point. I stepped in for certain exceptions that might need to be made or certain oscillations, but generally, that business is running effectively. The other place that I stepped in there is when we see revenue opportunities to expand a specific product offering. We’re doing certain in-flight optimization strategies where we can upsell clients on additional pumping the gas when something is taking off in one of the campaigns. I stepped in to help productize and roll that out to market and then move back into building the SaaS business.

You guys have done a couple of rounds of funding now as well, correct?

Yes.

I don’t know what the exact numbers were in the raise, but has that changed the company at all in terms of how you operate or are people still focused? I was curious about the distractions plus and minuses of raising money.

It’s been generally positive for us. It was something that we had planned to do and the main way that we utilized that capital was to launch our SaaS business. It has changed the structure of the organization from that perspective because it enabled us to fund the incredible sales team that we’ve been able to hire to support that revenue and that growth and it enabled us to scale up our technology from that perspective as well. That’s how it changed. Other than that, it’s not something the average employee necessarily feels on a day in and day out.

I was just searching as you were talking to see if a company that I used to coach called Influitive was a competitor of yours. I’m glad they don’t track as one of your competitors. I was realizing the company names were similar as well and they’re in the marketing space, but different in terms of your brands and what you focus on. You’ve got a senior team, you’ve got your focus now. What are you working on now to grow to continue to say not relevant but I think every day that we grow our companies, it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done or the company is at its biggest stage now? What are you working on to continue to grow in your role?

I would say that the part of our business is we’ve nailed it on the head when it relates to the Fortune 500 brands. We have an exceptional client based on that and we’re developing more brand direct relationships which I would say is continuously important, especially in the media and technology world that we work in. It’s important to establish a lot of those brand direct relationships so that’s a trend that’s continuing to happen with us. With a lot of self-serve tools, it’s about being able to offer our products to more mature brands. We believe in this influencer space. We want everyone to be able to benefit from the amazing talent of influencers and the audiences that they’ve been able to cultivate. Being able to take that mission towards with more tools that are more self-served, more turnkey and then layering services on top of that to ensure success. That’s definitely the direction that our business is going, in addition to continuing to nurture the Fortune 500 brands with some of the more sophisticated attribution pieces that we can do from a managed services perspective.

If you’re to think about your experience at working with some of these Fortune 500 brands, I think most companies out there will never get the chance to go in and even pitch them, let alone work with them as a client. What do you think you’ve learned most from working with some of these big brands? I guess what was simpler or less complicated than you might have thought in working with them that we could all learn from or is it more complicated?

It’s simpler in the sense that the bigger brands have teams of experts that they hired who many of them do understand the sophisticated approaches that we are enacting on their behalf. When you have to scale back the conversation for some brands and there’s definitely like DDC, direct consumer brands, totally get social, totally get data, built these businesses in entrepreneurial ways and they’ve leveraged a lot of that. Sometimes those brands tend to be more sophisticated in some ways than some of the bigger brands that have done things a bit more traditionally. Typically, you’re working with agencies and brands, especially over the last few years, the influencer space has evolved. What used to be experimental budgets where they’d allocate experimental budgets is now like tried-and-true and it’s just part of the media mix so they get data.

They get that it’s more than a talent model when working with influencers typically. There are some exceptions to that. When you’re spending more money, sometimes it’s easier because $500,000 to a big major brand is actually not often a big budget. When you’re working $25,000 with a smaller brand, every single penny counts. Sometimes those deals can be far more challenging to execute. Our offering for the smaller brands is obviously more scale down and it’s more of a self-service offering. It empowers them to do a lot of this great work on their ends themselves. I would say that’s the primary differences and adjustment is in you reading the room and being able to take a step back and retailoring the pitch in a way that’s going to resonate with someone who’s maybe a bit newer to the space.

SIC 58 | Influencer Marketing
Influencer Marketing: Leaning into what is working and optimizing towards what is working on different platforms are ways to scale up the revenue.

 

You guys are building your entire platform off AI. Any lessons for us? I know this is a huge rabbit hole to go down. Any overarching lessons for us or pitfalls that we can avoid if people are starting to think about or getting involved in bringing AI into their business?

AI used to be this sexy black box of a thing and I think it’s starting to become a little bit less. People understand it at least in our space, a bit more of what that means and tactically what that actually looks like, which is still sexy in terms of what it can do. As you start to understand it a little bit more, it’s like, “That’s what it is. I got that.” The way we leverage Watsons AI, IBM Watson, is we do a full timeline scan of the influencers in our network and we’re able to determine across 52 personality traits where each influencer ranks against that personality trait. Are they adventurous? Are they hedonistic? Are they open to change? All of these things. When we do the same analysis on the brand that we’re working with and we identify influencers, we map back of their personality maps back to the brand that we’re engaging them on because that’s important.

As a brand you want to work with influencers to talk to their audience in the same way that you as a brand talk to your audience. That personality plays a big role and that’s personality insights. Another AI that we use is sentiment analysis. For example, when a brand is mentioned is it mentioning that brand positively, negatively or neutral? That’s something that’s important when you’re doing competitive betting or when you’re betting an influencer for, “Have they ever mentioned this brand before and when they did mention it, did they speak positively about it?” That’s something important and then we can do other types of AI. For example, we have image recognition where within the influencers feed, if we want to be able to source influencers who posted at the beach or in city landscape or they posted working out. Obviously, there are keywords. It’s simple, but with image recognition, that becomes a powerful sourcing tool. Not only like an influencer sourcing tool, but it becomes a powerful creative strategy tool where you can like, “Who posted on the red carpet at the Oscars last year and what brands were they talking about?” You could do a lot of great research on that end to help inform things like creative strategies.

That’s crazy to think about the science behind all this. You mentioned the adventurous and hedonistic as two traits. I’ve got one of my clients who makes a bunch of products that people going to Burning Man or raves would buy and I’m like, “That would be their demographic right there.” In scaling an organization, when you helped scale BuzzFeed’s business from $20 million to $150 million in revenue in two years, how did you help do that? What do you think, maybe two or three things that you did that either helped do that or allowed you to manage a business through that growth too? Sometimes doing it is one thing but managing through that crazy growth is another.

There’s a more innovative part of that, especially when you’re creating a lot of content, how do you optimize revenue and effectively get the most revenue out of each shoot? For example, there are high costs in creating video content for brands, especially on a large scale when you’re working with Fortune 500 brands as we did with BuzzFeed. They expect a certain caliber of content despite the fact that it’s going to be distributed on social. Creating the content takes significant budget to do that, but then being able to say, “We’ve rolled out a product offering called distributed extensions,” which was how do we cut up this video in a lot of different ways? Seed it out on different platforms or maybe utilize these different pieces of content and test, iterate and seek more budget from Brannans with content that’s already been created, for example? Leaning into what is working and optimizing towards what is working on these platforms. That was one way that we scaled up the revenue. BuzzFeed started when Facebook and Instagram started launching a lot of video content.

We’ve gone into that space obviously pretty early and then we saw just a ton of brand interest there. That was when Tasty was coming about and we started to see a lot of interest in brand, wanting to not only do video content but also work with our editorial team which we had prior to that kept a bit of a church and state divide between editorial and business. Of course, that still exists from a news perspective. Incorporating like brands and some of the great franchises that BuzzFeed was creating was critical to that very quick growth. That was on the innovation side. From a scale side, and this was something that we dealt with very early on, we were seeing revenue going from completely exponential and we had to hire so many people in order to support all of that growth.

When you start out with 100 employees in your entire company and you have to scale to a few hundred in less than a year, you’re doubling, tripling the size of your business. You have to make sure people know what it is they’re doing. They need to know what their roles and responsibilities are. I remember my boss at the time, Eric Harris, who is an amazing mentor and friend had taught me so much. One of the things he had initiated was like, “let’s do a RACI,” which is defining the roles and responsibilities of everyone on the team, who’s responsible, who’s accountable, who’s consulted, who’s informed. Going through that process, which is more of a bigger corporation thing that you would do versus like a startup but we were scaling so fast, ensuring that we’re rolling out these new product offerings. When you roll out these new products and when you introduce new departments, how that department essentially fits into the larger ecosystem, you have to define what that looks like.

A lot of those systems do work when you’re coming into scale. People always ask how do I grow my revenue, but they don’t talk about how do I grow the company, the scale with the revenue. That’s where a lot of people fall apart. A parting question or final question is if you were to think back to when you’re twenty-one years old, what do you wish you’d known at twenty-one that you now know about running companies or leading companies? What do you wish you’d known a lot earlier?

I would say that it is trusting yourself and then surrounding and believing in yourself. There’s the impostor syndrome that I think everyone ends up having at some point in their career and just knowing that everyone goes through it, that is very helpful. Everyone has that at some point and potentially at some point always. Also, I don’t think I ever had this fear, but not being afraid to hire people smarter than you. Knowing, evaluating who you are and where your strengths lie and where your weaknesses are and not being afraid of your weaknesses. Knowing to fill the gap because that’s what makes us effective. If you identify a weakness but you’re afraid of it and you don’t want anyone to know that this is your weakness. You hide it like people will see through that quickly and when you fill that gap with an amazing person, you end up learning a lot. You end up filling that gap in the long-term for yourself too. You learn quite a bit from that perspective. I love hiring people that I learn from.

I totally wish we’d learned that in the school system as well because we were always told to get a mentor or a tutor for our weaknesses and we just got average at our weaknesses. If we were able to work and collaborate with others and they could fill our gap, we could have built some pretty high-performing teams in grade school, high school and college.

In the United States, we focus so much on individualism and in work life, collaboration is more important and it’s such a bigger part of our success as being able to effectively collaborate.

Adrienne, thank you for sharing with us. Adrienne Lahens, the COO from Influential. I appreciate you sharing with us.

Thank you. It’s my pleasure.

It was great.

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About Adrienne Lahens

SIC 58 | Influencer MarketingAdrienne Lahens is an operations executive who’s helped grow nascent startups into industry-disrupting unicorns. With expertise in media and technology and a passion for innovation, Adrienne has cultivated dynamic teams and established an iterative structure to support exponential growth. She’s overseen the development and execution of hundreds of influencer marketing and branded content campaigns for Fortune 500 companies, grossing billions of views, provable ROI, and actionable business results.

Currently, Adrienne is the COO at Influential, an AI marketing ecosystem that delivers market intelligence, influencer technology, and social activations. Adrienne sets the strategy for the Managed Services offering, leads GTM strategy for the SaaS business, and runs all operations for the company.

Prior to Influential, Adrienne held several leadership roles in her 4 years at BuzzFeed and scaled the operation to support well over $150M+ in revenue. She led initiatives to foster international expansion into Europe, South/Central America, and Asia and brought new products such as branded video, quizzes, and editorial sponsorships to market.

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