Amy Jo Martin on Passion and Innovation
Social Media Expert and Founder of Digital Royalty, Amy Jo Martin believes in one thing above all else: innovation. By refusing to accept the adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” she’s been able to bring innovation to her career. Leslie Bradshaw, a contributor at Forbes.com asked Amy to explain the importance of innovation, as well as what it is like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry, in her own words:
LB: Did you have any female role models / mentors when growing up? Do you currently have any female role models / mentors?
AJM: I’ve never isolated role models based on gender. I have more male role models due to the mere fact that I’ve done business with more of them and they’re leaders within the verticals I work. Of those, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com is an entrepreneur and personal friend that I have a great deal of respect for. Tony has innovated the way business can be done, by focusing on his employees and building a dynamic company culture. Another visionary role model and personal friend is Shannon Lee. Through her passion she’s been able to innovate her father’s legacy and keep his spirit alive. She continues to evolve the way his inspiration is delivered. I also keep a close eye on Sheryl Sandberg and Cathie Black, because they are always making strides in the business world.
LB: Who has influenced you most?
AJM: My father. His drive and work ethic is undoubtedly the main influence that has driven my results. Thank goodness I inherited those traits. My father has an unmatched ability to focus and stay focused.
LB: What drives you? What motivates you to get out of bed, stay late and / or work on the weekends?
AJM: I’m addicted to change and therefore I get bored easily. Results have always motivated me, which has led me to developing ways to measure things that historically have not been measurable.
Innovation is another motivator. I’ve never understood why people do things simply because “that’s the way they’ve always been done.” More times than not, I’ve found there’s a better method if the situation is approached with a free, fearless and nontraditional mindset. Building something truly unique has always motivated me, whether that was a fort in my backyard or my company today.
I’ve always believed that great innovation and good ideas naturally spawn from a passion in doing what you enjoy most. For me, my schedule has always been hectic and may never be not-hectic but that’s ok because I’m doing what I love. Sometimes my most creative ideas come during strides on the treadmill or sprints to a gate at the airport. It’s because of this that I ignore the typical “work week” time frames. The same excitement that allows me to be creative is the same enthusiasm that has me welcoming a busy schedule and running a business. Having a love for what you do will get you going faster in the morning than any cup of coffee or morning alarm.
LB: What key personal characteristics do you see in yourself that you’ve found especially critical in achieving success?
AJM: I’ve personally found that I succeed when my passion, purpose and skill collide. After managing a team of people at my company, I believe this formula works with almost anyone. Where those three critical things collide, freedom and happiness resides. People generate their best results when they feel free and happy.
I tend to ask forgiveness, versus permission. However, I bring my results with me when asking forgiveness. I was once (or twice) referred to as a renegade but I prefer to call it “coloring outside the lines”. However, rarely do I cross the line. (In my opinion.)
You need a ton of energy to do well. I find that one’s ability to keep going when most would take a break or give up is the differentiating factor. Life is all about pushing yourself one step further than you think you’re capable of.
Simple hard work and focus. Someone once told me, “Don’t let anything rent space in your mind for free.” It makes perfect sense. There’s limited square footage up there. It’s valuable real estate. The more I learn to control my thoughts, the more free I feel.
LB: How would you describe your approach to the world?
AJM: Your personality, confidence and the way you conduct yourself defines your brand. It can always be improved. I believe the way we live our days, is the way we live our lives. Some people say they have a thirst for life. They’re excited about every day and they’re prepared to look the bad and the good straight in the face and greet it all with a smile. I like to think I’m one of those people. I value the daily moments and appreciate when I have the opportunity to meet new people and embark on spontaneous entrepreneurial adventures.
LB: What values are you committed to?
AJM: My personal mission statement: To inspire people to think differently about the way they live their lives.
I’m committed to being an advocate for innovation, from business to personal innovation. I’ve recently started to wonder why we don’t run our lives more like a business. In business, nearly everything is accountable and measurable. If a company stops making money, it will go out of business. If a person loses passion or purpose, they will stop making progress toward their own goals. What’s the ROI on your day? We have to show up for life each day like we show up for work. After spending the past several years innovating other people’s lives and brands, I decided to apply my process of innovation to my own life by conducting a Personal Brand Audit, establishing a Personal Board of Directors and identifying Key Performance Indicators for all aspects of my life. I look forward to sharing my quarterly and annual reports as I journey down the road of innovating my life one day at a time.
LB: What do you like most about what you do?
AJM: Building a company culture with my team that’s like nothing else out there. Defying the work “norm” is refreshing and freeing.
Being an entrepreneur also has its perks. You have the ability to design your own day. Owning your own business also means that work never stops, specifically within the social media industry. You owe it to yourself to Innovate Your Day, even if that means taking conference calls at the top of a mountain after a morning hike. You either learn to innovate your lifestyle and adapt or life won’t be as fulfilling. I write and speak about this quite often and it’s so inspiring when people provide feedback and tell me they’ve adopted a similar mentality.
LB: How do you inspire the people you work with / work for you?
AJM: Daily, I’m exposing my faults and weaknesses to my team but I try to share what I have learned along the way and lead by example. Everyone on my team knows they are personally responsible for the culture we’re building and for teaching each other. They’re encouraged to create an environment that will allow them to easily inspire themselves, because everyone is busy.
LB: What does empowerment mean to you?
AJM: Confidence and empowerment are cousins in my opinion. Empowerment comes from within and typically it’s stemmed and fostered by self-assurance. To feel empowered is to feel free and that’s when people do their best work. You can’t fake confidence or empowerment.
LB: What, if anything, drives you nuts about male coworkers?
AJM: It’s not a specific male coworker trait but I’ve noticed many successful businessmen have a sense of entitlement. However, the people around them have to enable this and play along in an effort for entitlement to surface.
I believe there are things called Innovation Allergies. “We can’t do that because it’s not the way we’ve always done it.” Or “what if it doesn’t work?” These allergies have been banned in my office and are often determining factors for who we chose to work with.
LB: Have you ever encountered the “Glass Ceiling” ? Was it possible to overcome it? How?
AJM: I’ve definitely seen a male-dominated work world coming from a background in sports as a young professional female. I didn’t let this detail sink in or dictate my actions. I figured it was a lot better for me to use my time thinking about ways I could positively add to the equation or ways I could reinvent, than it would have been for me to sit back and wonder why more males than females were sitting in boardroom meetings. Ironically, Digital Royalty is opposite of what I faced in the corporate world. We have a predominantly female group. It’s not because we have any other sort of bias, but because we don’t hire on the grounds of gender.
LB: How do you manage work / life balance? Do you find this balance more difficult as a woman?
AJM: In 2011, I flew on 210 flights and was averaging about 4 ½ hours of sleep each night. I constantly had people telling me I needed to find “balance” in my life and slow down, which to me, was like nails on a chalkboard. I am allergic to slowing down. I believe that the infamous “balance baseline” means that you have to get back to a place where you were before. As human beings, we are constantly changing and evolving, and our point of “balance” is always shifting. In order to innovate your personal life and business, you must always be moving forward, not backwards. In a way, I find “balance” too regressive versus progressive. “Balance” is overrated.
Rather than trying to achieve “balance” I focus on my intent and working toward purpose in my life. I call this combination of skill, passion and purpose, “Orthogonal Bliss.” Orthogonal thinking leads to innovation. To innovate, you must inspire others to see the value so they embrace their own lives with passion/purpose and share it with others.
I’m not sure that it’s harder to balance work with life as a woman because 1) we’ve been innately gifted to multi-task and 2) there are many men who have found themselves in the same teeter-totter situation.
LB: How do you deal with uncertainty? How do you approach the unknown?
AJM: With innovation and social media, the unknown is the only known. I thrive when navigating through uncharted waters because there are no rules. Experimenting leads to best practices. You can bank on your past results for confidence but never expect the past to reach out and magically deliver you to your future goals.
LB: What key mistakes have you made in your career? What were some of the key lessons learned?
AJM: For the past two years I’ve been so focused on helping brands and people increase their own influence. Little did I know at the time, that I was neglecting my own purpose and passion. It soon became very apparent that I had a purpose problem. Which led me to wonder why we don’t run our personal lives more like a business. If a business isn’t profitable, it will fail. If a person loses passion and purpose, they will stop making progress toward their own goals and will be left unfulfilled.
At this point, I decided I was going to treat my own life just as I did my business, and focus on Innovating my own Life. I conducted a Personal Brand Audit, established a Personal Board of Directors and identified Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for all aspects of my life, from family to health, community, friends and my career. My metric of measurement is Return on Innovation (ROI). I am still a work in progress and only a few months into this new-life formula, but moving in the right direction.
LB: What do you enjoy most about social media?
AJM: I have a social dream that one day we rise up and embrace social communication channels to make social good more scalable. We need to remove our marketing hats, put our entertaining hashtags and attempts at building viral campaigns aside and start taking these new communication channels, which reach more than a billion people, more seriously. Then, we can change the world. That’s what should happen next. I see progress in this direction everyday but it all starts with education.
I believe that social media allows for making the act of good scalable in unprecedented ways. First off, the rate of committing acts of good is only bound by the speed of technology. Also, accountability and transparency spin narcissistic acts into selfless acts. The peer-to-peer nature of the open network pushes value to the top and it’s a truly open market of ideas. Consensus is the only authority. The accessibility and lack of boundaries that social channels offer, create an equal opportunity space. Gatekeepers (editors, authority figures, governments) and physical boundaries (distance) have lost their relevancy to a network where, if you show value, you and your ideas are granted global access.
Storytelling. What made me initially fall in love with social media from the very beginning was the ability to tell stories. Social media provides fans exclusive access, behind the velvet red ropes, to their favorite celebrities, athletes and brands. Most recently, I had the unique opportunity to be invited by Nike to attend the exclusive launch of the Nike FuelBand in New York. My mission was: to leverage my influence of more than 1.2 million Twitter followers and tell the story virtually, as it unfolded. While in attendance with media from around the world and A-list athletes and celebrities including Lance Armstrong, I was armed with my laptop and my iPhone and through exclusive tweet-by-tweet coverage, I did my best to give my followers virtual front-row seats to the unveiling event. This isn’t the first time Nike made a full-court press for an announcement or epic sporting event, as I was also grateful to have the opportunity to tell the virtual story at the Women’s World Cup Finals in Germany and the announcement of the Nike Mag shoe back in September last year.
It’s moments like these that really get me passionate about social media. Going back to the roots of what social media is designed for- to share a story and make an emotional connection.
LB: What are you doing to defy the norm?
AJM: I am in the process of writing my first book, which is slatted to hit bookshelves late summer. For the past two years, I’ve shared my story virtually, tweet-by-tweet via social media. Lucky you! Ha. With this book, I plan to share the valuable lessons I’ve learned about business, social media, the process of innovation and life in general. What makes this book different than the typical social media book is that it’s more about innovation and I am conducting a social experiment, by encouraging my followers to contribute and create the content within my book. Stay tuned for further direction and I truly look forward to this next chapter of my life.
LB: What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again?
AJM: I wouldn’t do anything differently because then I wouldn’t be at this exact point in my journey and I’m pretty happy being right here at the moment.
LB: What three pieces of advice would you offer young women looking to create a career similar to yours?
AJM: Integrity with yourself is the basis of your integrity in the world. This is something my life coach tells me all the time. The key is: don’t fall out of integrity with yourself.
Being an entrepreneur is like the Chicago weather. If you don’t like the way your business day is going, wait 15 minutes. There are major ups and downs, just roll with them and learn from both.
I’d tell them to learn to push their own buttons and motivate themselves. You have to figure out what makes you tick because everyone is busy and you can’t rely on others to inspire you.
If you believe you are inferior, you will be. Many women still subscribe to the idea that the playing field isn’t level and they think they’re helping the perception but in fact they’re actually substantiating the mentality.
Being a woman isn’t a business handicap. At the end of the day, we’re all graded by a performance card. If you believe you have a disadvantage you will. The path of performance is the only path that gets you places. Nothing else.