My business has no boundaries creatively or demographically. Thanks to 21st century technology, my virtual team is scattered throughout the United States: I have proofreaders and editors in New York and Texas, IT personnel in California, Philadelphia and South Carolina, camera crews on the west and east coast, public relations associates throughout the country and the list goes on. The irony of my business is that within a team of many, I have only personally met two members but our connection is strong and the professionalism is unsurpassed.
Within the past seven years, I have moved my office to my home so I could be accessible to care for my elderly father and be ‘home’ for my daughter. I certainly have the best of both worlds. Advertising is hectic and my life is hectic but when there is a field trip for my daughter’s school, I am there and when my dad needs to see a doctor, I, too, am there. The beauty of advertising is that a great deal of the work can be done ‘after hours’ and because of the personal choices I have made, there are many nights that I do indeed burn the midnight oil but the rewards are tremendous.
It is not easy juggling work and home and I am convinced that some people are actually better suited to work within the structure of a traditional work environment. Working at home is not for everyone and strong discipline must be applied otherwise work will only be a hobby. Also, for many self-employed, the hours are longer and the responsibilities are many but for those juggling family a sense of humor is a must.
Due to my dad’s failing health, I recently had to hire a home nurse so that I could concentrate on business commitments and meetings minus the interruptions. I knew the time for a nurse was approaching during a phone meeting I had a few months ago. While I was in the process of explaining a project to a client, my dad barged into my office and ranted aloud about what brand of toilet paper he should use. I began waving him off, trying to maintain my professionalism with my client and before I knew it my dad grabbed the phone from me and surveyed the client as to what brand he should use. Of course, I was humiliated, but then again, I make it no secret to my clients what my circumstances are and, to my surprise, the client had recommended Kleenex over Charmin. Well, that broke the ice and since then that client has become one of my top ongoing clients. My dad, however, is not allowed in my office any longer because…well just because.
A few years ago, when I was still in New York I had a meeting with Mattel regarding a package design job for a Barbie campaign. At the time, my daughter was only 18 months old and I kept her home with me while I worked. Midway through the phone meeting, my daughter began to get restless and I knew I had to become instantly creative in order to continue the meeting. While discussing new Barbie products, I immediately put up a caterpillar tent in the middle of my living room and conducted the rest of my meeting crawling within a two feet high tent with my daughter. It was a win-win situation and both my client and daughter were well satisfied. To Mr. DeMille, however, I would insist on never having my camera close-up that day.
Many people think of advertising as a ‘glamorous’ business and while I was on Madison Avenue, it was glamorous. Meetings at Sardi’s or The Russian Tea Room were not uncommon and tickets to top Broadway plays or upscale gifts were just some of the many perks of running an advertising agency in Manhattan. During the summer months, many clients would have elegant lawn parties on their estates in the upscale North Shore of Long Island where the best food and service was available. I have worked with the best and been with the best. These days, however, although the quality of work my agency puts out is the same, I am sad to say the glamour from the Manhattan era has faded. People who drop by my office will often find me in a tee shirt and jeans and when they are lucky I will be wearing my favorite jeans, which are ripped at both knees. Unknowingly to the youth of today, these favorite jeans were not purchased with the rips but rather ‘developed over time’.
My daughter attends a private school and I am her transportation. The school is one-hour commute in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, therefore, during weekdays every minute is accounted for. I must say that in the morning, my daughter and I have the minutes down to a science; we are a good team, especially while I am shoving the food into her little mouth and dressing her at the same time.
Last year, while waiting on the pick-up line for my daughter a teacher approached my car with a huge brown bag. Apparently she noticed my ‘ripped’ jeans and felt 'led' to donate some of her clothes to me. I didn’t know what to say and it took all I had to hold in from laughing out loud. I graciously thanked her for thinking of me and suggested that perhaps her generosity would be better suited for someone in need. She stared in my eyes and assured me that she was sure that ‘I was that someone in need’. It occurred to me that she had no idea what my profession was and assumed that I was a struggling at home mom. Well, as I said, I have the best of both worlds and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world but maybe it has come time to retire my jeans… at least for when I pick my daughter up from school.