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Meet Debbie: Owner of Smart Communications LLC

I was Debbie’s manager at my last agency and I love her perspective on life and work! She taught me so much and she is a master communicator and handles crisis issues like a total boss. She recently left corporate life to start her own PR firm and I’m so proud she took that leap of faith!

Tell us a little about yourself and your career

I recently started my own company, Smart Communications LLC, after nearly 30 years in the corporate and agency worlds. I could tell you stories of media tours — my favorite is Coretta Scott King — and crisis situations. The bottom line is each experience has contributed to my reservoir of professional knowledge and learning. The life of a communications professional can be all consuming. Certainly, to succeed you must love and be dedicated to what you do. You must also be grounded in something greater than yourself, and for me that is my faith, family and friends.

How does your community of women you surround yourself with support you?

A listening ear. A sounding board. All of my friends are near and dear to my heart — no matter where or when our paths crossed. Both my professional and personal friends provide an ever-present fount of adventure, caring and wisdom essential for life’s journey. I couldn’t tell you when I realized the value of these friendships, but I can say any time spent with my cherished friends is a great investment!

Studies have shown diverse groups achieve more creative and productive solutions than like teams. I stay mindful of this fact, and the importance of getting input from people who have a life perspective different from mine.

What advice do you have for corporate women who deal with difficult clients?

I’ve been fortunate to have remarkable mentors to guide me in the workplace. One of my favorite strategies is to “take the high road” when responding to difficult situations. This simply means doing the right thing though it may not be easy or popular. In practice, it may mean you avoid engaging in meanspirited or negative talk and refocus clients on the work, their expectations and the desired outcomes. Being a good listener helps.

Sometimes you must tell yourself: “less (speak) is more.” If you’re a “fixer” like I am, you want to try and figure out a solve for everything. Often, people just want to be heard and acknowledgment and understanding are the best responses. This is an area I’m constantly working on because I’m a talker!

What do you wish you could go back and tell your younger self re: your career aspirations?

I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning and recognize my teachers can be any age. The more I learn in life, the more I realize I don’t know. Our mistakes can be the best learning opportunities of all. I’ve always loved the saying “I learn more from my failures, than my successes.” Sir Humphry Davy, who said it, was an accomplished British chemist. None of us like failure; however, it’s what we gain from the experience that allows us to grow.

What is your career-related mantra? 

Be a student of life. Never stop learning!

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