President Amanda Snowden Continues with Her Journey from Entry-Level to C-Level Executive

Continuing from last week, I am sharing my journey with becoming a C-Level executive at a creative agency.

Starting at the Bottom and Working My Way Up

When I first started at Attorneys Online (AOI), my job was to… show up? Again, without a job description or title, I had the freedom to choose what to do. I started making cold calls for the sales team. I got a lot of coffees. I sat in on creative meetings. I traveled to conferences where we set up a booth as a vendor. I learned my elevator pitch. I bought a “For Dummies” book to learn about this new thing called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I read that book and then three more. I learned SEO backward and forward. I started our SEO department as a department of one. Now, I had a title: SEO Manager and, as a bonus, Customer Relations Manager. My primary responsibilities were to continue with sales (traveling to conferences and following up with calls), customer service for existing clients and applying SEO to our websites.

The sales part came easily to me as I love to talk. I was good at it because I really understood our products. I did the actual optimization for our websites. Then, I coordinated with my design team to make sure that the websites could match what Google wanted at the time. We used to say that people signed up with AOI because they liked me, but they stayed with AOI because I was good at what I did. Once I signed a client, I believed in treating him/her like their businesses really mattered to us. I knew the birthdays of my clients, when their sons’ bar mitzvahs were, their secretary’s anniversaries and more. I handmade themed cards and sent them out with personalized notes and small treats (this was before Etsy even existed). I checked in with them regularly and, if there was a concern, I handled it with a plan of action that held us accountable.

Then, we weren’t such a small company anymore. We had a growing staff, and I had more responsibilities overseeing them as my role continued to grow with the company. There was no ladder or set path. I created new departments, set up their operations, hired the staff, trained them and remained a linchpin for the company’s growth. We went from a staff of four to more than a dozen in four main departments in a short time. Many of our clients remained with us for a decade or more, and we had complete trust in each other. I set my sights higher. I wanted our still small company to continue to grow. My efforts and aspirations for the company earned me a new title: Vice President of Business Development.

Taking Notice of New Opportunities

Over the next 5 years, we saw that pretty website designs took a backseat to website functionality and user experience. We saw SEO and content take a front-seat in getting your website to really show up well. Social media and video were the next arenas to which we needed to evolve to stay relevant. I created a social media department focused on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to start. It was important for businesses to have a face and personality that people could see and interact with in real time. Videos were an important way for law firms to answer frequently asked questions that everyone wants to know but few feel comfortable asking. They gave personality to our clients to make them more approachable for potential customers.

Our video department became one of the most profitable departments. We spent all day shooting at a client’s office asking hundreds of questions to multiple attorneys. Our production quality was top-notch. We would then 1-to-2-minute optimized videos that we used on a client’s website, in their marketing campaigns and on YouTube. Later, this department would spin off to create its own business entity. While it was part of the AOI umbrella, I worked with our videographers, makeup artists, video editors and clients to prepare them for what and how to answer questions.

Soon, many people were taking a second look at AOI and the business I helped to build in a little over a decade. In 2017, MediaSmack offered to acquire AOI. It made us an offer we couldn’t refuse and, best of all, our entire staff made the transition, too. I oversaw that transition, from billing to merging interfaces to creating new processes to make the transition as seamless as possible for my staff and for our clients. I made it clear that I was an indispensable part of this business. We reached out to all the AOI clients to let them know about the transition and that the staff they’ve known for so long (and I) would still be there. We did not lose a single client or staff member during that merger. I am really proud of that.

Moving on Up to the C-Level

When I first joined the MediaSmack team, I did not have a formal title. MediaSmack didn’t have Vice Presidents. The owners were co-Presidents and there weren’t mid-level managers. So, while it was a little nerve wracking at first, I knew that I could do for MediaSmack what I had done at AOI: keep an eye on our bottom line and growth while making sure we produce high quality products that our staff is proud to stand behind and our clients are happy to receive.

Within 90 days of joining Team MediaSmack, I earned the title of Chief Operations Officer (COO). To be honest, I didn’t know that what I had done for years at AOI was part of “Operations”. That wasn’t a class, like Marketing or Management or Finance, that my college offered. I could now give a name to the role that I am passionate about, and one that I already embraced for years. My job was to make sure the company ran smoothly, simple as that. Easier said than done, of course. It energizes me that there is a constant stream of problems to tackle. I use statistics, analytics, math, charts, graphs, PowerPoint, Excel, white boards as well as every free spot on my desk to plot and plan. Then, I created plans that I presented to the President. I had the data to back me up. I had a plan with dates for roll outs. Furthermore, I knew how to measure the success of my plans and I was ready to be held accountable to those goals. MediaSmack’s President put faith in me and never told me “no”. He knew that what I was doing was a recipe for success, and MediaSmack continued to grow.

In a little under a year, I became President of MediaSmack under our newly promoted CEO. While I will always be fond of SEO and Operations, I am now in charge of creating the vision and strategy for MediaSmack as well as its execution. I focus on increasing our productivity, efficiency and revenue. In 2019, we acquired our second company, and the transition was even smoother than the first time. Each change has brought about opportunities for me to learn and to shine.

What Am I Most Proud Of and What’s Next?

It’s been a long journey from not having a clear path to my current position guiding and growing a successful business. We continue to rank on Inc.’s 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies. Our year-over-year revenue continues to grow. Some of my clients celebrated their sixteenth anniversary with me. Some of my staff celebrated a decade working with me. Those statistics are what I am most proud of. MediaSmack is better because I am here. I help to take MediaSmack to the next level. Each challenge presents an opportunity to learn, adapt and grow.

Being a female business executive, I would now like to teach more. I give seminars, currently via Zoom, about SEO and basic marketing for small businesses. I enjoy mentoring and helping my team find ways to grow. The strong work ethic my dad imparted on me with lessons such as the fact that you’re never too high up to scrub the toilets if that is what needs to be done, is what made me successful. I tell my mentees that you must be willing to start at the bottom. There may not yet be a clear path for you. See that as your chance to invent one on the road less traveled. Your hard work, with a little innovation, will pay off even if you don’t yet know how.

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Author Amanda Snowden