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The CMO Files: Shane D. Shirley-Smith, CMO, Factory Direct Promos

Get inside the mind of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job, what their biggest achievements are... and what keeps them awake at night. Read 'The CMO Files'...

Name:  Shane D. Shirley-Smith

Organisation: Factory Direct Promos

Job title: CMO

Location:  Coral Springs, Florida


(1) Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I still love to go back to visit Tennessee and see the mountains and visit with some of the friendliest folks on earth.  I must say though, that Michigan is not a place I miss because of the freezing cold weather, although I have so many friends there still that I really miss. Luckily, they love to come and visit me in sunny Florida.

(2) What was your first job?
Of course I babysat but my very first real job was when I was 14 working at the mall at an Orange Julius. Does anyone remember that place? I made $1.90 an hour and I thought I was rich when I got my first paycheck.  The benefits were great too as I got to eat as much as I wanted and I loved the burgers, fries, fried chicken sandwiches and the delicious strawberry Julius's.  The brown polyester outfit was not so great and the hair net, well you can imagine how lovely that was.

(3) What was the first product you got really excited about?
Twenty-five years ago, while looking for a summer job during college break, I interviewed for a job selling home water purification systems.  I thought it was ingenious and wanted to take the job right away. My father disagreed and I took another job.  I still wonder what would have happened if I would have taken that job. The market was wide open and I just walked away.  Learned a lesson though, always follow your gut.

(4) Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
There have been many people who I have garnered bits and pieces of advice from, but there is one person that really has influenced my career and who I always go to for career advice.  His name is Ted Rubin and he is one of the top CMO's and marketers in the world today. You can follow along with him on Twitter with 140,000 others @TedRubin and be sure to read the book he co-authored with Kathryn Rose called Return On Relationship. Ted taught me that marketing is about giving more than you take and creating relationships that benefit others before they benefit you. Along with his business acumen, he is just a really nice guy and I absolutely adore him.

(5) What has been your greatest achievement?
Aside from finding a way back into the business world after taking a 12-year break to raise my three daughters, I would say my greatest achievement is earning a position within an organization that works worldwide to help create a more sustainable future for us all. I work as CMO for Factory Direct Promos, which is one of the largest factory direct suppliers of eco-friendly, custom reusable bags in the world and we make a difference with each custom, reusable bag we create. Our clients include large brands like American Express, Pepsi, Carnival Cruise Lines, smaller brands, and even non-profits like The Salvation Army and municipalities like Los Angeles. As our Founder and CEO, Jason Tunick says, "When our reusable bags reach thousands of companies, they green millions of consumers and that's how change begins." It feels good to do good and I consider that my greatest achievement professionally.

(6) What has been your biggest mistake?
Oh my goodness, there have been so many it is hard to choose my biggest. I always look at mistakes as character builders both personally and professionally and honestly, I think our mistakes endear us to those around us.  I am the ultimate optimist and always try to see the positive in the negative, but don't get me wrong, making mistakes feels awful. Like when I did not proof an infographic well enough and the facts were wrong and the mistake was caught by a hugely popular website and posted one Sunday morning while I was at a lovely breakfast after church with my family. That turned into not the most enjoyable Sunday with the boss but the good news was that we were on one of the top websites.  I think my biggest mistake in business was probably not listening to my intuition on many occasions until finally realizing, that is the best way to mark a successful path. There are so many experts out there but ultimately, it is important to do your homework, get the information you need to make a good choice and then listen to that voice inside that will never let you down. Ignore it at your own peril.

(7) What is your greatest strength?
I am a really positive person and can see the best in all people and situations.  I love to point out to people the strengths I see in them.

(8) What is your biggest weakness?  
I hate to admit it, but it is hard for me to step away from work.  To me work is fun and I sometimes forget it is not so fun for my three girls although they are always bringing me leads.

(9) What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?
I think sitting down and writing a good old fashioned, hand-written note is one way marketers can really set themselves apart from others and strengthen relationships.  At Factory Direct, we have this awesome seed paper that when planted sprouts into wildflowers.  I love to stay in touch with clients and prospects by jotting down a quick message to connect on my custom seed paper note cards.  My youngest loves it when I make a mistake, as that is just another chance for us to plant some more wildflowers in the yard.

(10) Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?
My mom always used to say to me, "You might as well ask; all they can say is no", and I have carried that thought with me in both my personal and professional life. It helps to put things in perspective.  As far as a phrase that makes me squirm, I can't really think of any.

(11) What makes you stressed?
Oh that is easy, everything makes me stressed!  I like to joke that I am like a little Chihuahua, always nervous.  I have a lot of energy and always need a creative outlet for that energy. I find myself working a lot but my weekends are for family and a time to de-stress.

(12) What do you do to relax?
I actually love to work out.  I have worked out since I was 14 and it is my outlet that keeps me sane and the one thing I do for myself. I work out almost every single day, even on vacation. I also really love to go out to eat with my family and go on our Sunday bike rides.

(13) What is your favourite song?
My playlist includes anything from classic rock to classical. My favourite would probably have to be Pachelbel's Canon or anything Mozart. I also love The Black Eyed Peas, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival and so many more. I can't pin it down. I love music. I especially love to listen to music when I travel. Pop in my ear buds and I am off.

(14) Which book taught you most?
Again, I have to give a shout out to Ted Rubin and his book Return On Relationship but I also need to mention Nichole Kelly's How to Measure Social Media.  Two great must haves for anyone marketing through digital media.

(15) Do you have a team or sport that you follow?
Not really. I am not a sport's girl nor do I watch much TV. My daughter plays lacrosse so I would have to say that is about the extent of my love for sports.

(16) Which country would you like to work in?
I am pretty happy to stay right here in the good old USA but if I had to choose another country, it would be somewhere warm, intimate and fun like Monaco.  I always love a party.

(17) Which company do you think has the best marketing?
I really admire what Scott Monty does with Ford.  He has some really innovative ideas, a great brand and a very loyal following that makes for success.  Still, he is one of those people who make you feel like you are the only one in the room when you have face time with him.

(18) What do you love most about your job?
Again, I alluded to this earlier but I really love that my company is working hard to make a difference in the future sustainability of the world.  I also love that I can connect with people from all over the globe.

(19) What is your favourite book?
I used to be such an avid reader but these days if I have a free moment, I am hanging with my three daughters or sneaking in a work out. I recently read The Alchemist and I would put that on the top of my list.

(20) What keeps you awake at night?
I seem to always go to sleep at night thinking about work but nothing specific. Just whatever project I am currently working on or how I can connect my brand in better ways to our target markets.  I really love what I do and feel very blessed to be able to make a difference in the world through the work I do. Once my head hits the pillow, I am usually out like a light and off to dreamland pretty darn quick.  Then I am up early and ready to do it all again.  Life is good.



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