Anne Miles is the founder of Suits&Sneakers, a global network of pre-approved marketing, media and advertising talent. Anne founded Suits&Sneakers in January 2018 in her 50’s in response to ageism and gender bias in her industry. She was determined to create a place where the best talent could be found without bias in place. Since starting the company Anne has become an ambassador and advocate for removing harmful stereotypes from media, marketing and advertising and is even rallying for Government intervention into self-regulation systems and complaints. Suits&Sneakers is an awarded business for being purposeful, innovative and a business model for the future.
Anne is a survivor of workplace and domestic violence and has seen firsthand the impact of harmful stereotypes not only in the media but in our workplaces and at home. Anne speaks and advocates for change outside her business Suits&Sneakers.
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Thank you so much for giving us your time! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and take us through what exactly your company does and what your vision is for its future?
Anne Miles: Suits&Sneakers is about giving access to the top end of the marketing, media, and advertising industry pre-approved talent who are at the top of their game. As I call it they are ‘big brand worthy’. Currently, with the bias in place, they are likely to be lost to the wider market and may even give up on a career that they have been leaders in. I help match up the right people and supervise the projects to help keep everyone on track in an independent and objective way. This is an alternative model for the industry and very disruptive.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO/entrepreneur when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get where you are today?
Anne Miles: I had very small ambitions as a child! It makes me laugh really. I had the ambition to be happily married and to have a job that I liked. That was it! I realize now that that is just about conforming to the world’s stereotypes about the role of women. There were no role models for me to look up to for what was possible.
If it weren’t for bias and abuses I may still be stuck working for someone else and not living my true potential in fact. I am grateful for the challenges I have faced as I can see that I am paving the way for change that can impact a lot of people in the world now. My vision is certainly much bigger now I see what is possible.
Tell us something about yourself that others in your organization might be surprised to know.
Anne Miles: I’m a survivor of domestic violence. The abuse is every kind you can imagine – verbal, physical, emotional, financial, sexual. I come across as a strong person and many don’t think that strong and intelligent women have these kinds of things happen to them. I think we actually attract more of it when we are very challenging to people who are not competent at communicating or lack self-confidence in themselves and attack others as a defense. I have been very empowered to do something to help others as a result and that includes learning everything I can about the topic.
I have around 8 qualifications in life coaching, neuro-linguistic programming, and healing modalities that I used for myself and my family to get through the trauma. The round-about benefit is that much of this is helping understand consumer psychology which is a great added benefit. Most of all I have experienced the consequences of NOT fitting into the social norms and stereotypes and the punishment that comes from people around you who want you to sit back and conform so they retain control over you. I wasn’t having it for myself and will not sleep now until we remove these harmful stereotypes from media, marketing, and advertising now I know they are linked with domestic violence, bullying, and mental health problems.
Many readers may wonder how to become an entrepreneur but what is an entrepreneur? How would you define it?
Anne Miles: I do hear all kinds of funny definitions of this too! I have been told that being an entrepreneur makes you a gambler or risk-taker. I hardly consider myself one of either of those.
My idea of an entrepreneur is someone who is creating their own reality and creating a business (or businesses) on their own terms.
What is the importance of having a supportive and inclusive culture?
Anne Miles: Given the link with harmful stereotypes linked to domestic violence, bullying and mental health problems, I know that when we don’t allow people to be respected for being themselves we are causing great harm. When it comes to this impacting media, marketing and advertising we are doing this harm at scale which is a million times worse than worrying about whether individual offices are doing their bit to make people feel included and supported.
Until we get the media representing people respectfully there will be no driving force to impact the way we work and how we treat others at home. It starts in where the world sees the social proof each day, over and over and over.
How can a leader be disruptive in the post covid world?
Anne Miles: Being disruptive does create success and I know that for myself by creating a very different business that is solving some world problems in my industry of media, marketing, and advertising. However, I don’t believe that being disruptive is the golden ticket. I’ve seen many businesses copy exactly what others are doing and package it up in a distinctive way and doing better than the original disruptor. (I have had people copy a lot of what I do as a perpetual disruptor!). Often it can be the second to market that is more successful. Being a disruptor can be so new and so different that it takes a while for the world to catch on. It can be very unpopular and people in some cultures have ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ (like Australia) and that pulls down those doing good things that really change the landscape. Being truly disruptive can be a disadvantage at times.
At the same time I think a lot of people misunderstand what ‘disruptive’ is and really mean to ‘stay relevant’ amidst a changing world and be ‘noticed’ above others.
If a 5-year-old asked you to describe your job, what would you tell them?
Anne Miles: I connect businesses to the best people, and don’t let stuff like race, age and gender get in the way as some mean people do in business. That means that the best people get chosen for the work and not just because they look a certain way.
Some people in marketing also use people to do work for them, but they don’t even know if they are qualified properly and then things go wrong that cost a lot of money. Some people call me the ‘Marketing Police’ because I make sure everyone does the right thing.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Anne Miles: When I first started in business I was in debt and had only a few weeks savings to get by. I had to get the business up very quickly to survive. In that first period I had a potential client come to me with $10,000 AUD to spend a month on social media and wanted me to pull a team together to deliver it. The temptation to take the brief was big as I didn’t know where my next income was coming from. Unfortunately, I felt that doing social media was the wrong approach for this client and it went against my ethics to take money for something that I didn’t think would work for the client. I turned the client away and connected him up with a retail strategist and discussed how he could solve his operational issues to handle the load from marketing successes too.
As a result of my ethics and purpose-driven thinking, I was faced with 4 days without any money for food. I scraped together some coins from the bottom of my handbags and worked out that if I bought a loaf of processed white bread that I could survive on vegemite sandwiches and toast for the next 4 days until I could work something out. It was difficult but I realized that Suits&Sneakers was a conscious capitalist business and this embedded those beliefs into everything we do. Since then we have been awarded and done well in awards for being purposeful, innovative, and a business model for the future. I’ve since had to make many ethics-based decisions and that ultimately drives me to make changes in my industry and to do better for the world any way I can.
Leaders are usually asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is your most useless talent?
Anne Miles: Great question! Haha. I have found out I am quite multi-talented and out of survival can do a lot of things that others can’t. I’ve been called a ‘machine’ before for being very fast and able to do diverse tasks. However, I think my most useless talent would be the ability to move my pinky toe and leave all the other toes static. Apparently, it is uncommon to be able to do this! It does work out to be a decent party-trick which is up there with ear wiggling.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. If you wrote a book about your life until today, what would the title be?
Anne Miles: That’s an inspiring question and perhaps it could actually be a reality one day?!
… “How one woman changed the face of media, marketing, and advertising and reduced domestic violence in the process”.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Anne Miles for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Anne Miles or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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