Michelle Fragar – BRANDiT – Founder, Director, CMO & Marketing Consultant.
She has spent over 22 years in dedicated senior marketing roles, which has helped her ascend to the role of Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute’s (AMI) QLD committee. She decided to start her own small business ‘BRANDiT’ 5 years ago and is now thriving with over 17 clients.
She holds Australia’s highest marketing accreditation, being a Certified Practicing Marketer (CPM) of the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) and is a member of the global CMO council. In Oct 2020, she was honored to be awarded the prestigious “CPM of the Year” positioning her as a leading marketer in Australia.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Michelle Fragar: Hi, I’m Michelle Fragar, Managing Director and CMO of BRANDiT, a Branding and Marketing Strategy Agency on the Gold Coast, Queensland. I have been in marketing for over 20 years and have been recognised as one of our best marketers, having been awarded the coveted “CPM of the Year” Award in the 2020 Australian Marketing Institutes Awards of Excellence. A CPM is a Certified Practising Marketer and the highest level of accreditation in the Australian Marketing industry. Prior to starting my own agency, I had held senior global and CMO roles, spending many years navigating male – dominated industries and succeeding within the boys clubs.
To get us started, Can you tell our readers what does your company solve differently in the crowded marketplace? Give an example or share a story.
Michelle Fragar: For years I worked with amazing big agencies and always found they struggled to understand how they could support a business with all their marketing needs in a 360 degree approach. Everything was above the line focused, and I believed there could be a better way. My agency does 2 things really well,
1) Branding and Strategy as this is my happy place and I love giving SME’s access to my experience to help their growth and 10x their opportunities. Our second area
2) Outsourced Marketing Department was created to fill the gap discussed above, so many SME’s needed a dedicated team that would work on their marketing as if they were a member of your team, but they simply couldn’t afford it.
We work closely with our clients, we run everything so the management can get back to what their good at. It works really well and our clients love it. So, instead of hiring a mid or junior marketer, often for the same cost we give them experts in all areas of marketing and access to my strategic marketing brain. For example, Turmeric Life were looking to hire a junior marketer to manage their marketing and manage the supplies of their lead generation activities (Google ads, Facebook etc). Instead, they chose our Outsource Marketing Dept model and have a dedicated marketer looking after every element of marketing direct from their marketing plan.
The Account Manager “owns the brand” and works with our area experts to execute the marketing plan month on month. We manage their lead generation like Google Ads, Facebook ads, SEO departments to increase their outcomes. The account manager also creates their EDM’s, copy writing, blogs, design and brings in our web development or graphics teams to execute projects outside of their skill base.
This way we have one person 100% focused on the brand messaging and consistency and bringing experts in their field to execute their plan, but all under one roof. It’s so much easier for the clients to manage their marketing departments this way.
While your company is growing, what are some of the challenges you face? Hiring? Tech development? Raising capital? Branding? Tell us more about the journey.
Michelle Fragar: Oh that’s easy. My greatest challenge has been finding people as passionate as me to work for me. I love my job, and really wanted to find people who were at the top of their speciality, but with the pure joy of helping business owners grow. COVID impacted the talent pool making this even harder, but I’m trying to create a culture that will spread so the right people come and find us.
Also, like all businesses going through a rapid growth phase, it’s about managing the working capital and really knowing your numbers. Coming out of bigger companies, I knew to make my business work I had to find not only the right internal team but the best external team, so when I find equally passionate and talented people I love to bring them into our support team to guide us on areas like IT, Accounting etc. Don’t do everything yourself, just create a great functioning team to support your dreams.
Everyone has a different story, what influenced your decision to be an entrepreneur, what would you have done differently?
Michelle Fragar: Honestly, I never wanted to have my own business. I loved my CMO role and would have loved to continue in those types of roles, but we moved to the Gold Coast in 2015ish and there were limited roles at my level, if I was told one more time I was too qualified and they thought I’d get bored I would have screamed. So I took a contract role in Brisbane and hated the drive so badly that I just decided to back myself and start my own business.
We moved to the Gold Coast after the mining crash and I was made redundant, so really my only regret was that I didn’t back myself faster. I could have started hard and fast out of the gates and I think BRANDiT would be so much bigger by now. It really does take a few years to get your roll on, build confidence and also find the right team to help you execute at my expected level. I often hear, marketing doesn’t work, its not that, its that people watch Facebook videos and think these people have a clue. The fact is, people who have great skills are busy using them, not doing small business free videos.
I like many new business owners, fell into the micro business mentality, i.e.: thinking I could find work on socials and that I had to network, it took me a while to gain my confidence and get back to my big business thinking. Once I put that hat back on and did what I thought was right (not what I was being told to do) that we really started to thrive and drive to success.
Now for the main focus of this interview: what qualities or characteristics do women entrepreneurs have that make them great leaders? Please share some examples.
Michelle Fragar: In management terms, a leader’s success is combining the right skills to make them, likeable, believable, and ultimately followable. If you’re lucky enough, you may recall a great leader in your workplace who can rally the troops, inspire them to their cause and give them a sense of purpose, when there may be many question marks around the strategy. You see, we are all born with our IQ set, its genetic and yes opportunities in life can impact your success, but your IQ tested as a child, teen and adult will stay relatively inline. Throughout my years in management, I think women who have worked on, or mastered their EQ rise through the leadership stages with poise and respect of both their male and female counterparts.
Like many things in life, we only find the answers in our mature years, in my 20’s and 30’s I could never understand why I was being promoted over others. I thought, it’s because I just work harder. I was often first one in, last one out. But as I cruise through my 40’s (with a great psychologist on my team) it’s now I can recognise where I had always doubted myself with my IQ, it turns out I have developed quite good EQ skills. Seeing problems or projects from multiple angles, creating solutions that could work for everyone, and the ability to get people to like and trust that everything I’m saying is honest and in their best interest. Wow, I wish I knew this in my 20’s.
Think of EQ as a superhero power that can help you in your work meetings or with clients trying to get them over the line. Your EQ allows you to read the room, process others reactions and help guide you on how to deal with them best. I remember in my 20’s I was quite driven and fiery, as I just couldn’t understand why people weren’t understand simple concepts, I would be quite direct and then wondered why that didn’t work out for me. Shocking right!!! Now I laugh and think I’m lucky no one ever told me off. Because I was never trying to be mean, in honesty all comments came from a great place, just the deliver didn’t land. I’m sure we have all watched that reality show where the participant “just doesn’t get how they come off”. So, after this I worked really hard to “be calm” thinking this was the problem. Over the years I focused on persuasion, listening and digesting others’ views before I comment. What I found is listening should be the number 1 tool in our toolbox as it brings together the 5 areas of emotional intelligence together so we can react appropriately. These areas are: Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social skills.
As a marketer, we are often treated as a “cost centre” by the accounting department, so the day the CFO told me I had the best commercial acumen he had seen in a marketer I was shocked first, but honoured afterwards. It showed that I was self-aware when speaking to him that my dept was a cost centre and I needed to talk to him in number and rational terms. I was self-regulated enough when he told me we had to cut costs that I didn’t scream, throw a dirty look or start rocking on the ground, he knew I was motivated that one was easy, that I had the ability to empathetically listen to his comments and process them to deliver an argument back that would be rational and not emotionally drive, being calm as a woman in a leadership position is a must have. And lastly, I had worked on my social skilled enough that I could have an open and honest conversation with a bean counter about my desire to spend $1M on a tradeshow. So, as you can see, it wasn’t my IQ that got me this complement, it was my EQ all the way.
I worked in male – dominated industries – Security and Mining for most of my career before BRANDiT, and being a calm listener that can provide multiple solutions to any situation has definitely supported my success. So, let’s grow our EQ ladies.
What are some of the biggest challenges you still see women face while conducting business, compared to their male counterparts? What would you like to see change, and how would you make it happen?
Michelle Fragar: Oh the gap is real, but I honestly think those that focus on what they don’t have will always stay there. Being in Mining in the early 2000’s was a different world, for many years I was the only woman (other than a PA) allowed in the executive area, it was all men. But I honestly can’t think of one time I sat there and thought I’m going to show you or this is a boys club, I looked at it as my work environment, and I was so driven to be the best at what I did, I don’t think it was on my mind often, as that’s a spiral down with no benefits.
I learnt how to use my femininity to get onto Mine sites with the sales teams that they couldn’t get appointments on. I used misogyny to my advantage, I was looking for my angle to get a seat at the table. Not thinking, this is unfair, I need to whinge about it. I just did what needed to be done to meet the needs of my job. I think this detachment helped me. I was also very lucky to work at a business that tried to have family values and good moral character as a culture. It didn’t always happen but they tried.
In this day and age, it really does blow my mind that we are still talking about junior wage gaps betweens the sexes, at my age there is legacy of career progression that could impact and widen the gender pay gap. But recently I was involved in a conversation about the gap between uni graduates, if male or famale. I thought we were now looking at the role, rather than the role by sex? Are you kidding me? I believe each industry association should be tasked with creating gender equal guidelines for each industry that all business owners must work within. I’d like to think that these gaps are dues to lack of knowledge rather than a conscious decision. Equal pay for equal jobs. No genders at work, just humans who have the skills and expertise to do their job.
Having worked in male – dominated industries, I truly believe women who finess their Emotional Intelligence will quickly remove the previous challenges they faced in business.
With all of your experience as a business leader, what is the most important thing you can tell fellow entrepreneurs that you’d like to share with aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Michelle Fragar: Dedicate yourself to 1) mastering your art, no matter your profession, live and breath it, 2) don’t listen to people because someone tells you to, influencers are bringing down the quality of many professional industries and 3) learn about the 5 elements of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) to help you refine your skills to ensure you have a seat at any table you want. And most importantly, once you do those three, just back yourself like no one else could. We second guess and often are our own worst enemy. We deserve to be at the table.
What do you plan on tackling during 2022? Share your goals and battles you expect to face.
Michelle Fragar: Each year of my business, I have picked a goal, last year was updating systems and our IT platforms for growth. This year is about developing my financial skills as a business owner. I have over 20 years as a marketer, but only 5 as a accountant, sales manager and all the other admin roles in a business that the owner takes on in those first few years. I’m working to develop new skills in this area to support the success and growth of my business.
How do you keep learning? Podcast? Books? Audiobooks? Videos? Share some of your greatest sources of inspiration? Share an impactful story.
Michelle Fragar: The last few years I have had the ear of some amazingly talented Marketers, as ex-president of the Australian Marketing Institute’s QLD region, we created a brains trust and supported each other through challenges, projects and growth. Since stepping down, we continued to catch up and created a CMO level group to share ideas and knowledge. Finding a group of peers is how I thrive and learn best.
I’m sure our readers will be very thankful for the insights you have shared. Where can our readers follow up with you?
Michelle Fragar: You can follow me on our socials (listed below) and my blogs on our website www.brandit.rocks
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Michelle Fragar 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 Michelle Fragar or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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