Meet seasoned digital marketer, speaker and educator, Valentina Borbone. Valentina’s marketing agency, Banter Group, delivers comprehensive marketing solutions for businesses of all sizes across all industries.
She prides herself on being down-to-earth, completely transparent, and helping businesses achieve great success by offering marketing solutions that are strategic, tactical, and implemented properly. Ask Valentina and her team a complicated digital question and you’ll get a straight-forward answer that makes sense.
Check out more interviews with entrepreneurs here.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Valentina Borbone: My name is Valentina Borbone and I’m the CEO and founder of Banter Group, an 18-person strong can-do marketing agency based in Bowral, in the Southern Highlands, NSW. That’s my official work description. Who I am is a 47 year old mum of two children, 18-years married to my adoring husband, a roller-blading wanna-be-skate-ramp-rider, a Lord of The Rings tragic and a belly-laugher.
Can you tell our readers in what ways you are disrupting your industry?
Valentina Borbone: Banter Group is a people-first company. What that means in practical terms for our clients is that we put ourselves in our clients’ shoes and determine what they need from marketing to deliver on their business goals. There are so many options available and it’s difficult for business owners to understand each of the options and determine the best steps on their own.
We engage as people, speak like people and solve problems for businesses as people. Solutions that are affordable, that are scalable, that are easy to understand and we explain the impact of poor decision-making that a client might be considering so they can make informed decisions.
You would think this is quite a normal approach in business, however in my 20+ years of experience as an agency-side marketer, it’s just not the case. There’s so many snake oil merchants out there and it hurts the industry considerably. We pride ourselves on complete transparency and honesty and that might mean we have to turn a client away who doesn’t want to listen to the absolute truth.
Did you become a disruptor by choice or by necessity? Tell us more about the journey.
Valentina Borbone: We didn’t become a disruptor by choice or necessity, moreso, it’s the core being of who we are. We’re good humans that want to do good work, feel good about what we do and what we achieve for our clients.
It’s a natural state. Banter started because of the horrendous stories I was hearing from business owners about solutions they’ve been sold, or worse still, scenarios they were making up in their heads based on no actual knowledge or experience that were inaccurate.
They were making poor decisions that were costing them time and money simply because they didn’t have anyone to help them that were honest and experienced. I had both of those qualities, and started Banter to assist businesses in the most hands-on and practical, affordable way possible. I bootstrapped the company, and in 6 months we were self-sustaining and in 8 months, Banter grew to a team of 8 people.
Now for the main focus of this interview: Many readers may wonder what are the biggest challenges women entrepreneurs must overcome to be successful?
Valentina Borbone: I think there are two main challenges to overcome for women. First, being called an entrepreneur. Why is that? I don’t see many headlines about male entrepreneurs. We are all just business leaders.
Second, we have to overcome imposter syndrome. Throughout my career I’d faced gender inequality and sexism, which came with a whole lot of self-talk that I couldn’t achieve, on my own, what I “thought” was nirvana in my working life. I soon realised that positive talk was only going to go so far, and the rest was up to me to truly believe that what I had to offer was different, and good and something others wanted to experience.
The third challenge for women to overcome is to accept help. I’m often asked how I can possibly manage to ‘have it all’ – a young family, a thriving marriage and a growing business. Mistakenly, people think I “manage” this alone. They are frightfully wrong. I have a fantastically engaged husband who manages our household and children’s activities, I have a wonderful cleaner who ensures I don’t spend my weekends vacuuming and dusting, I have a sensational team who manage the admin and the financials of running a business, and I have a business coach that keeps my head on straight with clear focus. I could NEVER be the successful woman I am without these supports.
How did you overcome these obstacles? Who helped you during these difficult times and how did they?
Valentina Borbone: Imposter syndrome is a funny thing. It’s 50% in front of you every day and 50% in your head. It’s the narrative you tell yourself more so than what others tell you. In my late 30s I sought the help of a counsellor to overcome what I thought were mental health issues forming from a toxic business relationship.
I wasn’t wrong, the business partnership I was in was littered with issues of gender inequality and an imbalance of expectations. Throughout the course of counselling sessions, I also uncovered where the root of the problem was – and it was buried deep in the foundations of my upbringing.
I was able to apply the strategies I was learning to my personal life as much as my work life, and it helped dramatically to overcome the sentiments that I am incapable and not worth, resulting in doubting my abilities. I was finally able to accept and admit out loud that I was as good as I believed I was.
How did these lessons shaped the way you conduct business today?
Valentina Borbone: The lessons have shaped my day to day business practices tremendously. Not only can I recognise when someone needs to address deep-seeded issues that are impacting their own life and work, but I can do so with utter compassion and empathy. These two things are very different. With empathy, we join the suffering of others who suffer, but stop short of actually helping.
With compassion, we take a step away from the emotion of empathy and ask ourselves ‘how can we help? I’m absolutely an empath, but my difference is I can’t stop short – I’m compelled to help. It’s why Banter’s approach is to guide the way for business. I can’t just stop short of knowing a business is doing the wrong thing with their marketing and budget – I feel compelled to help them.
From my team’s perspective, I ‘feel’ them. They are juggling their own lives of work and home and I know how to react like a human being first, employer second. It’s not just empathy, it’s having the compassion to act. This results in putting people first, profits last. Banter isn’t in business to make a towering bank account, it’s there to deliver great work with a great team that love what we do and have an awesome time doing it. We work to live, not live to work.
What advice you wished you had received when you started, that you’d like to share now with aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Valentina Borbone: I would like to pass on the advice my adoring husband passed on to me when I was in floods of tears – of self-doubt. He said “You can do this, you have the experience to do it and you just need to get on with it. You’ll make mistakes and you’ll learn from them and you’ll be fantastic. And if it all goes belly-up, I’ll be right here and you’ll fall on your feet.
You’re experienced and can get a job anywhere you want, so what are you waiting for?” Oh, and take the holidays! Your brain needs holidays to stay fresh, focused and most importantly, enthusiastic about what you’re doing. They don’t have to be big, long holidays – but when you do, truly switch off the emails and notifications and be present in your holiday.
Out of all of your proudest moments as an entrepreneur, is there a particular one that stands out the most?
Valentina Borbone: There are so many proud moments for me. The top 3 for me are winning the Outstanding New Business award in our region when we were just 8 months old. Holding that little trophy – a huge sign of my hard work and being recognised for it meant the world.
The second was being able to give one of my team a baby-bonus that wasn’t a government requirement, it wasn’t mandated, it was simply because I could; and because I could, I did. That felt amazing. The latest proudest moment has been reflecting on my team of 18 people, in a regional part of NSW, who are happy.
They go to the school assemblies, they attend the sports carnivals, they work from home whenever they want to, they leave early to be with their families, they work collaboratively to achieve the best outcome for each client and our work life together is like being a bunch of friends who have a great time, filled with laughter and respect, every day. It’s a special place. That’s probably my proudest moment.
What do you plan on tackling during the 2022 year? Share your goals and battles you expect to face.
Valentina Borbone: Scaling the business for a part-time team is an ongoing challenge. The pandemic taught us plenty and mostly, never become complacent. I expect my greatest battle to be to find that balance for myself as a leader – so I can attend more of the assemblies and sports carnivals myself. I feel more prepared than ever for whatever comes my way.
I know my biggest battle over the next 12 months will be to put in a framework for scale – and that means it’s time to accept more help, and possibly look for a partnership. I’m only one human and I need the support to continue to grow.
I’m sure our readers will be very thankful for the insights you have shared. What is the best book you’ve gone through lately and please share some take away lessons from it.
Valentina Borbone: By far the best book I’ve recently read is Radical Candor, by Kim Scott. Having grown up with the businesses in the book (Apple, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Twitter etc), it felt close to home. As a leadership book, it not only reiterated actions, perceptions and tactics that I knew and already deployed, it delivered a framework for improving conversations and holding others accountable too.
It identifies that being an empath also means I can be on the Ruinous Empathy trajectory. Ruinous Empathy™ is “nice” but ultimately unhelpful or even damaging. It’s what happens when you care about someone personally, but fail to challenge them directly. It’s praise that isn’t specific enough to help the person understand what was good, or criticism that is sugar-coated and unclear.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, I do have one more question for you. When was the last time you did something for the first time and what was it?
Valentina Borbone: Riding a skate ramp on rollerblades – that was about 3 weeks ago. It’s such a strange feeling to go backwards up a ramp. Practice makes perfect!
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Valentina Borbone 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 Valentina Borbone or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin
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