Women in Business Q&A: Florence Quinn, CEO, Strategic and Creative Director, Quinn PR

Florence Quinn has nurtured and shaped Quinn into a strategic powerhouse of brand storytelling. Her near-clairvoyant ability to anticipate trends and cut to what is important has sparked some of the most effective PR ideas and campaigns of our time.

An artist at heart, Florence believes that great work has simplicity, inspiration and form. "Like the grid beneath a Jackson Pollack painting."

As a heavily decorated winner of nearly every award available to PR professionals, she coaches and inspires her team to find the best strategic and creative solutions then measure them against the client's brand and goals. Shark Tank-shark and business-mogul Barbara Corcoran agrees: "The amazing thing about Florence is that she's an extremely creative individual, and on top of that she's able to transfer that inspiration to the people who work with her so she's able to build a giant creative team. Do you know how unusual that is in the PR business?"

A Connecticut native, Florence keeps letters received from Katharine Hepburn while at Smith College in her office as a reminder to be an independent thinker. She resides in Westport with her husband, son and two dogs.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have always been interested in the creative arts. I painted through college and was a Merit Scholarship student at the Art Students League in NYC. Painting is about thinking openly, instinctively and bringing forth something that didn't exist before. This interest compelled me to apply the creative mindset to PR work; we strive to bring fresh ideas to clients. A PR idea can be anything you want it to be as long as it is authentic, feasible and effective. Thinking in new ways is part our culture.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Quinn?
My boss, Jessica Dee of Jessica Dee Communications, believed in me enough to hire me even though I didn't have PR experience. Her belief fueled my confidence. She also gave me a great deal of independence. Working without supervision forced me to think things through and figure it out. More than once I pulled an all-nighter to educate myself. This autonomy, coupled with my inexperience, gave me the freedom to experiment.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Quinn?
I love seeing the results of our work and the value it brings to clients. I love collaborating with my team members and watching them grow.

My biggest challenge was learning to manage. When we grew to 10-12 people we became an organization in need of a culture with structure, policies and H/R direction, and I didn't have a clue.

What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
Do it because you love it. If you have passion and the ambition to do whatever it takes, you will succeed. Don't do it for money.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Get all the help you can get as soon as you can afford it. Be in relationship with your teammates and trusted advisers so you can be yourself. Be honest with them.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
There is no work/life balance without choices and sacrifice. My personal sacrifice is sleep. After my son goes to bed I am often back on the computer until 1am. The business sacrifice is that I keep evening networking and trips to a minimum.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
For me it has been making the choices that go with being a mom and a businesswoman. I often make decisions that feel like I am choosing one over the other - my son or my staff. Do I spend an extra night in Florida to be with our Miami staff or do I fly home to my son? I am hoping Max, who is now 14, will shed some light on this when he is older.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I couldn't have grown Quinn without Grace Andrews, my business coach, mentor and sometimes therapist. Every Christmas I design a pillow with one of her great quotes on it for her. One year, instead of a quote, I painted "Co-CEO." I got this from an article in which Barry Diller called Jack Welch his Co-CEO and it struck me that this is what Grace is to me.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I adore Meryl Streep for her immense talent, independence, character and intelligence as well as for her vulnerability and for being herself. She is timeless and classic.

What do you want Quinn to accomplish in the next year?
I want to accelerate our work in the areas of co-marketing and branded content.