Women in Business Q&A: MJ Pedone, President and CEO, Indra Public Relations

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MJ Pedone

As President and CEO, MJ Pedone has supervisory and strategic control over all functional disciplines of Indra Public Relations. As a former partner and CEO of Pro Players Sports Marketing Group, Inc., MJ served as President of the Sports Marketing Division working with professional athletes to activate PR, marketing, events, nonprofit and branding campaigns across a wide array of platforms. With over two decades of experience, MJ is a result driven leader with B2B and B2C experience and is a seasoned marketing and public relations expert who possesses a unique perspective when it comes to business branding from grassroots to a multimedia level.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have so many distinct memories growing up with a mother who has a very strong personality and was a very bright business woman. She constantly instilled in my sister and I from a young age to never depend on anyone, but ourselves and to focus on our education and passion in order to be successful. She also assured us that we can do whatever we want in life if we put our mind to it. I truly have my mother to thank for instilling that positive reinforcement, which allows me to be a leader and mentor to others. She is the reason why I have always been my own boss and have the determination to be successful.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Indra Public Relations?
When I started my career in the fashion business, I had the opportunity to travel in the same circles as professional athletes and celebrities. I was invited to attend the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids event and I invited Charles Oakley, Patrick Ewing and John Starks to join me. They had such a great time and shortly thereafter, they were calling me and wanting to attend other events. I was asked to help with their PR, appearances and marketing opportunities, which I became good at instantaneously. I quickly learned many facets of the business and made so many great connections and relationships throughout the years that I have been able to leverage that at Indra Public Relations.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Indra Public Relations?
In the beginning when I started Indra Public Relations, I was challenged financially as I was a self-funded solo business owner. I didn't have a partner to split any of the expenses with and at times, I wanted to borrow money, but I was too determined and I knew by working hard, I would acquire more accounts and things would eventually work itself out. Fortunately, that is behind me. A challenge that I face today is finding employees that have the same work ethic and passion as I do when it comes to business. I'm fortunate that my employees love their job and I do my best to empower them each and every day.

We have many highlights at Indra Public Relations, but one of my favorite highlights pertain to the various nonprofit organizations we work with and how we produce high-profile charity events that raise significant amount of funds by connecting our athletes, sponsors and the media members with their cause. A lot of our athletes have become ambassadors for various organizations, which raises the profile and awareness of the charity. Throughout the years, I have been involved and worked with an extensive amount of charities, which have collectively raised millions of dollars throughout the years. (i.e. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation Kids 4 Kids). During this event, I was a Celebrity Wrangler and introduced and connected the charity with various celebrities and athletes over the years who continue to support the cause. To say that I'm proud, would be an understatement. It is truly an honor and a privilege to give back anyway that I can.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
The best advice that I can offer women who want a career in Public Relations is to be prepared to work extremely hard at all hours, network as much as possible and nurture and grow your relationships. Also, intern at different organizations in order to gain experience. Learn never to take NO for an answer and motivate yourself. Don't be afraid to ask questions and learn from your mistakes. Every mistake that you make, brings you one step closer to success!

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
The most important lesson that I have learned to date is that people should earn your trust, and that takes a long time. Unfortunately, there are many people who don't always have good intentions, but I'm fortunate that my personality and good karma have attracted extraordinary people in my life and the relationships I've built.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I'm realizing as I'm getting older and now having a family of my own, maintaining a work life balance is extremely important for not only my husband and son, but for my own well-being. With that said, when I'm spending quality time with my family, I focus on them and I try and limit the business distractions. Now that my son Adam is 6 years old, I'm able to talk about my day and while working on events, I'm able to have him attend even if it's for an hour so he can understand my job. That was certainly much harder when he was younger, but now he gets it and actually loves the events and meeting my clients. Not many 6 year olds can ask a professional basketball player for advice.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think one of the very real issues for women in the workplace is working as hard and if not harder than men do and not being financially compensated in the same way. Also, advancement within senior management roles can also be a challenge. Today, statistics show that men make much more money and hold more senior titles than women do. Despite these facts, I chose not to accept these stereotypes and let it stand in my way of my success. In fact, I've always lived by the motto: "Be good at what you do, so they can't ignore you!"

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have been fortunate to have some of the greatest names in both sports and business as mentors and I still continue to have them as part of my "advisory team." Craig Spitzer, CEO of A2C, has become a very close friend and an even closer business mentor when I met him 20 years ago. Peter Borish, Founding Partner of the Robin Hood Foundation and CEO of Quad Capital, is known in the finance industry as the "Wizard of Wall Street" and is truly one of the smartest and nicest people I've ever met. He reminds me a lot of my late father who was bright and had the biggest heart in the world. Peter advises me on many aspects of my business and is always there no matter how busy his schedule is, to take my call and at times, talk me down from the ledge, so to speak. Both Peter and Craig have helped me to navigate the business process and guide me through the growing pains of a business. Their stellar advice and like-minded vision has kept me true to my mission and the goals of my clients, which is a big reason why I'm successful.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
The world is growing quickly with female leaders. I truly have many that I admire for various reasons. I'm extremely partial to Arianna Huffington because she has changed the media industry by having guest contributors write for the publication and parlay that into a multi-million dollar business. Also, Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is another leader that I admire for all that she does to help the less fortunate, whether it relates to healthcare, poverty and education, to name a few.

What do you want Indra Public Relations to accomplish in the next year?
I would like to accomplish the expansion of my team as well as two new divisions in the near future.