Women in Business Q&A: Nicole Purcell, President, CLIO

Nicole Purcell, head of the CLIO Awards since 2010, leads the development of the CLIO brand worldwide. In her tenure she has grown CLIOs from two awards-show properties to six, initiated key partnerships, strengthened the agency, marketer and juror affiliations in priority regions and sectors, and expanded its footprint in original content.

Purcell was appointed to CLIO president in 2015, underscoring a distinguished career in event marketing -- one specialized in building international notoriety for industry-focused properties -- that includes The Passion Group and Rock Media Entertainment.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My father owned a business when I was growing up, so every day after school when we had our family dinner he spoke about his day and what was going on at the office. The family business was a constant in my life from my father having to check in with the office during family vacations to hearing all the banter about clients when I would hang at the office. My own work ethic came from this experience; I learned how to treat people and manage different personalities.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at CLIO?
In my previous jobs I learned all aspects of business including sales, events, budgets, client relationships, etc. My main focus in the past was events, which is a great core for a business leader, from working with vendors and clients to making sure the look and feel of an event is top notch to timing, production and event flow. All of these experiences helped me be able to run a brand on my own and expand it in the right way.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at CLIO?
There are so many highlights, from elevating the CLIO Awards ceremony into a must-attend event (recently named one of the 100 best in New York City) to launching three new programs in two years across fashion, sports and music. We've honored amazingly talented people outside of advertising that are hugely creative (Will.i.am, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Jessica Parker and Heidi Klum, to name a few). And most importantly, our great team is thriving and proud to represent this global brand.

Challenges come with the territory of a growing business. I took over a brand that at the time was 50 years old already, so when we started to expand, we also needed to reeducate. We began to do things a little differently, and approached new industries to explain what CLIO was about and why they should be part of it. The passion for this brand is shared not just among our staff, but creatives, agency heads and executives across the world. We focused on and celebrated that connection, and still do when we look to future projects.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
I was lucky to land in an industry with the smartest creative people in the world. Everyone should feel the same for their environment, you need to feel challenged and inspired by the people around you.

You have to push for your own opportunities and not be afraid to ask for what you want. I first joined the parent company of CLIO and after six months was faced with a decision regarding my next step. I chose CLIO. I would tell anyone find something you fall in love with and be passionate about it, then showcase that ambition, speak up and share ideas and help shape what you want your future to be.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Go with your gut, if you feel something is off it probably is, protect your team and brand. And, when you sense a great opportunity, it's always better to take a chance.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
That is very difficult as my work life bleeds into my personal life, the creatives I meet are amazing people and I wind up building friendships with them. When you have such a passion for what you do it's a difficult balance to maintain, because so much of my job doesn't feel like work. I do make sure to stay offline on weekends and only answer emails when necessary.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I can only speak from my own experience in companies, but I honestly don't think there is a big issue in most places for women. I've always had the opportunity to grow quickly and build a team around me. The majority of my team is female, so I have been fortunate to not run into issues based on gender. The CLIO Awards also support female creatives, and we have an ongoing 50/50 initiative for equal gender representation on our awards' juries.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
In my twenties I had wonderful mentors who taught me what to do and what not to do in business, I learned so much by watching them. At this stage in my career, I'm still looking to mentors for help in attaining that next level, while at the same time acting as a mentor to students and my team. I want them to see the business world in a positive light, like I did. I think having a mentor is so important and helps immensely as you continue to advance your career.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Ivanka Trump is one leader I admire. Even though she was born into a prominent family, she chose her own path in business. She's gone after her own opportunities, in addition to being involved in the family business. There are a lot of people in her position that would rather take the reality TV or celebrity route instead of building a serious career. Ivanka has managed that very well.

What do you want CLIO to accomplish in the next year?
I want CLIO to grow in each of our new markets and from a pop culture standpoint. My goal is for everyone to know why you win a CLIO and what it means for a creative, just like you know what an Oscar and Grammy means for an artist.