This month’s 5 on the 5th Interview is with someone who I admire as a fearless businesswoman. I got to know Heidi Garland through various social media groups over the years and enjoy watching her work tirelessly for her philanthropy – the American Cancer Society. This is an organization near and dear to my heart, having co-chaired our local Relay for Life for three year and being involved in our local chapter for almost seven years. As cancer survivor herself, Heidi uses her the benefits of owning a social media marketing company to further this amazing cause. I’m lucky to know her and you will be too!
Name: Heidi Garland
Company: Guild West Agency
Twitter handle: @guildwest
Question 1: Why did you choose to work in this industry?
My decision to work in the social media industry was actually part of an evolution. Originally Guild West (29 years ago) was a Graphic Design firm/Ad Agency yet in 2008 I discovered Facebook and I was hooked. Social Media gave traditional marketers the ability to have an open dialogue with potential customers with immediate feedback for our efforts.
Question 2: How do you keep continuing your education and staying up on all the latest trends and changes?
I continue my education with social media the same way that I started with a combination of online training including the Social Media Examiner First Facebook Marketing online event in 2009. I studied with Mari Smith in San Diego for 3 days, I attend in-person events including, BlogHer where I spent an hour speaking one-on-one with Michael Stelzner, Social Boom with Kim Garst in Chicago and Social Media Marketing World in San Diego. In between, I read some incredible books written by my social media friends.
Question 3: What do you love the most about working in your industry? What bothers you the most?
With social media I love 99% of what I do. I adore the people whom I never would have met without Facebook and the other social media portals. I make a point of finding a way to meet many of them in person! I’m not too fond of trolls and other haters who attack without provocation.
Question 4: What is the hardest situation you’ve encountered in your business and how did you handle it?
The hardest situation that I encountered in my 29 years in business evolved into my biggest victory. I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer late 2008. I shared with a few clients and let them know that I would be out for a week or two and then back at work. Clients who had worked with me for many years fired me because I was sick. Instead of taking my time, I was back at work 4 days after a double mastectomy.
I used the time during my dozen + surgeries and cancer treatment to study and master social media. Guild West evolved from a traditional agency into a Social Media Marketing Firm that also provides traditional graphics and marketing services. After my experiences sharing my diagnosis with several clients and being fired I stopped sharing that I had cancer. I would take client calls from just outside of the operating room and tell them I would get back to them when I was back in my office after my “off site meeting”. I had several of my surgeries without being put to sleep so that I could be on a conference call within 30 minutes of leaving the operating room. No matter how sick I was, I would act “well” in front of clients. My cancer experience helped me land a contract launching 6 major medical centers on Facebook. If you think it’s hard to land clients when you are healthy, try doing it during a down economy while in cancer treatment.
Question 5: What is the best business advice you’ve been given and why has it stayed with you?
Always go with your gut. If your instinct is to walk away then walk away. The few times that I didn’t take that advice, I regretted it. The other advice is hire an accountant and make sure that you file all of the necessary documents accurately and on time!
One for the road…
Bonus: If you could come back to life as any person from the history, who would it be?
I’m going to answer this a bit differently. As someone who could tell you what’s on my ceiling, not on my floor or what’s in front of me instead of behind I’d like to say who I would be in the future…always looking up and forward. IF I could travel through time and become someone in the near future I would be that incredible American Cancer Society researcher who finds a cure for cancer. Possibly I would start with one of the most virulent strains first and then work towards finding a cure for all cancers. We are getting closer every day. My personal mission has always been to take cancer from treatable to curable and from curable to preventable or we could just leap frog on to preventable I’d be good with that!