A true trailblazer, Missy paved her own road 20 years ago by founding KMT Creative Group. Ever since, she has faced every curveball this industry can throw by working closely with brands such as CBL Properties, frogg toggs and Hook+Gaff. Now, Missy offers up game-changing and effective ideas by utilizing her strengths: the creative vision of an innovator, the rationale of a former agency owner and the patience of a mother to twin girls.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

A couple of things stand out to me. First, as a kid, my family moved quite a bit because of my dad’s job. Now, when I look back, I recognize the string of experiences and friends I collected along the way have been  invaluable. Back then I was never happy about packing up and leaving, but as an adult I understand that so many of the people skills I have today were learned as a result of those moves.

Second, and more recently, raising two young women who are now out of school and in the workforce full time gives me a chance to see my role in a new light. Watching them learn the business, establish work relationships and interact with their supervisors has made me more aware of the opportunity I have to positively impact those who work with me.

How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?

Each and every job I have held since my teenage years—from working at the drive-thru window, to a designer at a major flooring manufacturer, to owning my own business—has added little nuggets of knowledge that I draw upon daily. I credit my boss at my first job for instilling a work-hard attitude in me from the get-go If you started out in food service, you know how to keep moving and get things done. Later, a position I had in a small agency early on in my career forced me out of my comfort zone and into a world in front of the client. I realized there that I had the ability to explain a concept and sell through an idea, even if I wasn’t sure what the heck I was doing!

Working in an in-house environment, I was exposed to the structure of a large company and it’s marketing arm. It really opened my eyes to the struggles that those teams face daily and gave me the understanding I still draw upon today. And of course, through owning our own company, my husband and I learned a lot. We learned the value of each and every person that worked for us and how important every role was in the business. I have a new respect for every business owner I work with after that experience.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?

The highlight to any Creative Director is when their team’s work helps bring in business. Our creative team has had the pleasure of working on several exciting projects and pitches in the past couple of years and nothing makes my day more than when their work is recognized as making the difference.

Managing a remote team was new to me, and something that took a bit to get used to. One thing I learned is that with the right team and effective tools in place, you can overcome the miles effectively. Our creative team is spread across all of our offices but we have all learned to interact through Zoom and meet cyber-face-to-cyber-face several times a day.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

Strategic thinking is job security. Show your future employer how you think. At TBA we all strive to develop business-building ideas and expect our team members to be constantly pondering ways to improve our client’s business. The industry is changing quickly, but there will always be a need for people who think strategically in any role they might play in the agency.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

Delegation has been a huge lesson for me. Initially, it was hard to let go and let others do what they do best. I felt I needed to be the one with all the ideas and prove that I could handle it all. But as time passed, I learned the work will be better when I serve as facilitator and supporter instead of executing.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Loaded question. I see so many articles where women answer this question with “I run every morning” or “I work out during lunch” and I always think, REALLY? My honest answer is, it’s hard. I TRY to get up early enough to do my Bible study, and I TRY to fit a walk into my day, but it’s a struggle for me.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

Taking control of their own careers and speaking up for themselves. We, as women, are learning, and I am hopeful that our daughters will have a better understanding of their value as employees and how to negotiate for themselves.

How can we encourage more women to start their own business?

Again, it has a lot to do with confidence. I have heard several inspiring stories recently of women, right out of school even, just taking the bull by the horns and starting businesses because they knew their idea was unique. The Internet has been a game changer for start-ups and offers both men and women the opportunity to try out their ideas with less of a risk.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I have learned so much from the mentors in my life. Professionally, I have a couple of ladies I reach out to frequently to run ideas past and ask suggestions. Any good leader wants to see as many sides of a situation as they can before they make a decision. My husband crosses over between professional and personal mentor—I’ve learned so much from him as a leader and he is my best cheerleader, as well.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

Sheryl Sandberg is a woman I have followed and admire. I have been impressed by her guts in leadership and in life. Watching her go through the loss of her husband and seeing how she opened up and shared her pain with others to help them through similar struggles was inspiring. Another woman I admire is Pat Summitt, women’s basketball coach for the University of Tennessee. At her retirement, she had the most wins of any college coach at 1098. But even more impressive was her graduation rate. One hundred percent of the athletes that finished their eligibility on her team graduated with a degree. She ruled with an iron fist but her girls loved her because they knew she always had their backs. I have learned a lot from reading about these women and others but the thing that seems to be consistent is that they had passion for their teams. Their goal is the help others succeed.

What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?

Professionally, I am on a constant path of leadership improvement. We have a dynamic creative team – my job is to stay ahead of them and continue to challenge them to reach higher. Personally, I am downsizing! With our daughters out in the workforce now and living on their own, our empty nest is more than we need. I’m ready for less to take care of at home and more opportunity to travel!

What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?

Find a good mentor, for sure, someone who you can trust to be honest with you and who has had experience in similar situations you foresee yourself dealing with in the future.

Be prepared. I think most folks starting up think about how they will respond if their idea doesn’t succeed. But more importantly, how will you handle it if it does? How will you scale? Cash flow can be a killer to a new business and so many times opportunities are right at your fingertips but, without the money to move forward, your hands are tied.

Remember you personally can’t do it all. This one is the hardest lessons to learn. Because you are the one ultimately responsible for the bottom line, many times you take on way more than is humanly possible and the business suffers. This is a great place for your mentor to help. Ask them to be honest and watch for warning signs of overstepping boundaries.

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