Integrating influencers into our pitching outreach, experiential marketing events and social media programs has elevated our programs across the board and has produced really exciting results for our clients.
Leslie Licano, co-founder and CEO of Beyond Fifteen Communications, is an award-winning public relations strategist, renowned for her ability to spotlight individuals and companies as trendsetters, innovators and newsmakers. A seasoned pro with a masterful ability to think like an agency strategist, a journalist and a client, Licano’s honed ability to create news consistently catapults her clients into the local and national limelight—allowing them to reach their core audiences, impact public perception and increase sales and revenues. Prior to founding Beyond Fifteen, Licano was a senior account executive at Echo Media Group where she served as a copywriter, concept-builder, and media placement specialist. For years, she has also served as a regular contributor to a number of national newspapers and magazines—experience that inspires her talent for identifying media hooks and nurturing influential relationships with top writers, editors and producers at leading media outlets across the nation. Also, her experience on the communications team at Sperry Van Ness, one of the largest real estate brokerages in the United States; as well as her own entrepreneurship, offer her a unique edge in understanding of the demands of both small and large businesses—allowing her to deliver the results and ROI each of her clients expects and deserves. Licano received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations from California State University, Fullerton. Her work has been recognized with the prestigious industry honor—the PROTOS Award—on multiple occasions.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
The name Beyond Fifteen Communications, Inc. was derived from an old Andy Warhol quote: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” As a communications firm specializing in public relations, social media and influencer marketing, Beyond Fifteen takes you beyond that requisite fifteen minutes of fame to powerful, lasting recognition.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days are typically a blend of being a mom to an active 12-year-old daughter, running a thriving business with my talented co-founder Lauren Ellermeyer, and trying to make time for a satisfying personal life. I like to stay closely involved and connected with both my team and my clients, which typically means once monthly in-person meetings with our 20+ clients, plus weekly or bi-weekly 1:1 meetings with my employees—not to mention strategic conference calls galore. I stay productive by heavily utilizing shared calendars with my team—and, honestly, by simply writing everything down!
How do you bring ideas to life?
I used to be guilty of trying to do everything myself, but these days I have to really use my resources efficiently. This often means mapping out a plan of attack, and then asking various team members with stand-out skill sets to contribute in meaningful ways to refine the plan and oversee execution. A little bit of trust and a lot of letting go has empowered me to accomplish so much more than I ever could have when I hoarded all the work on my own—fearful that it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t do it myself. We’ve invested in a wonderfully talented staff, and getting out of their way to let them do what they do best has been the best decision I’ve ever made.
What’s one trend that excites you?
More than 70 percent of brands are already tapping into the power of influencer marketing, and we believe this is only the tip of the iceberg. Integrating influencers into our pitching outreach, experiential marketing events and social media programs has elevated our programs across the board and has produced really exciting results for our clients.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am one of those people who has to finish what they start. This means I always see things through to completion and am never surrounded by a pile of half-done projects. It can also mean late nights from time to time, but my inbox is always cleared and my next day is organized before I leave the office at the end of the day. This helps me sleep easier at night and arrive in the morning ready to roll vs. needing an extra hour to organize and plan.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself that it’s okay to turn away business and even to fire a client who is not the best fit for our agency. Early on, there were certainly moments where we didn’t listen to our gut instincts enough—and got ourselves into situations that ultimately weren’t healthy for our team or brand. I think when you are just starting out, it’s easy to operate from a scarcity mentality, which can lead to running your business based on fear. Today, we look at each client engagement as a long-term partnership, and we pick and choose our clients with the same care that they take in selecting us. Over time, you build trust with yourself that there is plenty of business out there for everyone and if you do great work, good clients who respect and value your work are out there and worth waiting for. You also get much better at spotting red flags and knowing that if something feels off early on, that it almost always is.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe in investing in my employees, even if it looks like they may have plans to leave. I heard a story early in my career where a CFO asks a CEO, “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?” And the CEO replies, “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?” This really struck me—and living by the lesson it instilled has paid off. Beyond Fifteen offers monthly lunch and learn events, we give our team members an annual education budget, attend educational conferences and events as often as we can, and have regular career pathing meetings to ensure our team’s personal and professional development plans are on track. Not only do we find that good people stay longer, work harder and produce better outcomes for our business when we extend the opportunity to grow; but when they do leave, they are way more apt to leave as peers and potential partners we can maintain ongoing positive relationships with.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Copy edit and proofread your own work. Since a large part of what my firm does is based on developing and distributing content marketing pieces, it makes sense that I’d be a stickler for proper grammar. That said, a typo here and there can come from the desk of even the savviest CEO, and it’s forgivable—we’re all human. But I think more of us need to re-read our quickly banged out emails before we click send, really put ourselves in the recipient’s shoes to try to understand whether they’ll receive the message with the same meaning we’ve intended, and also think about what our message might be saying that we don’t intend it to. To me, the blatant misuse of words, or a sloppy note that loses its train of thought mid-sentence, makes me feel like the sender is either trying to impress me by using words they haven’t mastered yet (I see this often in entry level job candidates who are trying to make themselves sound mature) or, in the case of the hastily fired off email, I tend to think the writer is either careless or that they simply don’t feel our partnership or initiative together is worth the time it would take to read the message once over before clicking send. If the written word isn’t your strong suit, or you find your emails are commonly misunderstood or misinterpreted, I recommend picking up the phone or setting a short coffee meeting instead of relying so heavily on email.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Our core growth strategy has truly been based on solid relationship-building. It’s been about taking the time to not just “network” or schmooze at events, but to really get to know people, show up as trustworthy and authentic to them, and then do right by them at every turn available. We approach client relationships this way—and often find ourselves over-servicing and over-delivering because it’s what feels right to us in when approaching relationships with people that matter to us. I think when you do good work, and when you show that you genuinely care – business referrals come naturally, and you don’t have to focus so much on selling as on just doing what you do best.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We were taken advantage of by a strategic partner who ended up poaching a top client from us when we were just a few years into our business. We made the mistake of placing a sub-contractor we didn’t know as well as we should have front and center in leadership of the client relationship, and after just a few months that contractor decided to tell our client that they could do everything we were offering – without us, at a cheaper rate. Because we hadn’t built up a close relationship with that particular client ourselves—due to geographic constraints and the newness of the relationship primarily—there was nothing keeping the client from cutting us out of the business. We learned quite a few lessons from that experience about who to trust, how to manage subcontractors, how close to keep our clients and our partners—and really we lost a lot of the naivety we entered into entrepreneurship with, becoming savvier business owners from the experience.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
It’s not ground-breaking per se, but my business partner and I have talked about opening up a business incubator in the years ahead. We see every day how the right kind of marketing support can really level the playing field for smaller brands—and envision ourselves not only selecting budding businesses and giving them all of the tools and support that a normal incubator would, but also bringing our years of MarCom experience to the table to catapult these brands into the spotlight sooner than they’d otherwise be able to.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently spent a little over $100 on closet organization products and I couldn’t be more satisfied. I think there may be some truth to that “cluttered space/cluttered mind” idea. All I know is that when I look at my perfectly organized closet each morning, I feel lighter and somehow happier. Being able to see all of my items clearly at once helps reduce decision fatigue and certainly makes my mornings easier.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Audible has been a game-changer for me. I love to read, but the busier my life has grown, the less time I’ve had to consume new books. Now I can “read” while I shower and get dressed in the morning, while sitting in traffic—even while watching my daughter’s soccer games or grocery shopping. I’ve taken away a lot of fantastic business ideas, and been inspired and enriched by interesting new books—all while multi-tasking and going about my daily life.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I love a good business book, but recognize that a lot of them are stuffed with fluff. I really enjoyed “Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss without Losing your Humanity” by Kim Scott. A former senior leader at Apple and Google, and a CEO coach at companies like Dropbox, Qualtrics and Twitter—she tells some great personal stories while providing a framework for being a better boss and colleague. No fluff, just relatable insight and honest guidance on how to give and receive feedback, make smart decisions, take your business to the next level and more. I’m currently listening to the Radical Candor podcast to get even more of her unique brand of insight.
What is your favorite quote?
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
I think as a business owner you have to believe that you have the power to make a difference. My team is positively impacting the trajectory of our clients’ businesses every day; every time we grow, scale or expand, we really have to believe in our abilities to band together as a team and conquer any challenge. This quote connects me to a deeply rooted sense of my own power as a woman, as an individual and as a leader—to significantly impact change on whatever scale I am driven toward. I think it’s a really powerful ideal.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.