Larisa Walega Tells How She Ascended to VP of Marketing at Ziebart International
Name: Larisa Walega
Brand: Ziebart International
Title: Vice President, Marketing
Years in franchising: 12
No. of units: 400
What attracted you to franchising?
The mix of growing a brand and growing a small business for a franchise owner. Franchising is all about putting the customer’s needs at the center of your plan. Whether it’s your franchise owner, your brand customer, or your corporate employees, it’s an amazing feeling and very fulfilling to help support the needs and goals of each of these customer groups.
What was your first job in franchising?
Account executive at one of the larger advertising agencies in Metro Detroit. I supported the Wyndham Rewards loyalty program and experienced firsthand the process of planning and communication that took place to ensure all voices were heard to produce award-winning marketing and advertising programs.
What do you attribute your success to?
I attribute my success to three key areas. 1) Finding the right culture fit in a company and being active in ensuring that culture remains inclusive for all employees and franchise owners. 2) Always be learning and know where you need to grow. Take that extra webinar, read that extra book, grab that extra certification. Knowing what your career goal is and acknowledging what you don’t know will help you create a plan to achieve your career goals. 3) Align yourself with the right team. Your team – both internal and external partners, professional and personal –should be cheering you on and working hard for the betterment of the team. Teamwork makes the dream work!
What challenges and obstacles have you overcome in your career?
One of the biggest challenges (which sometimes still rears its ugly head) I have had to overcome is this constant need to solve everything. I have learned that trying to take on every opportunity for growth (whether for a company, employee, volunteer group, etc.) often does not help me or that team produce the best results. The word “No” does not have to be negative; it can be more of a sign of self-esteem. Being confident in what you choose to invest your time in often leads to bigger and better things for all projects and people involved.
Describe your journey to your current position
My journey in franchising has mostly been with Ziebart. I was hired as a Local Store Advertising & Promotions Manger for one region and then took on the entire U.S. My goal was to ensure all franchise owners had local store advertising plans and were executing against those plans. From there I moved into the role of Senior Marketing Manager, where I began to oversee and develop programs like Ziebart’s credit card program, email marketing programs, and began our journey into social media. From there I became Director of Field Marketing and was responsible for leading the field marketing team, which included a field marketing manager, graphic designer, and video production manager. After that, I was promoted to Director of Marketing and grew and oversaw the entire integrated Marketing Department; most of my time in that role was spent relaunching our beloved 60-plus-year-old brand. In my current role as Vice President of Marketing, I am responsible for developing strategies and overseeing programs designed to create global brand recognition and demand for all revenue streams of Ziebart International Corp.
What are your future career goals?
My future career goals are not resting on a title, but more on a heightened knowledge. If I am serving all my customers and teammates with an increased awareness of what drives the business forward through innovation and passion, I would say I was continuing toward achieving my career goal.
Advice to young female executives in franchising?
Here are my “Top 10 Letterwoman Tips” (think Letterman) to being a #bosslady:
- Become self-aware of learned bias
- Aim for assertive, not aggressive
- Stop saying sorry
- Learn to say no
- Cultivate your emotional IQ
- Contribute through competence and caring to earn status
- Lead with logic
- Find “your people”
- Educate for change and mentor up-and-coming rock stars
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