Erin Flaxman Takes Initiative After Honing New Business Tools

Sep 26, 2007  •  Post A Comment

About a year ago, Erin Flaxman was wearing an orange apron at work.
Ms. Flaxman, who was named senior VP and director of business development at Initiative North America earlier this week, had completed her MBA after eight years in the media agency business and wanted to explore other industries.
“I decided I wanted to shake things up and do something completely different,” she said.
Ms. Flaxman got a job in a North American management leadership program at Home Depot. Part of her training was to learn how to run a store. While working in the store, she wore the apron and steel-toed boots. She joked that there was probably an opportunity in designing women’s shoes with steel toes and high heels.
“We always used to say someone should invent them,” she said. “That was going to be my new business idea, to invent more stylish steel-toes for the women who worked there.”
While at Home Depot, Ms. Flaxman realized she wanted to get into marketing, she said.
“I think it’s more suited to my skills and more suited to where my real interests and passions are,” she said.
After discussing moving into marketing at the hardware chain, she wound up returning to the agency business with MindShare in Chicago. At MindShare, she was the group account director on the Kmart account, where her retail experience came in handy.
“Just understanding the urgency factor and the parties involved that actually have the most influence over the decisions and having a grounded reality in that helped,” she said.
She was approached by Initiative earlier this year, and said she was impressed by the changes being made by its new CEO, Richard Beaven.
“I really liked his enthusiasm about it and his vision of how he wanted to change things,” Ms. Flaxman said.
She met with other members of the management team, and they all seemed to be in agreement about where the agency was going with what she found to be a refreshing lack of politics.
Ms. Flaxman believes her diversified business background will help the agency attract more business from current clients and add new accounts.
She hasn’t been responsible for new business before, but “when you work at an agency, you’re always exposed to new business, depending on what you’re working on at the time, depending on what the resources are that they need help with,” she said.
While working at Starcom in her native Toronto, for example, the agency was very active and successful in winning new business.
At this point, she says she’s “kind of putting my two cents in” on the way the agency is presenting itself and figuring out which current clients “we could be building new business with.”
Ms. Flaxman was born just outside of Toronto and grew up wanting to be in the foreign service, as her mother had been. When she graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, however, the foreign service wanted people who could speak Chinese or an Arabic language, so she looked elsewhere.
She spotted a newspaper ad for a job at an ad agency, which tuned out to be Media Buying Services, now GroupM’s MediaCom. The company gave her a math test, which she aced, and began her career in media.
From MBS, she moved to Carat and then to Starcom before her adventure with Home Depot.
In her spare time, Ms. Flaxman is adjusting to life in New York. She enjoys downhill skiing; her family has a ski cottage in the country outside of Toronto where she hopes she’ll still be able to spend time.
Between her mother working in the foreign service and her father working for American Airlines, Ms. Flaxman said she comes by her love of travel naturally. She also enjoys seeing movies and reading.
Who Knew: Most people assume that because she’s from Canada, Ms. Flaxman is fluent in French. In reality she only speaks un petit peu. “I took French for 10 years and I struggle,” she said.


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