Name: Jeanne Achille
Business: The Devon Group LLC, a PR firm
Industry: Marketing & PR
Location: Red Bank, New Jersey, U.S.
Reason for starting: I started my company in 1994 for two reasons: I wanted to spend more time with my youngest daughter who I felt had not gotten as much of my attention due to my intense professional commitments and second, I wanted more control over what type of work I did.
Devon started as a high tech PR firm at a time when there were no women in tech. Sadly, there aren’t many more women in tech now, 20 years later. We’ve migrated to service several niche areas such as finance and HR, however, my goal is to revisit the primary focus on technology and align the practice accordingly. That’s going to require additional brand definition and brand articulation work – but as we tell clients, it’s possible to redefine a business, whether 2 years old or 20.
How do you define success? The definition of success changes, depending on where you are in your life. When my children were younger, it was about balancing work and their best interests. As they left the nest, it was about building a sustainable business that made an impact on the lives of others: our employees, our clients, and the companies we serve.
Biggest Success: There isn’t one big success; there have been many successful moments that create momentum and spawn more success. Honestly, during the dot-com days we had so much business it was not to be believed. Yet, I always considered our more successful moments to be those when we had to be creative to retain clients and still grow the business – the former times were busy, the latter times were inspiring and educational.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? I think the biggest challenge that any CEO faces – regardless of gender – is finding the right people. Of course, it doesn’t stop there – you need to nurture them, make sure they have the appropriate incentives, and train them how to be leaders. The last aspect is the most important: it doesn’t matter what your role is in a company, you still lead something. At Devon, we’ve addressed these challenges by putting pre-employment selection processes in place such as assessment tests and job tryouts, as well as giving our employees the opportunity to stretch by stepping up to situations they’ve not previously encountered. It’s so rare that one falters – most professionals are eager to have the chance to prove themselves and be proven.
Over the years, I’ve been presented with a host of personal situations that necessitated the same attention that I would give a business matter. Setting priorities and being extremely organized have enabled me to tend to family first, knowing business is taken care of. A big part of that equation is having the right team that can step in and step up.
Who is your most important role model? How fortunate I’ve been to have many role models. My maternal grandmother was one of the first woman supervisors at AT&T and I always marveled at how decisive she was. I’ve had teachers who told me I was really good at certain things (or really bad) and they shaped a lot of my choices. Some noteworthy bosses along the way didn’t shy away from calling out my areas of development. In a more public eye, I’ve learned a lot from women such as former Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
Edited by The Story Exchange