Need Inspiration? New Ideas? Motivation?

by Natascha Zeljko

Meet Andrea Buzzi, founder and managing director of the Hamburg PR agency Frau Wenk. How does she manage to drive a small team to big success? Her secret is motivating employees with new ideas, demanding projects, and fun

You are a trained nurse but now run a PR agency that specializes in the digital sphere. Is it sometimes an advantage to be a career changer?

I would actually say that I’ve benefited in my current career from my original job as a nurse. The profession is highly valued because many people assume that nurses bring a high level of social competence to a company. Perhaps subconsciously it plays a role that people feel safer in the vicinity of someone who has medical training.

What made you decide to give up your old job?

I wanted to change something. I was trained at the Eppendorf University Hospital in Hamburg and worked there for six years. But the organization wasn’t optimal and the structures were incrusted, you just couldn’t get through with new ideas. That was the reason why I finally left and wanted to study hospital management. And then the Internet intervened.

This step only seems radical at first glance because in fact we all change at some point. Nobody will do the same job their whole professional life…

That’s right! And basically that’s good news, especially for women. Digitalization is what makes new working models possible in the first place, and that benefits women who have children and perhaps want to get back into the job. These women are often well educated and have seniority and experience. It would be a loss to do without such excellent forces. And even if they are only there half a day, they sometimes manage just as much as their young colleagues in eight hours. In addition, one can constantly further one’s education through open source offers. This means that a career break does not have to mean a standstill. You can acquire a lot of knowledge autodidactically and come up with new ideas.

How is that with you? How do you come up with new ideas?

Through networking and in dialogue with people from the industry – and also explicitly through dialogue with the customer. We are in constant contact with each other. We have introduced quarterly meetings and are considering how to solve problems with a new approach. Which is also how new products are created.

“Effective brainstorming requires preparation.“

And what inspires creativity?

What doesn’t work is sitting at your desk waiting for inspiration. You get the best ideas when you do something completely different. For me, that’s gardening, for example. That’s when I have the craziest ideas. Or during my run around the Alster, which is seven and a half kilometers, and in the end I always have an idea. What we do a lot of in the agency is classic brainstorming and we also work relatively formally according to a meta-plan. That doesn’t sound very exciting at first, but for brainstorming to produce results, you have to guide and steer colleagues. Effective brainstorming requires preparation. For example, we give our colleagues a concrete question in advance. It is also possible to book specific colleagues. Thursday afternoon is blocked for this purpose. Sometimes, however, we simply take our three agency dogs for a walk, sit in the meadow, and think about projects.

How important is social media to get new input?

Social networks are extremely helpful. I’m very much on social media. I think Pinterest, for example, is totally underestimated. It’s a great source for infographics, even in a business context. I also use Twitter intensively and work with follower lists. This is also an exciting approach for our customers. LinkedIn is ideal for sharing and commenting. The network has long since replaced Facebook in the business sector – at least in my industry.

What is the best team size for brainstorming?

A maximum of four to five. Otherwise you run the danger of everyone waiting for everyone else to take action. Which works well is first collecting keywords in order to calibrate yourself semantically. But you shouldn’t sit around a table, but in a loose curve around a flipboard. I’ve also set myself the goal of doing most meetings standing up in the future, so that thinking remains dynamic.

“In a book by the American author Tim Ferriss I discovered the following strategy: before he starts to work something out for himself, he calls someone who is a benchmark.“

What do you do when you can’t think of anything?

I always seek discussion and call people who are familiar with the respective topic. A good network is enormously important. I was active in the digital industry very early on and today I have a very good network. My experience is that people like to help you. In the book The 4-Hour Work Week by the well-known American author Tim Ferriss I discovered the following strategy: before he starts to work something out for himself, he calls someone who is a benchmark. That may not be our mentality, because we always believe we have to do everything ourselves. But the idea still has charm.

How do you motivate your employees? That’s one of the most important tasks as a leader.  

Absolutely. Without my employees I would be nothing. I couldn’t work here at all. I think the most important thing is to give people the freedom to develop their strengths. At the same time, you have to challenge them to grow and develop. That’s why every year I try to plan a lighthouse project, like our own magazine Clutch or our event format. We only had eight weeks to prepare for our event communications week in November 2018. It was precisely for this reason that the organization and implementation provided a great positive spirit. In addition, the event also unearthed undreamt-of employee talents.

What is the most important thing you have learned in your professional career?

I’ve learned that it goes on and on. Peace and a positive attitude are enormously important in an industry with high volatility. Fear and anxiety are not good guides to running a successful business. Diligence can compensate for a while for a dubious attitude, but only a positive attitude as an entrepreneur will sustain the business in the long run.

“I believe that there must be an area in life that has nothing to do with the job. There has to be something that reflects another side of the person.“

And what are the most important skills to succeed in the future?

It’s about seeing a sense of purpose in what you do. Without burning for one’s own projects, it becomes more and more difficult to withstand the pressure. And I believe that there must be an area in life that has nothing to do with the job. There has to be something that reflects another side of the person.

What is something that you want to change?

I have to admit that I really have a problem limiting myself on the Internet. I’m a person who is on the phone first thing in the morning and in the evening til midnight is checking the Twitter timeline. That’s completely consistent with the results of a survey we did among digital decision makers. This is an area where I will try to limit myself a little in the future. I would much rather invest the time in direct contact.

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