Interview with Linda Sawyer
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Interview with Linda Sawyer
LMS:

I am here with Linda Sawyer on a beautiful day in New York. Linda, why don't we begin by having you tell readers what your current position is here at Deutsch.

LS:

Currently I am the North American CEO for Deutsch Inc. In that capacity, I have oversight for the Deutsch New York and Los Angeles offices, ICC Lowe (which is a company that specializes in pharmaceutical advertising), as well as Lowe Roche in Toronto and Amuse in Montreal. My role is to have organizational oversight in terms of our management teams, financials, and all operational aspects. But really I consider my primary function to be making sure our people are the best they can be, supporting them in that, making sure they have the resources and the guidance to be an outstanding management team and do a great job for our clients.

LMS:

It sounds like it's a human resources kind of thing, but its also financial and operational?

LS:

Human Resources reports into me. I am dealing with a lot of employee relation issues as well as working with our management teams. I often use the analogy of being the coach of an all-star football team. Over the years, I have been on a lot of management teams. I have played the game and know the insides and out of doing that. I now have the luxury to be one step removed. I have a bit more objectivity. That allows me to help with the overall game strategy and to make sure that each individual, and, collectively, the group, is working really great as a team.

LMS:

Does that mean if there were a dispute between the Creative team and the Account team, or the Strategy team on some piece of business, you might be somebody that would be involved in that?

LS:

That would really happen at the management level. I operate at a higher level. I'd be involved if there were, say, an issue between management team members and partners. Another big piece of my job is managing our relationship with Interpublic, the holding company we joined in November 2000. I manage that relationship, not just in terms of the financial reporting, but the reporting of what is happening with the business and our whole strategy as a company.

LMS:

So tell me how you got to this point in your career. What's the life story?

LS:

It's funny because it goes back quite a way. I had an unusual upbringing. My father, who was a package designer, had worked at many corporations, the last one being Revlon. After that, he ended up opening up his own design firm. He actually built a studio that was connected to our home. Growing up, I just found what he was doing absolutely fascinating. Every night I would find myself in his studio, and I would literally read marketing briefs from all these companies, and then he would show me the presentations and the work he was developing against the different strategies. I also asked him a lot about the company dynamics, and he would tell me about the meetings and the interesting ways the teams would react when a big president was in the room. So I developed, at a very young age, not only an unbelievable understanding of marketing, but a corporate business vocabulary as well.

Literally when I was in junior high school, I knew what I wanted to do. Remember this was in the mid-1970s, when it wasn't terribly typical for women to have a serious career path. I think if you asked women, if they even thought about it, they'd say "I'd like to be a teacher" or "I'd like to be a stewardess." When they'd ask me, I'd say, "I want to be a product manager at a cosmetics company," and they would have no idea what I was talking about.

Another interesting thing is that my mom supported my father's business in terms of doing the financials, the billing, and all of that. She was...