Wavemakers is an initiative I've kickstarted with Femme-O-Nomics’ founder Leah Eichler (@Femmeonomics) that profiles female innovators — women who are constantly blazing new trails, inspiring others and revolutionizing the status quo.
This week we meet Andrea Lekushoff, the president and founder of Broad Reach Communications, a full-service PR agency. You can follow her on Twitter: @alekushoff1. Describe your current state of mind.
Excited and optimistic. I am proud that Broad Reach is among the leading proponents of “lifestyle-driven virtual teams,” an emerging approach to flexible workplace arrangements that allows women to pursue fulfilling careers while maintaining true work/life balance. This business model rewards results over face time, so practitioners can devote more time to their personal lives and interests. I strongly believe that adopting a variation of this business model will give companies a competitive edge when it comes to attracting the talent they need to be successful.
2. If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
My 17-month-old daughter, Thea, who is vocal, fearless and tough-as-nails as a result of keeping up with her four-year old brother. I plan to nurture these characteristics, as opposed to telling her how girls “should” or “should not” behave, as many of us heard as we were growing up. Also, girls born today will have an unprecedented number of opportunities to create the type of fulfilling international careers and personal lives they desire. When Thea enters the workforce, I am hopeful that many of the gender equality and work/life balance issues women still face today will no longer be a concern. By then there will be many examples of strong, successful women in all levels of leadership roles to inspire her. And finally, if she is lucky, she will have a partner who shares in most (if not all) domestic responsibilities, making work/life balance much easier for her than it has been for our generation and those before us.
3. What is your greatest indulgence?
Great travel and good food are two of my greatest indulgences and passions. Although my husband and I don’t travel as much as we would like now that we have young children, we have been diligent about scheduling regular long-weekend escapes to exciting destinations across Canada and the U.S. Not only does travelling allow us to reconnect as a couple, it helps us recharge and think about the future. When we do travel, we like to experience memorable meals at great restaurants.
4. What or who helped you the most to achieve your success?
My parents taught me to believe in myself and encouraged me to both pursue and achieve my dreams. They supported me in every endeavour, even when they may not have agreed with my choices. Knowing their support was unconditional and unwavering has given me the strength to take many personal risks (e.g. climbing Mount Kilimanjaro) as well as professional ones (e.g. moving to Washington, D.C. to work at the Canadian Embassy) throughout my life. It also allowed me to embrace the risk-taking mindset of an entrepreneur. My husband inspires me to be a better person, a better parent and a better business leader each day. He is a pillar of strength and a fountain of invaluable strategic counsel. His innate business instincts, combined with an Ivey MBA, and the experience he has gained running his company make him the most significant contributor to my success today.
5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I come from a long line of women with many mantras. One of my mother’s many mantras is “If you’re going to do something, don’t do it half-way.” I now embrace this mantra as my own, so when I founded Broad Reach, I set out to ensure everything we do is done exceptionally well. One of my grandmother’s mantras was focused on the importance of getting a good education. Growing up as a young girl in Macedonia, she wasn’t given the opportunity to attend school, so she firmly believed a good education was the key to both success and independence. I followed that advice by doing both a BA and an MBA and am so grateful to reap the rewards of her advice every day.