Women in Business: Q&A with Gillian Maffeo, Director of Marketing at Wayback Burgers

In 2010, Gillian established the marketing department at Jake's Franchising, which at the time had 12 locations, and over three years, grew to over 80 nationwide and internationally. Gillian overseas Wayback Burgers' national marketing strategy and branding, as well as analyzing the market potential and profitability of the brand by developing strategies to achieve the greatest number of sales in the markets they operate. She is responsible for all of the strategies through public relations, social media, branding, marketing, advertising, consumer insights and communications.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Failures, mistakes and being critical throughout my life have made me the leader I am today. Oh, and how could I forget my "number one fan," my mother, who is one of the strongest women I know and raised me as a single parent. As Italian and eccentric as she is, she taught me about work ethic and helped pave my way to success.

Ever since I was seven, I have been heavily competing in equestrian sports as a show jumper. There have been many horse shows that I competed in, where I lost. And lost miserably. Rather than self-destructing, I would take time and digest what just happened. How I could make my horse and myself the champion? I soon learned that to become a champion, you have to fight more than one round. Failing to win taught me to be clearer about my plans, objectives and visions. To slow down and take my time through difficult courses. To focus.

Failing during certain times throughout my life has truly showed me who I am as a leader. It has given me the opportunity to reflect, explain my insecurities and blind spots. Throughout my life, being critical and never seeking approval has contributed to my leadership and success. I am always asking how I can make things better and improve. If I am ever involved in something that goes wrong, I never blame others - I always blame myself. By accepting responsibility, I am always in a position to do something about it.

How did your previous employment experience aided your position at Wayback Burgers?
While still in college, I was adamant about finding a job. One of my first work experiences was with an agency I interned for (with no pay) in Boston. While interning at the agency, my client was the Boston Red Sox. This is when my true "work ethic within" kicked in and I developed a "high" for working. During my time interning, I made many connections in the public relations and marketing industry by networking. My work ethic and networking skills led me to a connection at one of the most sought-out advertising agencies in the nation. After graduating college, I was hired at that agency. During my time at the agency, I built my foundation in marketing and public relations while working with high profile brands. I brought all my first hand experiences, learning "the ropes" at my early positions, as well as my passion, work ethic and motivation to Jake's Franchising (Wayback Burgers). Now, almost four years later (and many cups of coffee later), I am proud to say that all of my past experiences and hard work at other companies, has truly paid off. My efforts at Jake's Franchising have played an integral role in growing the Wayback Burgers brand.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I don't. My downtime is from 2 a.m. - 5 a.m. and I also have a blow up mattress in my office. Just kidding. Out of all of the challenges in life, this has always seemed to be the most difficult one for me to figure out. I have a hard time "shutting off." I am a workhorse - I literally don't stop, but I am learning to get better over time and as I grow as a human being.

My fiancé plays a huge role in helping me with my work/life balance. Not only is he a superb support system, but he also levels me out. He reminds me that life moves so quickly and that sometimes I need to stop and take in beautiful moments. He reminds me that although work is part of my life, it's not my "life." He grounds me. I also make sure that I exercise daily and enjoy equestrian sports, surfing, tennis, yoga and family time - anything that makes me smile and anything that makes me happy. We had our first child earlier this year, and like I said previously, I am learning to get better at the work/life balance equation, and this new addition will definitely help create a more concrete work/life balance for me.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Wayback Burgers?
What I love about my job is that there are new challenges every single day. Without challenges, I would never grow as a professional. I thrive off of challenges. I love them! Working in the franchising industry is a challenge in itself. I believe the biggest challenge in franchising is keeping your franchisees happy and communication. There is nothing more important than supporting our franchisees. Jake's Franchising is in business because of our franchisees - Wayback Burgers is successful because of our franchisees. As for highlights in my tenure here, obviously my most recent accomplishment of getting my Certified Franchise Executive award, as well as being a crucial person in our company that has helped grow the brand over the last couple of years. It has been a great ride so far with numerous appearances on national Fox News and on other major networks and publications. Last year I was asked to speak at the Franchise Consumer Marketing Conference in Atlanta and I will be speaking at it again this year. And, I will never forget such a crucial highlight: the day we created our nine-patty burger, the Triple Triple, and marketed it nationwide. Talk about a marketing buzz!

What advice can you offer women seeking a career in marketing?
Do all of the internships you can. Get all of the marketing experience you can. What you learn in college is not what you learn in the field. You need all of the experience you can get - and build a solid foundation. Always keep an open mind, always listen and ask questions. Marketing is ever changing, thanks to social media, so make sure you are aware of what is going on in the marketplace around you. Get yourself educated. Reach for the stars - the world is what you think of it, so think of it differently and your life will change. And, be prepared to work hard and get used to long hours. Invest in a "thinking cap."

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I believe communication can be a large issue for women in the workplace. Within the umbrella of communication, there are a couple factors that create challenges for women and block us from being appreciated, heard, taken seriously, respected, valued and promoted. The issues within communication that I see are when women take things too personally and get caught up in the emotionality of their job. At the end of the day, we (women) have to learn to make things black and white, and not get caught up in the drama at our workplaces. Also under the communication umbrella, I believe that women have a hard time negotiating what we deserve. We need to learn to speak a powerful case and get rewarded/compensated on what we are truly worth. And lastly, of course, confidence. I have seen it numerous times, for example, in meetings, especially presentations. Some women start off by saying, "Sorry..." Why would you apologize? Get up there and rock your pitch! Still, to this day, I believe that women beat themselves up about power-gaps, which trickle down to low confidence. I wish more women in the workplace would feel more confident every minute of the day.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
I am a huge advocate for women in business. I graduated from Cedar Crest College, which is an all-women's college. Recently I went to visit my Alma Mater and one of my college professors handed me this book. I read it and then read it again, and again. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. What I love about this book is that it's about women supporting women in business. If we all come together, we can make a HUGE difference. By inspiring, motivating and encouraging each other, we can achieve our highest goals. I suggest that every woman in the workplace read this book. We all need to be in the movement together to make a difference.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I am not sure I would be such a young and successful woman in business if it weren't for my mentors. At my weakest moments and highest highs, my mentors have helped me. I have been mentored by some of the most intelligent women in high-powered roles who have taught me key factors of business, work ethic and leadership, as well as mentored by women, like my mother, who remind me to stay humble and true to myself.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Condoleeza Rice. Last year at the International Franchise Association Convention, Rice was the keynote speaker. After her speech, I felt so empowered, so vibrant and alive. Not only was her speech motivational, but also with her background and intellect, she suddenly became a female leader that I admire. Ever since her speech, I have been moved by her stories, career, accomplishments and hardships. Her advice and mentorship advice have stuck with me time after time. And not only is she incredibly passionate about her career and brilliant, she has one of the best senses of humor I have ever heard.

What are your hopes for the future of Wayback Burgers?
Growth. Growth of the brand by growing the number of store units we have nationally and internationally. The more we grow and the more national and local marketing campaigns we do, the closer we will get to become an iconic brand. Wayback Burgers is in the middle of exciting and expansive growth, and I am overjoyed to be part of it.