1. For our readers to get to know you better, can you please tell us who you are, what type of business you are in and why?
My name is Karima-Catherine Goundiam. I am a native of France and immigrated to Canada in 2000. I have been working in the digital industry for 15 years, helping organizations of all sizes build integrated digital programs and execute campaigns that drive a full range of key business results, from basic objectives like increasing brand awareness, to more complex, ROI-driven outcomes such as customer acquisition and long-term customer retention.
2. When encouraging innovative ideas, how do you go about it?
Innovation is at the heart of what I do. Because social media is still a nascent discipline in most industries, it's still seen as innovative. Innovation is like creativity: you have to encourage and foster it from top down. I was very lucky to work at Deloitte with the innovation team and got to see the benefits of considering and implementing innovation as a practice within an organization.
3. To create an environment where motivation can thrive, what’s the first thing you would do and why?
Bribe! – I am kidding. (Although, in some cultures, giving gifts correlated with motivation).
I find that long-lasting motivation is rarely attained by superficial incentives such as money. Motivation comes from a set of values that are core to the individual. Within a team environment, I often find that recognition, respect, and the ability to feel like a contributor are the motivators. In order to be sustainable, those of course need to be endorsed and promoted top down as much as at a micro level.
4. How do you show others that you believe in them?
I believe in myself first. That's the first step. I believe in my project. In my business. Without this primary endorsement of myself, I can't fake believing in others. That is probably why a lot of leaders sound less than convincing when trying to get people on board a mission.
By believing in what you are doing and respecting your team (their skills, their input), you show them you believe in them.
5.When looking at your life so far, what would you do differently if given the opportunity?
You and I discussed this and I am so glad you are asking this question. My first advice to anyone who is younger than me is, I strongly recommend that you get a mentor. Mentoring is not something that's applied uniformly in every culture, in every environment. Growing up in France, I saw mentoring as a pretty exclusive privilege. The type of mentoring I discovered in North America is pretty democratic and does wonders for dedicated people.
So, if I’d had the chance, I would have surrounded myself with advisers and mentors pretty early on.
6. When is breaking the rules okay?
I teach my kids that following the rules is necessary until it's not. Thanks to their temperaments, they are finding their own path and ways to break the rules. It's a very personal thing. Most rules have to be broken to advance a cause. I think that in my shoes, as a black woman and founder of a digital agency, I have to break a lot of the rules. There are not a lot of rules for women of color, except to be invisible. I realize that what I am saying might not be politically correct, but it's important to stay legit while breaking the rules. There is never a reason to break the law. As for breaking the rules, it's necessary to advance one's cause.
7. How and where do you find inspiration? Who influences you?
A lot of people influence me, starting with my husband. He is an amazing support and he recognized early on that I was an entrepreneur at heart. Otherwise, I find inspiration in the many people I meet, leaders or otherwise. Those who have a positive impact on me will be people who are generous with their time, knowledge, and network; those who are persistent; and those who pave their own way despite everything pointing them to fail.
8. How do you approach the unknown?
(Laugh) – My life has pretty much been about the unknown and I learned to embrace it. From being a diplomat’s kid to choosing to go study in Los Angeles, at the time an 11-hour flight from Paris, my hometown. I also decided to emigrate to Canada in my late twenties. We moved our family to Toronto three years ago to chase better opportunities. And finally, I quit my job last year to launch my digital agency. The unknown is what makes life exciting and worth living.
9. How do you bring courage and conviction to risky situations?
Courage and conviction are part of someone's makeup. It also depends if one is an instigator of that risky situation or not.
If someone chooses to put themselves in a risky situation, it's much easier to live through it than when it's imposed. I typically own my decisions and will do whatever it takes to work through them.
10. What values are you committed to?
I want to be remembered as someone who created her own path, helped create opportunities for other little girls out there. I am committed to being persistent, never give up and believe in oneself.
11. Should you have one, what do you do to live a balanced life?
It's a myth. At least, that's how I feel as a mother of two little girls who's been in corporate Canada and who has recently launched her digital agency. There is always something that dominates, whether it's business or family. I used to struggle about that until I heard from a couple of grown-up kids of working parents. The kids know their parents had to work and did not live badly. Balance is a phase; sometimes family will dominate, and at other times, business.
12. What are five key books do you feel young entrepreneurs should read, and why?
I would advise on online resources. Entrepreneurs should read any stories they can find on Richard Branson, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey (yup), Arianna Huffington, and other current entrepreneurs. Reading their bio puts their success into perspective and gives a lesson in persistence.
13. What is coming up next for you and how can people get in touch with you?
I am in the process of building a digital and social media agency with niche clients in retail, B2B and consumer goods. I love to hear from people, so send me an email at [email protected] or tweet me at @KarimaCatherine.