March 15, 2023 Renee Hill Young Featured on the Perspectives Podcast
Quigley co-founder and co-chairman Renee Hill Young stops by the Perspectives podcast for a conversation with host Katie Kempner of Kempner Communications. She shares leadership lessons from her life and career, talks shop as the owner of a working avocado farm, and reflects on her many years leading the largest WBENC-certified female-owned advertising agency in the country.
Listen to the whole conversation on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/4dOS0IJl4awwYNAP7riNkF.
KK: Can you tell us how you came to found Quigley 20 years ago?
RHY: It was really just a leap of faith. My partner and two other founders and I had been working together at another advertising agency in the mid 90s. After a series of acquisitions of our company, we decided that, heck, we could try this on our own. We had two employees so there were a total of six of us and two clients: Hoover Vacuums and Visa Marketing. Here we are two decades later, and I’m honestly still astounded at the clients that we’ve been fortunate enough to have on our roster like Procter and Gamble, JPMorgan Chase, a variety of nonprofits, and companies in health care and entertainment.
KK: In addition to Quigley, there’s a whole other side to your life. You have a working avocado farm and are passionate about animals. How do you integrate everything together?
RHY: I’ve always ridden horses so I know farms, but about eight years ago my husband and I purchased a somewhat rundown avocado farm. We painstakingly put it back together and that’s where we and our four-legged family members all reside. We have 23 animals on the farm now including horses, donkeys, pigs, dogs, cats, and miniature cows. It can be a strange dynamic some days when I’m on a conference call doing Quigley business and then I have to run out to tend to one of the animals, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
KK: In 2017, you were at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas which we know is still the site of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. Can you share a little bit about that experience?
RHY: Yes, absolutely. One of my long-term clients, Sally, and I bonded over our love of country music. Over the years we went to many country music concerts together all over the country and we wanted to attend the Harvest Festival. We went to Las Vegas and were planning to stay because there’s actually a marketing and advertising conference that always started that Monday after the festival.
We went to the last night of the festival on Sunday. Less than 10 minutes after Jason Aldean took the stage, we heard gun shots. Both Sally and I grew up in rural families and we recognized that they were gunshots right away. We started trying to make our way toward the exit but it was hard. There was a rain storm of bullets flying everywhere and we had to stop and hide sometimes. There is this moment when reality hits you and you realize that you’re the one now being shot at. It was terrifying but by the grace of God we got out. Unfortunately, many people lost their lives and many more were injured.
KK: That is so horrible and terrifying. How did this traumatic experience impact your life and your career?
RHY: There’s a period of time where you think you can get through those things by yourself. That you can just deal with it, but that’s not true. I did do many months of therapy and I found just honestly talking about it was the most helpful.
These kinds of life-altering events forever change the way that you conduct your life, that you conduct business—the kinds of things that once seemed important don’t mean as much after you’ve been through something like this. They say don’t sweat the small stuff, but when you have an independent business, you sweat everything and when you do that, you can lose your connectivity, your patience, and sometimes your empathy.
When something like this happens and you realize how quickly all of your work could be for naught, it gives you a different perspective. I started listening more. I became much more empathetic toward what was going on in people’s lives. It also impacted my hiring decisions because I didn’t have the patience or the tolerance anymore to surround myself with people who weren’t important to me. Instead, I hire people who I want to invest in and I remind myself constantly how important listening, talking, and mentoring really is.
KK: One of the things that has always been very integral to your firm is diversity, equity, and inclusion across the board. We’ve all seen in the last couple of years companies scrambling to do it. Some of them in a more genuine way than others. How have you and your co-founder Gerald been so successful at it?
RHY: Honestly, diversity was part of our core values when we opened the agency’s doors. We have always felt that having different voices and cultural experiences at the table will translate into more success for our clients. I agree that some companies are scrambling to add diversity—whether that’s in new hires, leadership, or clients—out of a fear that they look bad in today’s climate. But it’s different for us. We didn’t go out searching for it, it’s always been our bottom line.
KK: Is there one piece of advice that has helped you in your life and career that you can please share with us?
RHY: Because I’m a horse person who may have worked a little too hard in the early days of my career, I’ll put the advice this way: “You have to dust yourself off when you fall, but you also have to enjoy the ride.”
Katie Kempner is the creator and host of “Perspectives with Katie Kempner” which can be found on: Apple Podcast Store: http://bit.ly/KatieiTunes, Spotify: http://bit.ly/KatieSpotify), AW360: https://advertisingweek.com/category/podcasts/perspectives-with-katie-kempner/ The long-running series of conversations features remarkable women who are both inspiring and relatable, but most of all, they have their own unique perspectives.