CEO Beth Ann Kaminkow says she has been deliberate, yet cautious, with changes she has made at TracyLocke. Photography by Ben Garrett

TracyLocke’s Beth Ann Kaminkow Is Driven to Win

The first female CEO in the 100-year-old advertising agency’s history finds focus during “meditation in motion.”

An early riser and a runner, TracyLocke CEO Beth Ann Kaminkow does some of her best strategizing while pounding the pavement. Once at the office, her day will be overflowing with activity. Running is her think time.

Before she runs, Kaminkow eases into the morning by reading industry blogs and general business news. Then she thinks about what she wants to achieve for the day. Next comes the run.

“When I’m running, it’s almost a subconscious thing that happens,” she says. “I just let creative challenges bubble up. I don’t have to be directing what I’m thinking, but what ends up surfacing are things that I need to creatively solve. That is where inspiration will come from.”

Kaminkow will often jot down what comes to mind during her “meditation in motion,” but she admits that not all of the ideas are good ones. “It might sound great at the moment, when the endorphins are really flowing,” she says. “And then you go back and look at it later, and you realize that it was crap.”

She has plenty on which to meditate. Dallas-based TracyLocke entered its 100th year in January with Kaminkow as its first female CEO. She sees 2013 as a peak year that shows the tenacity and vitality of the advertising agency, an Omnicom Group Inc. affiliate that has about 230 local employees and generates $100 million in revenue a year.

“It’s time to be the leader that we have clearly been,” she says. “I don’t think we’ve gotten true credit for all that this brand has accomplished and brought to the industry over the years.”

Kaminkow has been deliberate, yet cautious, with the changes she has made since taking the helm in February 2011, to help an agency with ingrained practices evolve. She has instituted a culture that encourages employees to voice their opinions and challenge the agency’s mindset—even if those opinions are contrary to her own. She seeks new hires with a hunger for learning and prefers the company of people who think abstractly, in shades of gray.

Kaminkow says she has had more male role models than female, but has turned away from some of what she has learned from men. “I grew up in a time where it was very much about pay your dues and hierarchy,” she says. “You wait until it is time to be a leader. Your role tells you what to do.”

She ascended the ranks by bringing the CEO solutions, not questions. But Kaminkow says she finds herself wanting the opposite from her team.

“I want to create an environment where, from intern to company leaders, people feel like they have a voice and there are not typical boundaries around roles,” she says. “I want people to bring me their concerns and challenges. If you are bringing it to me solved, I sometimes feel put off. That means we weren’t allowed to collaborate.”

Kaminkow doesn’t shy away from talking about gender, and commends Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and media mogul Arianna Huffington for opening a national dialogue about gender imbalance in the workplace. Having the ability to talk about it and make people more aware of it and more conscious of it is important, she says.

Her love of sports translates into a fierce competitive spirit in the workplace. Kaminkow likes to win. And so far, she says, things are going her way: “We’ve won everything we’ve pitched in highly competitive environments.”

Kaminkow says she felt ready for the CEO title long before she received it, but it wasn’t until she officially moved into the role that she felt its true weight. “There is nobody else above you who is going to be able to share and feel the same sense of responsibility and accountability to results, to people, to lives, to business, to growth that you feel,” she says.

But Kaminkow views that responsibility in positive terms. With the title, she says she can open doors and implement her vision. “Sometimes it’s easier to be the change agent when someone else is ultimately responsible for what happens. Once I adjusted, I felt competent and comfortable. It has enabled me to reframe priorities.”


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