(6-20-2016) Living The American Dream

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Jinny Laderer has always been around radio. In addition to being a coach in the NFL, her dad was a radio station owner. Radio paid the bills. Jinny’s first husband (she married at 21) was a radio station manager. With a family of her own, Jinny decided to work from home so she could spend quality time with her four children, and she became a Mary Kay consultant. When her youngest entered preschool, she was ready to get back to radio.

She started working for Renda Broadcasting in Punxsutawney, PA, where her husband at the time was the GM. She enjoyed every aspect of being in the radio business, but really fell in love with writing and producing commercials — certainly a rarity in our industry today. But it would be her love for copywriting and helping clients that would be the launch pad to bigger success in Jinny’s life. And it would lead her, along with her second husband, John, to create a product that the entire radio industry fell in love with.

RI: Not too many people are drawn to copywriting at a radio station. Why were you?
Laderer: I tend to be a very creative person. I could literally sit in a studio all day long and produce commercials, without ever having to talk to anybody. When I was younger, I always loved to do things like sewing and crafting. I did a lot of creative writing. I read Roy William’s Wizard of Ads before I started working at the radio station, and I was just amazed by it.

I started when one of the salespeople hired me to write copy for her, before I started working at the radio station. I had sold Mary Kay to her. She loved the way I did my advertising for Mary Kay, and she said, “You’d like this. Why don’t you write for me?” And she said, “I will pay you X amount of dollars per script that you write.” So I started writing for her, and that’s why the station asked me to work for them. They started to notice that the ads I was writing were getting noticed, so they offered me a job to come be a full-time copywriter at first. Then it started to evolve into other things.

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Jinny with Heather Cohen and Deborah Parenti

RI: Why is your story an “American Dream” story?
Laderer: Well, my definition of the American Dream is to achieve the life you dreamed about living. America is the Land of Opportunity, and I grew up believing that if you worked hard and treated people well, you could do whatever you set your mind to doing. As a young girl, TV shows had an impact on my dreams. I wanted to be a wife and mother of six to eight kids like The Brady Bunch, and I wanted to live in an Eight Is Enough white colonial house, but in Florida on a lake. I also wanted to be a businesswoman who traveled to New York City because I wanted to be like That Girl, Marlo Thomas.

All of those have come true. I have an amazing husband, we are the “Laderer Bunch,” with six kids, a grandson, and a dog, and we live in a white colonial house in Florida on a lake. And vCreative made my final dream come true, because I get to do business often in my favorite city, New York.

RI: This dream really started to take off when you were working for Renda Broadcasting, correct?
Laderer: Yes. I met my now-husband, John. We had actually gone to high school together and met at a class reunion. He was in Fort Collins, CO. I lived in Punxsutawney, PA. We dated for two years long-distance. We never lived in the same town, and we got married live on a radio station morning show. During the time we were dating, he sat in my office at the station and saw the nightmare of trying to get information on production from the salespeople — the continuity process of any ad that needs to get on the air, people constantly interrupting, having to get all the information to so many different people. It was a paper nightmare. I was constantly trying to reorganize it because I like to be very organized, but I could never get to writing.

Midway through, he slammed his hand down on my desk and said, “This is ridiculous. No wonder you never get home on time. No wonder you bring all your writing home at night.” He said, “I am going to write you a software solution to get you home on time. It will be Web-based so that you can get to it from anywhere.” I looked at him and said, “That is too crazy. There’s no way you can do it.”

Laderer2RI: It wasn’t so crazy after all, was it?
Laderer: No. I used the product in 2005 and 2006. In 2007, a couple of my production director friends started asking me about it. They were interested because they were looking for a solution. We did a demo and they said, “This is great.” They talked to their GMs. We didn’t even realize what was happening, but we were beta testing it. They loved it. They were adding suggestions to make it better, and my husband would do that for them. That’s when they said, “Man, this is so needed in this industry.”

We decided to put together a marketing plan. We got some good business advice. We had two options: We could either try to raise money through venture capital, or we could take our existing savings and our home equity and do it on our own. We decided to do it on our own. We took out two second mortgages on two separate properties. We used all of our savings, every dime we had, in 2008 and 2009 — and you know what happened back then.

It was scary. Everything was on the line. I was writing and producing full-time for eight Renda stations. I also had other stations I was writing and producing for, and I had dozens of agencies and direct clients that I wrote and produced for. Every dime I made, I put back into the company. John worked for the government. His paycheck paid the bills, and the bills were starting to mount. We did a lot of trade shows and advertising to promote this product.

RI: Then you get the call from Clear Channel.
Laderer: Right. That was September of 2010. We signed a deal and rolled them out within six weeks. I don’t want to say it was easy; it was a lot of work. But it came together beautifully, and it was a cash deal, which was really wonderful.

RI: What made you not just close up and get a 9-to-5 when times really got tough?
Laderer: That’s just it: We did have our 9-to-5 jobs. We just happened to both have the freedom to work from home. I would suggest to anyone starting a business to keep a steady income stream while building a client base. We didn’t have venture capital money. We were bootstrapping, and we knew our software was a solution to a major pain point that every radio station faces. We also knew it was a numbers game, and we had to put in our time. We had early adopters who confirmed we were on to something big.

I had Galatians 6:9 posted on my computer, which says, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season you will reap the harvest if you do not give up”! Every day that Bible verse would remind me we were doing something good for the radio industry, and it would pay off in time, but we just had to keep moving forward.

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Jinny with veteran broadcaster Tony Renda

RI: Most husbands and wives work in their own fields, or at their own jobs, then come home to family. You and John work together every day in the same office. How does that work?
Laderer: Most people are surprised how well we work together. But people who know us know we really enjoy each other’s company and have a lot of fun together. We share so many of the same interests, like we both love the lake lifestyle. We spend a lot of time on our dock and on our boat with our kids and our grandson, Micah, who is 2, and with friends.

I mean, we’re rarely apart; in fact, we’ve shared an office for 11 years, but most days we are both so busy doing our jobs that at the end of the day we look at each other and say, “How was your day?” And John is brilliant. He never ceases to amaze me with how quickly he can solve problems and code solutions for our clients. He is witty and practical, but can be extremely set in the way he thinks things should be done. I am easygoing and diplomatic, but I can be naive. His strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa. It just works.

RI: Does it always work?
Laderer: Oh, no, there are times — when we just have to remove ourselves from one another. We are both very strong-minded, and so when we disagree, we disagree intensely. But I’m usually right [laughing]. I’m kidding — sometimes he’s right and sometimes I’m right, and often we just agree to disagree. Truth is, we made a pact years ago to never let the sun go down on our anger. And we have kept to that pact. It’s our daily routine to sit on our dock and watch the sun go down and talk things out.

RI: How difficult is it to be a business owner, wife, mother, and now grandmother?
Laderer: I would be lying if I said it was easy. Running a household with a family is a full-time job itself. When John and I launched vCreative in 2008, the kids ranged from 8 to 19. Those days were long and exhausting. Luckily, John and I both worked from home; that helped. John was working full-time for the government and I was writing, voicing, and producing commercials full-time.

The school year was a bit easier, with the kids gone all day; summers were very challenging. We used to have sit-down dinners in the formal dining room every night, then we would often have to split up to get the kids to softball or soccer in the evening. And those were the days when we still tucked the younger ones in bed and read to them each night. I miss that, but not the exhaustion — or the five to eight loads of laundry a day.

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Jinny with 2-year-old grandson Micah

RI: There would seem to be too few hours in a day to do each of those tough tasks successfully.

Laderer: There weren’t enough! We were burning both ends of the candle, for sure. It’s easier now that our youngest is 17 — much, much easier. But for the first years of building vCreative, John and I would come back into our office every night after the kids went to bed and work till 1 or 2 a.m. Then I would get up at 6 a.m. to get the kids off to school.

We got our first iPhones in spring of 2008, and what a blessing! I remember taking help-desk calls for Rose City (now Alpha Portland) at the softball fields and answering e-mails while volunteering at school functions. Prior to the iPhone, we did not have that technology. Honestly, thinking back, it was a lot of long hours and hard work.

RI: You like to inspire others. What do you do every day to inspire other women?
Laderer: It’s strange; you don’t actually set out each day thinking, “Who can I inspire?” I am always surprised when people say I have inspired them. But I have come to believe that the most important thing we can do to inspire others is to be authentic and transparent. It’s funny, I was never a “girly girl.” Growing up, I was a total tomboy, and a rebel at times. I didn’t do drama. I still don’t. I just try to be myself. I’m just a quirky girl who is figuring it out as I go, just like everyone else. Life can be messy. I don’t have a perfect life, nor am I perfect by any means. I fail, I screw up, I blow it. I also have fears, and I shed tears. I am human and I don’t have it all figured out.

I think it’s inspiring when we discover that the women we think have “made it” are just girls like ourselves. There is something so powerful in that. So I just try to be real. My children have told me this has inspired them. They have seen my tenacity to get through tough times. I always tell them, whenever difficulties arise or you face challenges you think are too big, that’s when the rubber meets the road. If you push through to the other side, if you refuse to give up, you will discover the blessing on the other side. But you can’t give up! Difficult days form our character and give us gumption. It’s part of the process.

RI: And that is where mentoring comes in.
Laderer: Yes. As women, we have a natural gift to nurture others. It makes a huge difference. When we come alongside one another and exchange advice and share our stories and listen to each other and encourage one another, it’s very powerful. One thing I do try to do every day is encourage or affirm someone — male or female. Verbally, if I see them, or in a card or an e-mail. I read the radio trades each morning to keep on top of what’s happening in the industry (and make sure our ads are running correctly), and I love seeing people I know be acknowledged, get promoted, win an accolade, or whatever. So I reach out to them and acknowledge and affirm them. It’s gotten to the point that I do this every day. On the other hand, when I see a client having rough times, I pray for them. I actually journal my prayers each morning. When we sign on new clients, I pray for them to prosper. I pray our software will help them to grow.

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John and Jinny Laderer – and a pair of stormtroopers – at the 2015 ABC Radio Marconi after party photo booth.

RI: Talk about how important mentoring has been to your career.
Laderer: Mentoring is near and dear to my heart, because everybody needs that. You need someone to come alongside and show you how to do things. In this instance, my first mentor in any kind of business, when it came to business, was Mary Kay Ash, because I was a Mary Kay consultant for years. I learned so many amazing things from Mary Kay Ash and from the women in Mary Kay. Mentoring is so important, and it always has been.

I am still a Mary Kay consultant to this day, but I started in 1994 and I learned so many wonderful things. In Mary Kay it is really about mentoring one another and helping each other to grow a business. So I just kind of took that into this business. When I went to our very first radio event as a vendor, we had a booth in Atlanta in 2008 at the RAB Show. I remember it was a sea of men in suits. There were men everywhere. I was like, “Where are the women?”

But there were some women that really stood out. One of them was [Greater Media’s] Heidi Raphael — she is tall and elegant and classy. I remember seeing her and I heard that she was a part of this MIW Group. I went to one of the MIW cocktail receptions and I heard her and other women speak, and I thought, “This is a group of women I want to be a part of.” I was all about mentoring and inspiring.

At that time I needed mentoring. In Austin in 2008, they had a speed mentoring program. I went to it, and that’s how I got to meet amazing women. At that particular time, they encouraged me. They gave me some really good advice that I needed at that very moment. I built relationships that I could call if I had questions. They were there for me.

So, fast-forward to 2011, I was then sitting on the other side. Instead of just being mentored, I became a mentor and I started to mentor women as well. I tried to get involved in as many women’s organizations as I could. These are just lovely, lovely women with such a go-give spirit, wanting to help each other and support one another. It’s so important. Women need that. We are very relational. We are very connected. It is a beautiful thing. I try to be involved in everything that I can with the MIW and also with the Alliance for Women in Media.

RI: Why do you think you’ve been able to be so successful?
Laderer: Number one, we had a great product. It was needed. I think in any kind of a business, you have to have something that solves a problem. People have to desire that product, or they have to need that product. We have a product they need, even if they don’t realize they need it. We are a solution to a major pain point at every radio station.

Number two, you have to have great people who come alongside and support it. We always value people. We value every single client. We don’t see them as a client, we see them as friends, actually: How can we help you? We have this “How can we come alongside you?” attitude, rather than “What can we get from you?” or “We’re going to make this sale and move on.”

For me, the beautiful thing is that it’s never been about money. The money comes when you have a great product and you service clients very well with the product so that people know you care about them. We still own the company 100 percent, my husband and I. We have never had an investor. We are completely debt-free. That’s the way we run our company. We don’t have anyone breathing down our backs to force us to maybe make some choices we wouldn’t otherwise make. Sometimes when the going gets tough, you have to dig down deep. That’s where my faith has become involved. And there were times when we just didn’t know which way to go, and that’s where a firm foundation in my faith kind of helped me through some of those tough times.

RI: You’ve also been very involved in the industry. You support it with advertising dollars. You’re involved in the conventions.
Laderer: I love this industry. It is almost a cliche, but it’s in my blood. It’s something I’ve been around my whole life. I love radio — but it’s not radio, it’s the people in radio. They’ve become like family, like friends. I just absolutely love being a part of it. I love knowing that our product helps them. And we have a couple of different products. We launched a new product this year, and it’s been an overwhelming success because of, I believe, the relationships we’ve built. And the reason I advertise is because advertising works. I believe in it.

Our deal with iHeart [then Clear Channel] came through an ad I took out in a small trade magazine for production directors called RAP Magazine, Radio and Production Magazine. I took out my very first full-time ad, and we ended up getting the Clear Channel deal in 2010 from that ad. Someone saw it, and they called us from it. We see it every day. We get leads coming in every single day from our advertising. Sometimes we will get three or four in a day. Every week, we are getting a lot of leads. Advertising works.

RI: You talk about God a lot. Why?
Laderer: You know, I have never been asked that. I have been told that there are two things you should never talk about in business, politics and religion. But it goes back to being transparent and authentic. I believe in God. Why should I have to hide that? I read the Bible every day and I pray every day. It’s my favorite book. It’s full of wisdom, and people with messy lives. It’s become my road map, and it’s a way that I feel God inspires me and guides me through the challenges of life.

I wear a cross necklace often to remind myself to love God and to love others, unconditionally love others. Peter is my favorite disciple; he was a leader, but he was constantly messing up, and Jesus told him that he would go through a time of testing, but that after he had gotten back on his feet, to feed his sheep — which meant strengthen his brothers. That’s what mentoring and inspiring people is all about, helping others through this crazy awesome wonderful messy life. I actually have a goal poster on my wall in my office that at the top reads “Feed My Sheep.” It is my number one goal to help others by encouraging them and feeding them in any way I can, whether that is through words, deeds, or giving.

RI: You run a company with 20 employees, you have six children, you run a household. How do you do all of that and not go nuts?
Laderer: The very first thing I would say is, “You have to take care of yourself — mind, body, and spirit.” Every morning, I try to exercise. Sometimes it’s two to three hours. I will get up at 4:30 or 5 and go until 8. That’s my quiet time. It is also very meditative. Working out just kind of clears my mind and helps me to stay focused. I love to read the Bible. My dad gave me the Bible in 1982, and I’ve been reading it ever since. I read pieces of it every single day to inspire me or give me direction.

Sometimes it might just be reading anything that’s inspiring. Take care of your mind, fill your mind with positive things. You have to take care of yourself to be ready to take care of a family and ready to take care of the things that come after you in life. If you’re not well grounded, then you can get off keel. And there’s many times I’m off keel. There’s times when my life is a mess. For two weeks in a row, I’ve had a family crisis going on. You just get up and you do it anyway. If you are not mentally, spiritually, and physically prepared, a family crisis could destroy you. If I could give any advice to women, and this would go for men too, but women: Take really good care of yourself so that you can take care of everything else.

RI: You are very giving when it comes to charity. Can you talk about that too?
Laderer: I believe if you look around, you will see in nature, you plant seeds. If you’re a farmer, you plant a seed. You water it and nurture it and it grows and bears fruit. Then the seeds fall again, and it just continues. I think that the more seeds that we plant on behalf of others, the more things can grow.

It’s the same way with giving. We’ve planted all these seeds in people’s lives, but we’re also planting seeds into the lives of other people. We do give a lot. We give to our local church, first and foremost, and to local charities. We have scholarships that allow students that can’t afford it to go to private Christian schools. I was also involved in getting an orphanage started in Honduras, and I’m on the board now. Originally, we thought it was going to be an orphanage for young babies and toddlers. It ended up being teenage girls, and a lot of them come to us abused; there’s a lot of sexual abuse going on there. There’s something very wonderful, being able to give back.

It’s hard to say, because I don’t want this to come across like it’s bragging or something, but I just believe it’s not that you have to do it, but you feel compelled to do it. I can’t explain it any other way. You see a need, and you give. For instance, if you see a homeless person, and it’s hard because you can see so many of them everywhere you go, but if we all do a little bit to help, even if it’s a dollar here or a dollar there — and some people will say, “What if they use it on drugs?” Well, that’s up to them.

If somebody asks me, I am probably going to give them some money if they’re in need, because it’s not for me to judge them. It’s not for me to decide. But we feel compelled, and every once in a while, something will really hit me and I will really feel a need to give. If I have it, I feel like I should give it. Even when I don’t have it, I will give it. It’s such a part of who I am. I don’t know where it comes from. I believe it comes from God.

RI: Tell us what happened in 2013.
Laderer: We were audited because we gave over 51 percent of our income away. I didn’t realize I had done it. My husband kind of reined me in a little bit after that. We had receipts for everything. It was 100 percent accurate, but the IRS couldn’t believe that we had given away that much. I didn’t know that I had until we got to tax time, and my accountant said, “You will be audited.”

One of my ultimate goals would be to be what is called a reverse tither: You live on 10 percent of your income and you give 90 percent of it away. I can’t think of anything better to do in life than to be involved with some sort of a charitable foundation to give back to people, to help people. That would be incredible.

RI: What do you want to see the radio industry do better?
Laderer: There are a lot of radio companies doing it right. They’ve stuck with focusing on local direct. If we can come alongside the businesses with the right creative, the right campaign, the right promotions, and build that business through advertising, and that business grows, the radio station will grow because advertisers will continue to spend more with them. That business will also grow, and they can change the economy within their little circle.

Advertising really does work when it’s done correctly. To do that, you have to have enough people on staff. You have to have creative people that can come up with compelling and engaging content for everything, the commercials, the promotions, and on the air. It takes time to be creative, and it takes creative people. If they could do one thing to really improve things, it would be to focus on that local direct advertising.

What’s really exciting about programmatic is that it can fix some of the transactional business that takes up so much time. Radio stations can automate that and reallocate resources into the local direct. That can really change things. I’m a firm believer — it happened with us when I worked for Tony Renda. It was an amazing thing because we focused on creative.

RI: What can you say to women reading this about achieving success at a high level like you have?
Laderer: A lot of times the question is asked “Why aren’t there more women in these positions?” This is because we as women make choices. Sometimes those choices are that someone should be there for my children when they’re growing up, and if I take on this more demanding position right now, I have to trade that off.

There’s not a right or wrong answer, and if I could say one thing to women, it is lay off the guilt on yourself. Embrace whatever decisions you’ve made, and do it 100 percent. If you’ve got a great support system and you can go out there and take those jobs that are very demanding, then that’s great. But if you’re taking a demanding job, you’re going to miss out on some things with your children. And that’s hard for us. You have to pick and choose those things.

RI: If there was something you could say to everybody who may not know what you want them to know about vCreative, what would you tell them?
Laderer: We literally can save them time and money. Our product does that. A lot of people can say that, but we know it’s true. We have over 4,000 radio stations using our product. I know that it is something they truly don’t want to be without, it has become such a part of their life. I guess the ultimate goal would be to work with every radio station in the U.S. and in Canada, and even internationally.

One thing that a lot of people aren’t aware of that we’ve been advertising a lot is that we have a new product called vPromotions. All of our stations kept asking us if we would include promotional software for the workflow of promotions, events, and contests. So, in 2013, we began developing that, and we launched it last year. It’s the same type of functionality and the same type of service as our other product.

We also want to continue to help stations integrate with all these different companies so that everything can be done more efficiently with better communication, so that every single person at the station can do the job they were hired to do instead of spinning their wheels all day trying to look up information.

RI: Any final thoughts?
Laderer: I really want to encourage women. I love seeing them succeed. And I hate how we, as women, we put so much pressure on ourselves. I think if we just took a deep breath, we could say, “We can do this together and come alongside each other. We can do anything that we set our minds to.”

There’s times that it’s going to be a mess. There’s times that I am a mess. That’s OK. Tomorrow is a new day. We put our pantyhose on and get back to it.

Reach out to Jinny to congratulate her on a fabulous career so far [email protected]

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