Lara Schmoisman, of The Darl: “Lead by Example”

by Jerome Knyszewski
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Lara Schmoisman The Darl

Founder and CEO of The Darl Lara Schmoisman believes that she was destined to start her own marketing agency. With “hard work and grit” she was able to make a bountiful life in the United States after coming from her home country, Argentina.

At The Darl, Lara Schmoisman leads a “full-service marketing agency where you manage your entire team remotely.” The agency employs 30 people who live all over the world. For the success of their work, Lara says “the key is being constant and having everyone understand the process and logistics.” The team must also believe in the company’s “philosophy and values,” so that “they feel like they are part of something they believe in.”

In 2017, when she founded The Darl, Lara Schmoisman also “designed an environment I call an ‘ecosystem.’”

Lara Schmoisman runs The Darl according to the balance of “teamwork, kindness, creativity, collaboration and authenticity—while staying true to the brand’s story.”

Before The Darl, Lara Schmoisman spent her childhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with her ears glued to the radio and her eyes on the TV. Even when she was still a little girl, she “knew that the world had many possibilities.” At 14 years old, she “started working at a radio station, learning the ropes.” Then, years later, she “earned a BA in radio and TV production.”

Check out more interviews with marketing experts here. You can also watch a video interview with Lara Schmoisman here.

The biggest lesson I learned was that I was allowed to change. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. Lara Schmoisman, The Darl

Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Lara Schmoisman: I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina where I spent much of my time listening to the radio and watching TV. Even as a little girl, I knew that the world had many possibilities, and I was the type to make things happen. At just 14 years old, I started working at a radio station learning the ropes.

From there, I went to school to earn a certificate in screenwriting and a BA in radio and TV production. But as most of us probably know, life after college wasn’t exactly easy. And life after college in the entertainment industry? That was rough…so, unsurprisingly, I was not able to find a job.

Later that year, I came to the US to learn English. One thing led to another, and some doors started opening. At that time, I was sleeping on a hand-me-down mattress with coils literally sticking out of it. I was taking as many jobs as I could and sleeping little, but even so — somehow life was starting to fall into place. Opportunities to learn and grow came my way. I worked in TV, film distribution, digital, marketing, and advertising. Later on, I was even giving lectures at CALPOLY Pomona — I was living my dream, or what I thought was my dream at the time.

After flirting and dating for a while with each industry, I realized that I didn’t want to settle down with any of them because each one was equally important. They complement each other. And, as I was taking a step back and evaluating where I was going, new opportunities came my way, which prompted me to start my own agency, The Darl.

Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Lara Schmoisman: I’ll never forget about this, it was a breaking point for me. I had two kids and was working at a marketing agency, not getting back home until really late at night. It was very intense.

One day, right around Christmastime, my son’s school decided to play Secret Santa, and the girl he got wanted a sewing kit. I remember buying it from Amazon, but it got delayed, so we had no gift. I found myself, late at night, crying at a gas station trying to find a way to replace the gift in the little free time that I had. I remember thinking “I can’t do this anymore, I’m done with this industry.”

I was ready to stop working for people, to be able to have control over my own time. I was going to figure it out. Two weeks after quitting, I ran into some friends who were starting a medical practice and the opportunity allowed me the chance to put everything I had learned over the years into use. One thing led to another and I found myself needing an assistant, hiring designers, and then when the clients kept coming, I found myself needing more people to be able to manage all the work. That’s how The Darl was born. Now, we are a 360 Marketing and Production boutique agency that specializes in digital.

But most of all, I’ve learned that my only limitations are the ones I give myself.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Lara Schmoisman: I was working as a project manager in an advertising agency, and being my sassy self I would often voice my opinions about the different projects. One day I found a comment from the CEO on his assistant’s notepad saying “Tell Lara not to give opinions during client meetings’’.

This made me turn to a headhunter. She basically told me that because I didn’t have a linear career and my experience was too broad that I should consider just staying home taking care of my kids because no one would hire me.

That was a breaking point for me, I decided to quit for good. I was ready to start driving for Uber if I had to. That weekend we had people over for dinner, and I gave them a few marketing tips for their business that worked really well for them. This led to them hiring me and giving me my first solo opportunity.

As I continued to learn and grow professionally over the years, I also became a mother. This meant that I was literally an expert at juggling it all. With growth comes experience and maturity — in the business world, it is called restructuring, and in my world, it is called re-strategizing.

The biggest lesson I learned was that I was allowed to change. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. But most of all, I’ve learned that my only limitations are the ones I give myself.

Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Lara Schmoisman: The Darl has been a remote agency since company inception, long before the pandemic started. Today, we have more than 40 team members around the world working in the agency.

I’ve realized that I had to rely on people to grow. I’ve learned to empathize and be patient.

I’ve learned to value loyalty and hard work more than ever, but also I’ve learned that with a new structure we also need to accept changes. I understood that it is no longer about me or my personal connections to people.

The Darl has become its own, and as things shift, people and logistics have to fit into what the company has become. As the winds of change blow, I, as an individual, and we, as a team, need to be able to evolve, adapt, and keep moving forward.

I understood that it is no longer about me or my personal connections to people.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Lara Schmoisman: I had this one client that for lack of a better term was a diva; she just assumed that she knew everything about marketing and never listened to any of the suggestions or advice I had.

One day, we were speaking through a group chat, and she was making demands that in the end would not be beneficial to her business. So I wrote a separate text to a team member saying “oh my God she is so obsessive,” but I accidentally sent it to the group chat which of course she read it. When she asked if I was talking about her I just answered, “You are acting obsessive, and you know it.” Luckily, she didn’t take it badly. I owned up to it, and we had a laugh about it.

So, when you make a mistake don’t be afraid to own up to it, you might feel bad or embarrassed at first, but in the long run, people will respect you more for it.

A leader is someone who is there emotionally for their team, is leading them with intention, that is communicating, that can read between the lines. Lara Schmoisman

Jerome Knyszewski: Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Lara Schmoisman:

  1. Leadership is not about rank: Leading a team is all about mentoring. You lead by example. For me, it’s important that they know I am not afraid to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty. A leader is someone who is there emotionally for their team, is leading them with intention, that is communicating, that can read between the lines. My definition of leadership is being able to teach and to lead your team into a better place.
  2. Design a work culture: Company culture is an integral part of any business. It affects nearly every aspect of a company. At the end of the day, people want to understand where they’re going and what they’re working for. They want to be part of a team with the same beliefs and goals they have. And that’s where company culture can revolutionize everything. Leaders should lead by example from the start, acting as inspiration for the rest of the team. Your values and vision are the foundation that will influence what your culture looks like, so take some time to pin them down if you haven’t already.
  3. Learn how to hire a team: When it is your own endeavor, you must understand the process if you decide to hire someone. When building your company culture, documenting the behaviors your current and future employees and leaders should have is always a good step. Also, I recommend reconsidering your performance management system to adjust what behavior is rewarded and optimizing your hiring process to recruit only good cultural fits.
  4. Sometimes you need to make difficult decisions to affect the least amount of people: In many situations, doing a cleanup is mandatory. Things that are broken need to go, some have seen better days and also need to be set aside. Take a moment and look at the big picture: if someone or something isn’t working, you, as a leader, need to put your feelings aside and do what’s best for your business as a whole.
  5. How to fire a client: Sometimes it just needs to be done. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to salvage the relationship, in some situations it just won’t work, and in the end, it will cost you more. When your trusted team is telling you that they can’t work with a client, this is a big deal. Always try to be fair and to give very clear and explicit warnings. I believe everyone deserves a second chance. With that being said, my team is my chosen family and they are the reflection of me and my beliefs. For me, my role as a leader is to protect my team first. They are the ones in the trenches fighting for the company, and when they bring something like this to my attention, I need to listen.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Lara Schmoisman: They can check out my page or The Darl’s website. Also, I host my own podcast called Coffee N.5! You can also follow me on Instagram @laraschmoisman.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you!!

 

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