Entrepreneurial Leaders Grow Their Roles at The Garage Group | The Garage Group

Entrepreneurial Leaders Grow Their Roles at The Garage Group

Our team is always striving to become better entrepreneurial leaders. We learn from books, podcasts, and most importantly, from our clients and TGG teammates. Recently, six of our team members were recognized for their tremendous growth and recognizable leadership, and were promoted to new roles:

Each with a unique path toward growth as an entrepreneurial leader, they took some time to share stories, advice, and lessons learned for those who are on their own journey.

Sara Valasek

Senior Director, Lean Growth

“Sara deeply cares about her clients and their needs, going beyond what is expected of her. Clients fall in love with Sara and trust her with their most difficult challenges, knowing that Sara will strategically think about the best approach to tackle them. It has been really inspiring to see Sara in action, balancing empathy and strategic thinking in each one of her engagements with clients!”

– Fadia Perez Cruz, VP of Lean Growth

What practices do you use when mentoring others in becoming entrepreneurial leaders?

It can feel very overwhelming to keep up with the constantly changing business landscape. Also, being an “entrepreneurial leader” seems like a classification that is out of reach for some. I have a bit of a mantra that I am constantly saying to myself, my co-workers, and clients: “How do you eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time.” Reminding ourselves that becoming anything different than we are takes time, patience, and a commitment to practice. I’ve also found that when we can connect our work back to the consumers we serve, finding the energy to becoming anything new reignites a sense of purpose and clears a path for tremendous growth and progress.


Sarah Shiffman

Strategist, Lean Growth

“Sarah embodies the courageous mentality at the core of TGG. She boldly takes on every challenge that comes her way and hustles to get the best possible results from herself and others. Most importantly, her approach is always rooted in deep empathy for both the clients we work with and the consumers they serve. Sarah has a keen sense for the heart behind people’s motivations, and a talent for speaking directly to it.” – Dennis Furia, Senior Director, Lean Growth

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as an entrepreneurial leader?

I love to surround myself with people who are not only good at their jobs, but are wonderful people. I learn the most through collaboration and relationships, so my growth often happens from observing others, working with others and being challenged by others. I never really saw myself as an entrepreneur before joining The Garage Group, but having been here for a year, I know that I am most entrepreneurial when I am confident enough to just try – taking time to invest in myself and in the relationships around me. The best way I set myself up for any entrepreneurial endeavor is to invest in those around me and to care for myself. That way, if the (inevitable) failure/barrier/challenge comes, I’m strong enough and supported enough to pick myself back up and try again.

Molly Baldwin

Strategist, Lean Growth

“Molly is a powerhouse at TGG! She is grace and action, diligent and thoughtful, intuitive and persistent. All grounded in a kind soul. Molly jumps at new challenges and is quick to contribute in whatever way is needed. She is fantastic at her work and she excels with people. Her very real and humble approach make her outstanding at connecting with clients, co-workers and the consumers we all serve. Molly is the teammate we’re all excited to have who supports us, teaches us, and laughs with us all.”

– Sara Valasek, Senior Director, Lean Growth

Do you have any advice to others who might be experiencing challenges as they work toward adopting and maintaining a growth mindset?

Put yourself out there. Do things that make you uncomfortable. Make a point to raise your hand and speak up in those moments that you previously would have shied away from. Talk about your failures, but highlight the fact that you tried and the identify optimizations for next time. All of these things make it easier to be vulnerable in the future.

Finally, if you still don’t feel comfortable challenging yourself to new ways of thinking, you’re probably surrounding yourself with the wrong people. At TGG, we support growth and curiosity not just in what we say, but in the actions we take as a team. I’m constantly surrounded by people that showcase agility, hustle in smart ways (and not at the expense of a successful outcome), and operate with an open mind–the keys to maintaining a growth mindset.


Justine Daley

Director of Growth Hacking

“Justine is an amazing and critical part of our team, enabling current and future growth. She came in just under a year ago and has taken everything we do on the marketing front to the next level, and has extended us into strong new spaces. And, she has a strong vision to keep pushing TGG forward as we look to continue to grow. As many of you know, she’s not only active at TGG, she’ll be AMA Cincy’s President next year, and is always looking to add value outside of this place.”

– Jason Hauer, Co-CEO

Which of The Garage Group’s values do you most align with in your leadership style? I have always felt most aligned with “Connection” which encompasses operating with an external focus and open hand. I grow most when I am looking externally and learning from the experiences of others. I recognized this at a very early stage in my career; I worked previously for a small, niche-focused company, and I knew that in order to bring new ideas in and learn more than just my industry, I had to go outside of my office and speak with people who were doing very different things than me. I was lucky enough to be in a work environment that supported this external learning. This enabled me to strengthen my Associative Thinking muscles, quickly applying external learnings to my own strategic challenges. I’ve been able to consistently do this through my volunteerism with the American Marketing Association – Cincinnati; I’m constantly learning from other members and through my contributions to the organization itself. I’m also constantly trying to soak up as much as I can from my TGG team; everyone is so strong, in different areas and from different backgrounds. Thanks to my TGG teammates, I really feel like I live up to that phrase “You learn something new every day.”


Megan Milar

Senior Director of Operations

“Megan’s role has continued to grow, as TGG has grown. Megan never shrinks back from a challenge and handles complexity, breadth, and depth with humility, energy, and strategic solutions. In the past year, she’s built a strong culture among her team and formed and led TGG Operations, increasing our discipline, ability to measure and track our progress, make well-timed hiring decisions, build and sustain our culture, and care for our team and our clients well. We are honored to have her strength and strategic thinking as a key part of our leadership!”

– Ann Thompson, Co-CEO

You’ve likely experienced some challenges on your journey toward becoming an entrepreneurial leader. What advice do you have for people on their own journeys?

Journeys are full of seasons. It’s important to be able to adapt to those seasons with ease and to have a growth mindset around the challenges faced during that time. One particular strategy that I apply in both my personal and professional life is to stay closely connected to people who are a season or two ahead of me. For instance, this year I intentionally met with professionals in a relevant position as mine in other small companies that have experienced high growth. I’ve been on a mission to uncover what’s ahead and to learn from their success and failures so we’ll be ready to reapply when the time comes.


Renee Murphy

Senior Director, Lean Research

“Renee has been a pioneer in the field of lean research before it was even termed “lean.” Her practical approaches challenge the traditional market research industry, and give truly actionable insight for teams. This past year, Renee’s role evolved to include building a Lean Research Bootcamp program to equip new TGG Associates, and to help client teams that want to learn and apply these approaches. Her humility, focus on learning, and relentless pursuit of the best approaches continue to elevate her contributions and her stature in the industry.”

– Ann Thompson, Co-CEO

What motivates you? How do you translate that when leading a team?

In October 2017, when the focus of my role changed, I had a significant perspective shift. For more than 10 years, I had been doing the research. I had the opportunity to train and come alongside other research practitioners in those 10 years, but last October I shifted to coaching and scaling research instead of being the doer. Instead of being motivated by seeing a great finished product that I got to do, I’m now motivated by seeing others empowered and equipped to conduct lean research with excellence. I’m motivated by getting to pass on the things others have taught me over the years. Herding Tigers by Todd Henry has been a really helpful resource for me in this transition in mindset.

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