Think HBR

Let's Talk With Lisa Sutton Gardner

lisa colour
1. In a few words tell us about your current role.
Managing Director – Enigma
I get up every day to solve problems for my clients on how they can grow their business and sell more products to reach their goals. I’m also the leader of 60 talented creative people across both our offices in Newcastle and Surry Hills.
2. How have you reached this point in your professional life?
I started an advertising and marketing company in 1992. Over the past 24 years I have solely focused on growing Enigma and I’m as focused and challenged by that in 2016 as I was then.
My goal of growing regionally the largest and most creative agency in Australia has never changed. Today we have a team of 45 in our head office Newcastle and a team of 15 and growing in our Surry Hills offices opened mid 2014.
A combination of organic growth based on reputation from our work, referrals from our clients and a series of small and large acquisitions/mergers over the past 10 years and has been a deliberate and important part of our growth.
There have been many highlights and tough moments along the way, though I have never seen myself doing anything but what I do now, I really love it and I love working alongside the people around me. In some of my darker moments you may hear me say,”that’s it I’m opening a shoe store it’s got to be easier” … but I never have.
3. When you’re not at work, where can we find you?
At home or travelling to check out what’s new with my husband Philip and son Marshall. We undertook a large renovation of our home in Newcastle a few years ago so I love looking for pieces for the house and I always seem to have some interior decorating project on which
takes a lot of my personal time. Last year for instance we renovated just over 1200 sq. metres of space for Enigma in both Newcastle and Sydney and that took a lot of spare time outside of normal business hours (I’m still going…) Recently Marshall has taken up junior soccer so now you’ll find me on a soccer field at 8.30am every Saturday, so this slows you down a bit for the right reasons.
4. Where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration has always come from surrounding myself with more creative and cleverer people then me, it drives me forward. When I sit in a room and we work on ideas and concepts I am always blown away by the enthusiasm, energy and passion of the team we have gathered at Enigma. There is a massive energy the moment you hit the door each morning.
In my personal life my immediate family and closest friends are all very business focused and each have big ambitious careers and such passion for what they do. There is nowhere to hide.
I also regularly buy biographies on successful people – this year I have added to my bookshelf Donna Karan- My Journey, Diane Von Furstenberg – The Women I wanted to Be, Hegarty on Advertising – Turning Intelligence into Magic and just last week I picked up The Road to Ruin – on the Abbott & Peta Credlin partnership. There is always something to learn.
5. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in your field?
I’ve been lucky to have around me talented self-made and smart business people who have been more then supportive and interested to help me through some of the twists and turns of business. Growing the business out of a regional footprint into Sydney took a leap of faith, and I made sure I spoke to as many like-minded people I could prior to this decision in the spirit of getting it right.
Probably the best advise I have been given along the way, and I'm not sure if I was told this or I’ve just learnt it, is that the trick to getting where you want to go is to have a very clear vision of what the goal is and quite frankly go to work. Be consistent and patient and you will get where you want to go. I know it’s not sexy, but you can’t get where you are going without hard work.
6. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I’m a country girl at heart – it’s who I am. Born in the small NSW town of Balranald on the Victorian border, I later moved and grew up in the beautiful country town of Gloucester. Most of my closest friends today come from these years. I completed high school at Maitland Girls High and have spent my life since enjoying living and working in Newcastle.
7. How would you like to see the Hunter evolve over the next decade?
What a big question with the challenge of only 1000 words in total for this article.
We need to resolve our brand, who we are as a city, what we stand for and why.
There have been some passionate attempts at this over many years and we have made some headway. But a few energetic people and a local council budget can’t solve this one alone.
One of the biggest challenges is to resolve the relationship between Newcastle and its neighbouring cities. To be successful there can be only one client; one focused regional strategy and one clear brand.
I’ve been watching places like the Gold Coast, Adelaide and even recently Bendigo. They are all doing it well and it’s all about one brand and one vision.
When asked why Newcastle? I say well why not? I live in one of the most beautiful spots in Australia, surrounded by world class beaches, a vibrant community, great education and health care for my family, there is a fantastic creative community emerging, housing you can afford and I don’t sit in traffic more than 20 minutes a day! Wouldn’t you like some of that?
8. What’s your favourite Hunter restaurant/café/bar?
LURE. Wests Groups newest restaurant focusing of fresh seafood.
9. Are you reading anything at the moment?
Thrive by Arianna Huffington & The Captain Underpants series with
10. Do you have a favourite sport or team?
I live in a NRL household and can safely confirm the Newcastle Knights… 2017 here we come!
11. What’s the best line from a film you’ve ever heard?
“I’ll have what she’s having” the classic line out of all time favourite When Harry Met Sally.