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“Always wear clean underwear.”

It’s a great piece of advice, but not one you’d expect to hear when asking the CEO of a digital marketing agency if his mother had a regular phrase or saying that’s stuck with him throughout his career.

As it turns out, the advice we receive from mothers never expires—not even when we wear a tie and create a highly successful career for ourselves.

“Obviously, you know, you always want to wear clean underwear. But at the end of the day, you also want to make sure you're clean. Everyone around you is clean,” explains Cameron Saunders, CEO of AlteredPixel Digital Marketing. “And I kind of see that as, don't burn bridges. Don't ever destroy anything with anybody else. Always wear clean underwear.”

As Cameron points out, it’s all about how we choose to look at our moms’ advice and apply it to our careers.

So, Dozie Anyaegbunam and Stephanie Hood, Editors of The CMO, asked 10 marketing leaders how their moms influenced their careers and approach to leadership. Whether it was through how their mom approached life and work or the sage words of advice that stuck with them, read on to discover all the unexpected ways that moms have made an impact.

On How Mom Approached Work

If you were to describe your mom in just three words, what would they be? Stephanie’s choice is 'caring, creative, and brave.' Here’s what our guests said:

Kendra Rogers, CCMO, Featurespace: She was a pretty incredible woman. She was limitless, vivacious, and honest. She was always kind, but she was always honest, and people knew where they stood with her.

Gabriel Scaglia Dias, Senior Marketing Director, Extra Card: I would say resilient, fearless. Even though she is all of that, she also has a lot of empathy.

Becky Brooks, Head of Marketing, Visor: Definitely confident, detail-oriented, and strategic. If you don't have the courage or the confidence to even believe that you belong in the room, then you're not going to be there.

Lauren Vilips, Growth Manager, Frich Money: Empathetic, strong, and motivational. Never let anyone tell you that you're not good enough for something. If you have a passion and you have this gut instinct, just go after it no matter what anyone says.

Cameron Saunders, CEO, AlteredPixel Digital Marketing: I would say caring, driven, and critical. I say critical in the nicest way possible because the criticism she would bring on me and what I was doing in my own life helped shape me, and I thank her every day for it.

Brianna Doe, Founder & CEO, Verbatim: Loyal and hard-working. If there was an adjective for those who worked harder than ‘hard-working,’ that's what she would be, but we'll go with hard-working. And driven. 

Jason Moriber, VP, Communications, Medtronic: Resilient, determined, and supportive. It's always good to know that there's someone in the world who will understand if I have failed at these things and who’ll say, ‘Well, that was that, let's get back up and let's try again.’

Nick Bennett, Co-Founder, TACK & ClubPF: Caring; she always puts people before herself. She's also definitely smarter than she makes it out to think. She kind of portrays herself as, ‘Hey, I'm just a regular person.’ But once you talk to her, you realize she's incredibly smart.

Rob Carpenter, Marketing & GTM Strategy Lead, ButterDocs: She's content but pushes, so I'd never catch her too concerned about life. She's pretty simple, but not in a bad way. She's just a really straightforward person. I've never met anyone more generous with themselves.

Gabrielle Garofalo, Founder of Gabrielle Garofalo Inc.: Vivacious, creative, and determined. It's funny; the apple doesn't fall far, you know?

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On Mom's Impact On Their Career

Dozie’s mom used to say that money was a by-product of the value you provide, and it’s been a heuristic for how he’s approached work and his career so far. For everyone else, here’s how their moms impacted their careers:

Kendra: I was raised to be a good listener and interested in other people and their stories. My mother taught me and everyone around me to believe in ourselves. She always said, ‘You can achieve anything you put your mind to.’

Gabriel: She has been involved in every step of my career, every movement I’ve made. At eight years old, she would say to me, ‘Okay, you wanna try to make your own money? Here are some oranges. Go to your neighbors and sell them.’ That is how I started my career.

Becky: One of the main things she taught me is, ‘No matter what you do, do it with rigor and excellence. Be diligent and have great integrity with whatever you're doing, even if it's not your forever job.’

Lauren: She has this management style that is stern and direct with her team and her direct reports, but she also gives grace, and when life happens—which it undeniably does for all of us—or situations arise, she is always there for her people. And that's something I really relate to and really respect.

Cameron: Her work ethic, when she was focused on something, she never let it go. And she wouldn't go to sleep if she didn't accomplish her task for that day. That has been instilled in my brain. I mean, sometimes I don't sleep at all if our tasks aren't getting completed or if certain websites are not done in a timely fashion.

Brianna: I've never met somebody with such a strong work ethic. She takes great pride in her work, and she never sees any task as too menial. I remember watching her; it inspired me as I went through school. I would ask myself—how can I show up today in a way that I'm bringing my best self and doing my best work? I'm honoring the commitment that I've made to this, right? And then, in my career, it's been the same thing. 

Jason: I would say that throughout my career, I took a lot of risks because I knew it was going to be okay. I reinvented my career multiple times based on opportunity, what felt right, and what had meaning. And I don't think I would have done that without her influence.

Rob: I learned that initiative is so important. No one else is going to be responsible for your success and what you want to accomplish in life, and there are too many things out of your control sometimes.

Gabrielle: Even though she spent the majority of her adult life being a mom first and a wife first, she could pivot to anything she wanted to do with ease. Her adaptability is amazing, so that was something super cool she taught me. In the last five or six years, as I continue to pivot and bob and weave and create more of what my career is becoming, I've really reflected deeply on how she was so innovative and fearless and also did it from a place of joy.

On Mom's Best Words Of Advice 

When your mother asks, ‘Do you want a piece of advice?’ It’s a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no, you’re going to get it anyway.

Erma Bombeck, author of Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession

Kendra: “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.” Being kind, generous, and sweet is sometimes better than the alternative. And I think that in business, it can be hard to stay on the honey side. It can be easy to move sometimes into bitterness. And my mom was amazing. She battled cancer, and there was never bitterness in that. There was always real joy and opportunity and just a sense of like, it is what it is, and we'll move through it.

Gabriel: “Own it, whatever that is.” That translates into you're young, you're going out at night, and then you're like, oh no, I'm not gonna work tomorrow, I'm gonna call in sick. That would never happen in my home. Like, you celebrated, you had your good time, that’s amazing. But at 6 AM, you're up, shaved, and go to work. That was always something very clear to me. And I appreciate that a lot.

Becky: “There's no use in worrying because anything worth worrying about you'll never see coming anyway.” I think people worry because they feel like it gives them a sense of control over an outcome, but it really doesn't. And some things are going to be left field that you don't have control over. Knowing that you got this, like that you can figure things out if need be, is the best preparation you can have.

Lauren: “Be nice to those on the way up. You might see them on the way down.” Remember your roots and that we all start somewhere—even the Founder or Vice President of a company. No matter your position or your title, everyone starts somewhere. So, always remember that and treat everyone with kindness because the world is unpredictable, and you never know where your career might take you or what might happen.

Cameron: “If somebody is a cheater, they're always a cheater.” At the end of the day, it's actually converted more into the business world because I've done business with people who have cheated on their spouses. I never thought anything of it, and then it transformed into them cheating on me in the business world.

Brianna: “The truth is an offense to man but not a sin to God.” I've been told throughout my career that I'm very direct; it's intimidating, and I need to tone it down. So I actually have that phrase written on my mirror because it's just been really impactful and reminds me that if I speak the truth, but I speak it kindly, compassionately, and respectfully, I'm not responsible for how people take it. I'm only responsible for how I communicate.

Jason: “Radical Acceptance,” it is what it is. Don't try to fight it. Don't try to deny it. Accept it entirely. This radical acceptance has always stuck with me. If I'm in a meeting, if something happens, we're going to accept this fully, live in that moment, feel the feelings, and bathe in it. Then we're going to look up, see the horizon again, and figure out what's next.

Nick: “Don't be afraid to have people point fingers at you.” People are always going to want to take you down, say you did something wrong, or blame you for something. But don't get involved with all of that.

Gabrielle: When I feel less than capable, she tells me, “You amaze me. You amaze me with all you do and all you take on, all you're striving for, and the way you live your life. You're so courageous.” I believe, especially for the coach part of me, that she couldn't say that to me unless she felt the same way about herself.

And To All The Mom's Out There...

Kendra: I want to express my sincere gratitude to all the mothers out there. It is a hard job, but it is also a beautiful job, and I think it has such an impact.

Lauren: As kind as we tell everyone to be to each other, share that same kindness with yourself. It's so easy to overlook the good things that you're doing. It's so easy to focus on what you might not have done as well or what you can do better. So it's really important to be almost selfish in celebrating what you accomplish and the good that you do for others.

Gabrielle: Believe that you are worth it enough to dream as big as you want and be graceful and gentle with yourself along the path. Being a mother is the hardest and most beautiful job on the planet, and it is impossibly challenging. Love yourself enough to prioritize yourself the most. 

Your Turn! 

Go call your mom. Give her a hug. Send her flowers. Do something. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, from all of us at The CMO Club.

If you enjoyed this article and its wise words of advice, be sure to subscribe to The CMO newsletter for even more expert insights, straight to your inbox.

Stephanie Hood
By Stephanie Hood

Stephanie Hood is an experienced marketing professional and Editor of The CMO. With nearly a decade spent as Marketing Manager at Discover Holidays and Executive Editor at VIVA Lifestyle & Travel, she built her career leading editorial and marketing teams and strategies that turn six-figure budgets into seven-figure profits. She now enjoys connecting with the world's top executives to learn their secrets to business success, and shares those insights right here with her community of like-minded professionals. Curious what she’s uncovered? Be sure to sign up for The CMO newsletter.

Dozie Anyaegbunam
By Dozie Anyaegbunam

Dozie Anyaegbunam is the Senior Editor of The CMO, digital marketing firepower for SaaS pioneers. He's a marketing strategist with years of experience in Marketing, Communications, Ecommerce, and SEO. And has worked across verticals ranging from software to edu-tech, apparel, and F&B, leading teams at B2B SaaS startups, global multinationals, and the public sector. He’s the Founder & Host of The Newcomer’s Podcast featuring immigrants and their stories of moving to a new country, and he’s currently producing a documentary on the immigrant’s experience.