I am someone who says, ‘you gotta dream, you gotta go after it and you gotta get it done’.
My name is Lea El Houssami and I am the most recent addition to the NP Digital Marketing team as the Social media coordinator.
A few months ago, I had the immense displeasure of going through the job hunting process – the stress of finding a career, a company to support you, and a position from which you can grow; the pressure was on.
As you can see, I have decided to join NP Digital Marketing, a four-year-old Digital Marketing startup, under the leadership of Nathalia Porras. Throughout my entire job selection process, I was very struck by Nathalia, her accomplishments, and the potential I could see in learning from her – can you sense abit of a girl-crush?
I recently sat down with Nathalia, decided to turn the tables, and to interview her about NP Digital Marketing’s journey, female entrepreneurship, family, and more.
Can you please start by telling us more about how NP Digital Marketing came to be?
In a nutshell, I leaped into entrepreneurship after doing my MBA.
About 13 years ago, after completing my Bachelors of Commerce, I pursued a job opportunity in Dubai. Back then, Facebook was only 2 years old, there was the talk of eBay just starting, I think we were still on our first iPhones, and the digital stratosphere was nowhere close to where we are today.
My first job was in advertising, and while we were working on such big campaigns, there was no talk of digital marketing at all – it was unbelievable!
I knew I wanted to be in Marketing and I felt like I needed creativity to be a part of me or surround me even if I wasn’t a creative person myself. Marketing had a way of enriching my life, so once I had that exposure in Dubai, I knew I wanted it to be my long term.
I decided to return to Montreal, began working in Communication and Fundraising for the McGill Faculty of Dentistry. I kept looking for that one thing that was gonna make me happy in the long term. I had a sense that it was digital marketing because I could tell that the marketing industry was going to continue evolving, and I wanted to be a part of that.
However, I came to the realization that I did not have the experience or the knowledge needed to make that leap.
That is when I took matters into my own hands. I decided to quit my job, take the GMAT, and start my MBA. It was scary – especially considering that I had two young boys at home and I wanted to stay married! [laughs]
That year was pivotal. I took the time to study and to understand what I wanted to do next. In my quest of conviction, I researched the market, the industry trends, and I traveled to Australia to meet founders of numerous digital marketing startups that have made it big – I wanted to cover all my bases.
When I graduated, that’s when I took the leap into entrepreneurship. That was the moment I decided that I wanted to start my own business.
So who is Nathalia Porras exactly?
I am a very very driven person. Every time I am handed a project, I am always thinking about how we can complete this, not only successfully, but in a manner that exceeds expectations. I do not believe in being mediocre, nor in saying ‘I cannot do this’. There is always a way to accomplish your goals, that is what always keeps me going.
In the beginning, I had no clue how to do Google AdWords, anything website related, or even social media! Everything I would see, I would go home and learn. I am someone who says, ‘you gotta dream, you gotta go after it and you gotta get it done’.
Make a plan and go ahead and do it.
When did you decide that NP Digital Marketing will become an agency?
It actually just became an agency on its own. At the start, it was just me, myself, and I. I was focused on consulting and strategy, nothing more. However, by the time I got my third client, people started asking me if I could do more. Yes, they wanted my strategies, but they also wanted someone to implement and execute them.
Since I did not have any resources, I knew that I had reached the point of capacity and that I now needed to bring someone to help me. I think that was the point when it turned into an agency – and I began thinking of it as one – it was no longer just me.
What do you consider the strength of NP Marketing, or yourself more specifically?
NP Marketing’s biggest strength is our ability to create strategies that tie things back to the client’s main business goals and objectives. That it is our competitive advantage; from my experience so far, I have not seen any other agency asking a client about their goals and creating a strategy that is designed to accomplish these goals.
We clearly reflect the goals in the strategy and bring it into execution. Our strategies are more than simply having a beautiful image, but knowing how is this going to get our clients more patients, and how is that going to be changed into a monetary value.
Another strength I have is my network and my ability to foster it. I have a strong background in Dentistry because of my previous work with McGill and the faculty of Dentistry. Therefore, I knew every dentist that graduated from McGill, as well as how they worked, they thought and what their needs were.
And if you could pick one thing to improve as you grow?
At the moment, I believe that we must be constantly be pushing the creative boundaries. My vision is for NP Marketing to be the combination of a consulting company and a creative agency so that they are not in silo but cohesive and married to one another.
At the moment, I know we have strategy under our belts but I want the creative to be on par with that and even surpassed it, if possible.
What would you describe as your philosophy of running a business?
Trust everyone you work with and let them be independent. I cannot stress how important it is for me to be able to empower those that I work with. I do not want them to feel like they cannot bring new ideas to the table, and I am certainly not a know-it-all. My goal is to bring the best team together and to bring the best out of each person.
My philosophy is to find each team member’s strength and aid them in channeling it while finding their weakness and helping turn it into a strength.
There are a lot of opposing mentalities on this, but I believe that you must always aim to surround yourself with the best people possible. You cannot avoid hiring certain individuals because you want to be the best person on the team – you need to bring on the leading candidates because the better people you hire the better the company.
In that case, what do you need to see in a candidate to know if they are best?
To start, you need to look at the candidate that has all the qualities of the position you are looking to hire for. ‘Best’ might not be the ideal word to describe their characteristics – I prefer to use ‘Potential’. You need to be able to find someone with that potential to grow, to be strong, and to learn.
No one is perfect, which is why a ‘wanting to learn’ and an ‘I’m going to figure this out’ attitudes are key to look for when building your team. It is all about thinking three steps ahead and knowing you have the ability to tackle any challenge that may come your way.
What is one word that you would use to describe your ideal team?
When you are not running NP Digital Marketing, what do you do?
Can I say nothing? [laughs]
Let’s see… At the moment, I’m watching a Spanish TV show called Velvet. I also love podcasting, I am actually a massive podcasting fanatic, and I love spending time with the family. What primarily takes up the majority of my time, however, is planning the next family trip.
I start planning trips for the family the moment we step off the plane from the previous one! I love spending as much time as possible with my husband and our children, and our little trips have become so important to me.
Oh, and I keep telling myself that I need to go to the gym.
Can you give me an example of a typical day at work, as well as a typical day at home?
At work, I kick off my day by checking HootSuite to see what kind of content is going out that day and if I notice anything that’s not okay or needs to be changed. Then I head over to Wrike, to see my to-do list of things for the day, who has me booked for the day, and which tasks or deadlines need to be worked on.
Then the time just flies!
Between monitoring and responding to questions – thankfully, we have a lot of proposal writing nowadays so a lot of back-and-forth on proposals – or going out to meet clients, I barely have room to breathe and the day just slips by.
At home, our Saturdays are usually dedicated to various activities that the kids have, whether it be ski school, piano lessons, basketball, or anything in between.
Once these activities are done – and my kids are absolutely exhausted! – we head back home to cook and have a relaxing afternoon where we watch a movie or going to our friend’s house for some wine or paella.
Sunday afternoons are usually reserved for the larger family, my sister and my parents, where we all get together for some family time with lots of wine and lots of good food!
If I can describe who I am, I would say I’m a foodie. I absolutely love food. My husband and I have been exploring a lot of new restaurants here in Montreal, but not the bigger known snobby restaurants. I like to explore the underground new restaurants, they are so many hidden gems around the city that not much people know about!
Does having children who are old enough to understand ‘what daddy does’ or ‘what mommy does’ affect the way you set goals or values?
To be honest, my sons are like my little motors. There are no better motivators in the world. They definitely affect the way I am as an entrepreneur and as a manager. Although they are boys, it is very important to me that they have a strong female role model in the house.
They understand the concept of working hard – funny enough, they actually cannot fathom the idea of someone not working .. ‘What do they do then?’. I want them to see that you are never more than an arm’s reach away from your dream, but that you need to dedicate your efforts to achieve it.
In my house, nothing gets half-assed, whether it be studying for the kids or working for us adults!
Going back to NP Digital Marketing, can you elaborate more on why you have focused specifically on dentistry and the dental world?
Dentists in my point of view, are still in an infant stage in terms of their marketing. They have just begun to evolve and see the business opportunity that is social media marketing, or any other type of digital marketing.
Apart from the fact that I had a very strong network of dentists, I saw that there is a potential in the market where NP Marketing can help these dentists grow while growing alongside them ourselves.
Another other reason from my side was the strength of the healthcare industry as a whole. As one of the only solid industries, that actually constantly grow regardless of other market trends, healthcare is definitely a market that I want NP Marketing to expand into.
Which brings me to my next question, do you see yourself staying in Dentistry or do you want to change focus as you grow?
Both. I do not think that they need to be exclusive of one another. Right now we are experts in dental marketing in Canada – but I want that to become ‘the experts in North America’ or ‘the experts worldwide’, eventually.
However, I also would look to expanding into Healthcare marketing, and the most natural next step for us would be private healthcare, so Surgery, Optometry, or even Veterinarians and Dermatology. Any Healthcare sector that requires a push of marketing to get new clients for the services is a potential on our radar.
It’s also important to remember that, while we are the experts in dental marketing, we have also had film and animation clients – TeleFilm and Toon Boom Animation, from the get-go, so that is definitely another route we can go down.