2021 Women in Print and Promo: Deborah Lanigan, Proforma Mega Marketing Solutions
Vice President of Sales and Business Development
Proforma Mega Marketing Solutions, Tampa, Fla.
An unexpected phone call turned out to be a career-defining moment for Deborah Lanigan, then a single mother working in human resources for the hospitality industry. On the other line was a friend who ran a small, large-format company. She needed a teammate with passion and organization to drive the business forward. In her mind, Lanigan was that person, so she offered her a partner role. Becoming an entrepreneur gave Lanigan the flexibility she craved.
After selling this company, Lanigan relocated from Jamaica to Florida, where she established herself as a sales representative with a large billboard portfolio. In 2016, Proforma, a top 50 distributor, approached Lanigan with an opportunity to join its network as a franchise owner.
Lanigan describes herself as “laser-focused” on selling, and it shows. By the end of her first year at Proforma Mega Marketing Solutions, she went from no clients and limited knowledge about promotional products to over $70,000 in sales. That number grew by 857% the following year. In 2019, she exceeded $2.5 million in revenue, earning her a spot in Proforma’s Multi-Million Dollar Club. She is one year away from earning her Ph.D. in career and workforce education, which she hopes to use to bring the career academy program to Jamaica. But that won’t interfere with her sales goals, she said.
“With the impact of COVID, and then many of my clients being in the hospitality industry, my company took a big hit,” Lanigan acknowledged. “So, literally, all I do is sell!”
What Brings Her Joy Professionally and Personally
In work, I love what I do—I love the unpredictability of it, I love being able to use my creativity with my clients and give them ideas they may not have thought of for their projects, campaigns. In life, I love impacting the lives of the people around me in a positive way. I love stretching people to do things they never thought they could do. I work more hours than I like to admit, but what motivates me to do that is that when my company is successful, we all benefit, and I see my team achieve their WHY.
Her Proudest Career Achievement
I would say that the growth of my Proforma franchise has been impressive. I started in 2016 with $0 [in] sales and a two-year non-compete, and I grew my sales to $2.7 million in 2019. In 2020, with COVID, our revenues were just shy of $2 million, and this year, although we are off to a slow start, we are so laser-focused that I expect that we will reach 2019 sales by year end. Why am I proud of that? I would never have dreamed that my business would have grown so quickly, but I proved to myself that hard work, perseverance, focus and building a very cohesive team works. Together we can move mountains!
On Working in a Traditionally Male-Dominated Industry
To be truthful, it’s not something I thought about when I joined. Proforma is led by an incredible woman, so we have always had a strong female influence through our company. In addition, I am not one to focus on what the norms are in anything I do—I literally, jump all in and make it happen. When I attended my first Proforma Convention, it was then that I realized there are significantly more men owners there than women. But beyond this, I have never experienced any real challenges as a result. I find that the women are more competitive with the other women, and the men are oftentimes more supportive.
Her Job Advice to Women
Jump in. We are the advertising medium that gives companies the best bang for their spend, and we need to push that information everywhere. The opportunities for what we can sell are endless, and this industry is always exciting. You never know what project your client is going to throw at you next.
Who Inspires Her
My mother. In the past few months, she has reminded me of the power of love and connection. The nurses thought she had three weeks to live—we brought her home, and she has found a new lease on life. Sometimes we forget how these simple acts of love and taking the time for others can make a difference. Not just with the ones we love, but with the members of our team, and with our customers.
How She Motivates Team Members
Show them love, stretch them, allow them to fail, give them the confidence to make good decisions and safeguard a positive company culture.
What She Learned About Herself in 2020
I learned that it’s OK to slow down and take some time out to do nothing. It’s not something I have ever done before, so the forced slowdown was good for me.
Her Upcoming Goals
Professionally, I am determined to close 2021 with revenues beyond 2019 numbers. I want to grow my sales team to take some of the pressure off me to generate most of the sales for the company. Personally, I always want to lose 20 pounds—it’s the story of my life!
What She Wants People to Know About Her
I love to work hard to create success not just for myself, but for everyone around me.
How She Recharges
I love to get outdoors and exercise, go for a walk, listen to an audiobook and zone out for an hour. I am not much of a drinker, but I love a good cup of hot coffee.
The Best Book She’s Recently Read
Some people think he is too much, but at a time when I really need to pour it on, I found stumbling upon Grant Cardone was perfectly timed. 10X baby!
2020 has been a tough year, and 2021 is getting off to a slower start than I think many of us expected—but with laser focus, and never losing sight of the goal, we will all get back to levels of success we never dreamed we could have achieved. I believe that in my core, and I am very excited for the ride back up. Nothing inspires me to greatness like a challenge!
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.