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Unique Lessons Learned from a One-of-a-Kind CEO

Posted by Maslow on 26 Apr 2017

After working in production in NYC, Aspen, Co., and San Francisco, Linda Maslow moved to Washington, D.C. in the late 1970’s, hoping to pursue further work in the television industry.

Instead, she revolutionized it.

Frustrated with the lack of even one media staffing agency in the D.C. metro area, the former producer knew she had discovered a niche – staffing for video professionals – and founded Maslow Media Group in 1988. The company provided the first centralized resource for production companies to find professional production freelancers and crews, and help freelancers find their next gig.

Over the next 28 years, the then woman-owned and -operated Maslow Media Group grew into one of the industry’s most respected payroll, staffing, crewing, managed services, and video production companies, not only in D.C., but throughout the nation. With a client roster that boasted everyone from international broadcasters to Federal government agencies to major corporations, the company made a distinct name for itself by providing qualified video professionals along with other professional services, a.k.a. “script-to-screen, and everything in between.”

Linda and her team did – and continue to do – it all.

On May 10, she will take a step off screen, when she retires as CEO of the company she founded.

“Due to her influence – this industry has changed,” said Senior Production Manager Joan Fiddle-Ferder, who, at 21 years’ tenure, has worked alongside Linda the longest. “When I talk to people out in the field, I always hear, ‘Wow, that Linda Maslow – she gave me my first job...’ She really has impacted this area a great deal. And we’re still here. It’s amazing. So many production companies around the country have folded over the years. And we’re here. And people, I think, feel comforted by the fact that we still are.”

There are many great business lessons to be learned from Linda’s years of experience, including those spent at the helm of the Maslow Media Group. Here are four of the most impactful:

“Go With Your Gut” 

Linda was a P.A. in NYC at WNEW TV on The David Susskind Show in the late 60s. She followed that with a gig as an assistant film editor at Time Life Video.  In Aspen, she opened her own film company, and started a cable network which is still in business.  Later, in San Francisco, she honed her skills as an editor and producer working for a variety of television stations.   When she finally headed east, however, she discovered an entirely different environment.

“I didn’t know anyone. I was new in town, I was a single mother, and I needed help.  Seeing an unmet need in this town, the vision dawned on me:  There was a need for a company that specialized in TV production staffing. It had to be easier to find jobs for other people than myself. With a specialized agency, clients could come to ‘one of their own’, to find exactly the kind of person they needed.  So, I reinvented my life from an entertainment industry job-seeker to an entertainment industry job-finder.”

Her instincts were on point.

“The freelancers in town came from all over the D.C. area to sign up. MMG was the first of its kind, anywhere. Trying to sell my untried concept of a TV staffing and payroll company to the production heavyweights in D.C. was daunting!  But then it came together and the rest is history.”  

Utilize Your Resources and Environment

What Washington, D.C., may have lacked in feature film and commercial production, it made up for with a tremendous market that Maslow Media Group serves to this day.

“The Federal Government was a huge source of production business for a young media staffing agency,” Linda said. “I visited with so many of these agencies and met cool people – most of whom came out of broadcasting, like myself, and were now running government media departments. This opportunity wouldn’t have happened if I was in a different town.  There were also large networks in D.C., like National Geographic, Discovery, PBS, and more.  Like Los Angeles owns features, and New York owns commercials – D.C. owns documentary filmmaking and training videos.”

Always Be Ready to Adapt

In 1995, everything changed. The Internet came into its own, forever altering the way people live, communicate, and do business.

“We had been the means for people to find people. But once the Internet hit, the phone didn’t ring so much anymore.  I thought, ‘What if we put our candidates online, and say, “Call us if you’re looking for these kinds of [professionals]?”’ Our marketing efforts got readjusted to become Internet based.

“My timing was spot on for the payroll business, since the IRS reclassified almost all production contractors into W2’s in the mid-1990s. Suddenly, clients needed protection.  MMG’s ‘employer of record’ Payrolling service grew exponentially as new compliance regulations came down the pike. While we always were and always will be a production, staffing, payroll, and crewing company, with the technology shifting, and job positions being redefined, most of our jobs now have an IT element.

“Today, we have to be sophisticated about the new skill requirements from our clients, because jobs are changing.  That’s why I’m loving my new team. They’re tech savvy, they’re sharp, and very sophisticated in online marketing. It’s so nice to see how much it’s evolved and it’s incredibly rewarding to see the company continue to grow.”

Lead By Example

Linda offers simple, yet sage, advice to this new crew that will chart future courses for Maslow Media Group.

“Treat your clients like gold,” she said. “Never rest on your laurels. Communicate often. Arm yourself with good managers, and turn mistakes into solutions.

“MMG truly was borne out my need to find my next gig. Who knew I would make a career out of finding jobs for thousands of other people," Linda continued regarding the founding of the company.  “The unintended consequence of starting Maslow Media Group has been the number of people we have helped in our 28 years of business.  It is a proud legacy.  Many of those early applicants are now our clients. I truly remember every single person who signed up with me back then, and I am grateful to D.C. for helping my company become the success that it is.”