Jess Ostroff and Gini DietrichBy Gini Dietrich

I feel like Jess Ostroff needs no introduction.

The founder of Don’t Panic Management, Jess and her team are the virtual assistant, community managers, managing directors, and master organizers to a good majority of the digital elite…and me.

She lives her mantra—don’t panic, we’ll save you—in a very professional and fun way.

There have been many business trips where things, um, don’t go exactly as planned and Jess has come to my rescue.

She also handles the minor (alright, major) freak outs with grace and a great sense of humor.

In fact, her Facebook status the other day highlighted her favorite email from a client, “I feel bad for you because I’m an idiot.”

Here’s the thing: Though it didn’t come from me, it easily could have.

She’s A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and if you ever need a virtual assistant, you should call her. But she, herself, can’t work with you. She’s mine. You can work with her team.

So you get to know her and her philosophy, I asked her to sit on the Spin Sucks Inquisition hot seat.

What is the Biggest Mistake You’ve Made in Your Career?

I learned very quickly that references are gold, and they shouldn’t be treated as anything less.

As I wrote recently on this very blog, reputation building is key to a successful career. This is especially true now that everything is online.

I made an unfortunate hiring decision based on one reference and a fun interview, but it turned sour when I realized the experience and work ethic wasn’t there.

I’m always thinking about what clients and colleagues might say about their experience working with me 10 years from now.

Would they give me a glowing reference?

Would they say that they genuinely enjoyed working with me?

My biggest mistake was thinking too much in the present, and not focusing on the implications of my hiring actions and what it might do to my, and ultimately, my company’s reputation.

I’ve completely changed my HR practices to reflect the future happiness of my clients and colleagues.

What is One Thing about Yourself that Would Surprise Most People?

I’m afraid of everything. I mean everything!

I’m the kind of person who goes to sleep and goes over the ways I might disable an intruder because OF COURSE some stranger is plotting ways to kill me at this very moment.

Have I watched too many dramatic TV shows? Probably. I still can’t walk into the subway without imagining that fateful scene in House of Cards.

People might be surprised by this because I travel a lot and try crazy things (like trapeze!).

The truth is, since my first haunted house at age nine, I’ve been trying to find ways to overcome my fears. That haunted house left me with horrible anxiety problems for years after it was over, and I made a deal with myself to never be scared like that again.

In my adult life, these fears manifest in different ways.

Fear of taking the next step in my business.

Fear of building something that matters.

Fear of embarking on new relationships.

But the feeling of fear remains the same, and by always pushing myself to try new things, I am slowly but surely overcoming that fear of the unknown. Each time I step off a ledge (literally or figuratively), I become less afraid.

If You Could Achieve Everything You Ever Wanted in Life, but Had to Die 10 Years Sooner, Would You Make that Trade?

YES. Absolutely.

I always think of that movie, Thelma and Louise, where they choose to drive off the edge of a cliff instead of being caught and put in jail. They died young, beautiful, and happy. I like to approach life that way. Not the cliff-jumping part perhaps, but the YOLO, carpe diem approach.

One of my worst fears is getting old.

Silly, I know, but I’d much rather live a full life while I’m young than make it to 100 and spend my last days in a hospital bed peeing from a catheter and forgetting my family.

That’s not to say that I’m not planning for retirement (do entrepreneurs get to have that?), but I’m also not making careful decisions in my youth with the distant “maybe I’ll do that someday” idea. I’m very much a here and now person, so this question is a no-brainer for me.

What Industry Advice or Practice Would You Most Like to Cry Foul On?

There are so many!

The one that’s in the forefront of my mind right now is the whole content marketing myth.

Some people think that content marketing ends with the content.

They spend all their resources developing it and publishing it and then… it sits there.

No one shares because no one sees.

There’s a reason it’s called content MARKETING. There needs to be a strategy behind promoting the content, not just producing it.

Sometimes it’s hard to convince people of that.

What is the Best Book You’ve Read in the Past Six Months?

Definitely the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

Just kidding.

I have to say The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

Not only was it a fantastically creative story, but I also felt a strange emotional experience while reading it that I haven’t felt from any book in a long time.

For me, books usually serve one of two purposes: To educate me or entertain me.

The Goldfinch did both, but it also made me laugh, cry, and go into deep thoughtful places of wonder.

Diving into the main character’s mind was fascinating.

That’s a unique quality for a book, especially in this age of information overload.

I’m not surprised that it won the Pulitzer!

Why Does Spin Suck?

Why does spin NOT suck??

Oh, I could go on about this, but I think my first answer says a lot about my values and stance on this in general: You only have you, and if you’re not you, who are you?

Sounds very Dr. Suess, but it’s so important to remember.

In this age of authenticity and trust, you only get one shot to make people understand who you are, why you’re awesome, and ultimately, why they should trust you and your business.

As soon as you start pretending or acting or embellishing things to the point where they’re no longer true, you’re portraying someone or something that isn’t you.

That, when found out (because you WILL get found out), will ruin you.

And once you break that trust, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever get it back.

Where You Can Find Jess Ostroff

Jess and her team have added content production, content management, and social media marketing to their bailiwick.

To do that, she’s built her own brand through those very tactics.

She can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram, Slideshare, on the Convince and Convert blog, on the Don’t Panic Management blog, and blogging here.

Go forth and make new friends!

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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