Gratitude can open doors, build relationships, and take you and your business to where you want to be.
When Michele Bailey founded Blazing over 25 years ago, she knew it was going to be a different kind of business. Her strategic marketing communications company would stake everything on creating a culture that put people first.
Growing up, her family was always on the move. Michele went to five high schools in very different places from New York City to Haiti. Wherever she lived though, she made a point of trying to make the most of the limited time she had with her peers. Her early recognition of the importance of creating meaningful interpersonal bonds and paying it forward came to define much of her life and career.
After college, she joined an advertising agency and was offered incentive compensation if she hit her sales numbers. Much to her disappointment, each year, like clockwork, the goalposts were advanced making achievement of her sales targets and bonuses much more difficult. A consultant, recognizing Michele’s skills in relationship management, recommended she be assigned to all the agency’s most challenging accounts—and her compensation moved to straight salary. Deflated, but determined to move forward, this became a formative moment in her working life.
“I started tuning in to the experiences of others who worked in fine-enough business cultures but were not happy with or motivated by their jobs,” she remembers. “I learned that I wanted to be the kind of boss who would never forget to appreciate all the ways that employees devote themselves to their work and need to be encouraged and rewarded.” After all, how could one expect an unappreciated and potentially demotivated employee to put on their best brand face to customers?”
Michele moved on to find her own success, but it was not a straight path as a woman entrepreneur trying to create something meaningful and find her niche in a highly competitive field. Meeting the challenge of overcoming a deeply-ingrained ‘traditional’ workplace culture matched with the challenge of raising a young family was not easy. Michele knew that work-life balance was essentially a fairytale. The line between work and home would always be blurred. When she began sharing her experience with other women in similar situations, she found more than commiseration—she found strength in community. Her belief in fostering this sense of community translated to her focus on creating a business that sought to build honest and grateful relationships from within.
Today, as the owner of a successful brand and culture agency whose mission is to help clients build awesome cultures that drive exceptional marketing, Michele is a firm believer that gratitude is a currency. When it is exchanged, it fosters a “grateful company culture that boosts employee engagement, collaboration, productivity, and ultimately profit.” Today she is pleased to be sharing these findings with her clients and others through her proprietary My Big Idea® program. As Michele says, “showing we are truly grateful, building our relationships, and supporting our communities gives us energy and purpose”.
Michele’s boundless energy and vision have earned her both national and international recognition as a champion of women in business. The driving force that brought the first Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) chapter to Canada, Michele is currently the international representative on the Board of Directors of WPO. Blazing was the first Canadian organization to be certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) and is also a member of WEConnect International.
Michele has received both local and international recognition as a recipient of the WPO Mary Lehman MacLachlan Economic Empowerment Award (2013). In that same year, she authored It’s Not All About You, It’s About the Company You Keep, a light-hearted collection of stories about her road to entrepreneurship. Michele has also been recognized for her contributions to women and entrepreneurship through various other awards including the TIAW World of Difference 100 Award (2012), Oakville’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2010), the BMO (Bank of Montreal) Expansion & Growth in Small Business Award (2017) and, most recently, the WBE Leader Award (2020).