“Ann Raider: Staying the course” by Saelen Ghose
It’s a quiet morning, still dark outside. A light is on, in an office, where someone is sitting. Thinking. Creating. Problem solving. Looking for every angle to propel her company forward into an uncertain sea, littered with the remains of companies who have lost their way in one way or another. This person summons all of the knowledge she’s acquired over her long and storied career as a businesswoman and entrepreneur for a single purpose: to make her current company successful. This person is Ann Raider, CEO of inStream Media.
When I found out her office was in Wellesley I was thrilled to not have to deal with the traffic and parking hassles of driving into Boston. (Sure, I love going into Boston, like most people, but preferably in small doses.) This choice of location was intentional. Raider’s team lives out on the 128 belt, all relatively near the office. She wants them happy, because a stress free team means a more creative and productive team. Which is also why she has an open door policy to her personal office, where a carefully placed candy jar invitingly sits—in case anyone needs a “pick-me-up” during the day. Or an excuse to talk.
Ann Raider’s entrepreneurial journey began at an early age. “I come from a family of entrepreneurs,” says Raider. “My grandfather was a single store supermarket operator. My dad ran an institutional baking company, and my uncle had a candy company.” Growing up in an environment where people ran and operated businesses independently led Raider to business school at Michigan State where she graduated in 1970. Which begs the question: what was it like for a woman at that time to be part of a male dominated business world?
“Fifty percent of my business school class wouldn’t speak to me,” says Raider. “They weren’t sure why I was there. When my roommate and I went out to look for jobs we had to interview with far more companies than the rest of our [male] classmates because most places didn’t think we were serious about getting jobs. They didn’t think we were serious about our careers. Back then women had to work longer hours to show that they could get the job done. We had to prove we were more effective than our counterparts because we were women.”
Forty years later there’s no doubt about Raider’s ability and staying power. Preceding her current position as CEO of inStream Media (www.instreamglobal.com)she served as CSO (Chief Strategy Officer) of Vertis Inc. from 2005 to 2007. There she oversaw Vertis’ goal to help clients more effectively market and advertise their products. Before that she was SVP (Senior Vice President) of sales and marketing at News America Marketing. She also co-founded CCMI, a leading international loyalty-marketing firm which later sold to News America Marketing. The list of her accomplishments goes on and on. Stand down “doubting Thomases,” as she calls the people who once questioned her passion, smarts, and longevity.
Right place. Right time. Right Message. This is one of inStream’s slogans. The marketing services company helps other companies interact with consumers inside stores and out. “We distribute targeted messages for retailers and national advertisers through multiple touch points. The foundation of our company is printing on the front of a receipt, a message with a call to action and an offer.” I blurt out, “Like CVS does?” It’s the only company I can think of at that moment. She smiles. “Yes, only we do it with graphics.” But more importantly, Raider says, inStream is agnostic—an interesting choice of words. “We can point the message to a printed receipt or an e-receipt. We can point it to a mobile phone, we can send it to a website, or we can send it via email. We can do any of that.”
The founders of inStream envisioned messages displayed with graphics on every receipt in America. So when Raider was brought on board as CEO in 2008, she identified that as the core business. So far, inStream has printed several billion receipts. But Raider realized the path to ultimately making a purchase is in constant flux. Customers might research a product online and then purchase it in the store. Or they might see something in the store, and then call an 800 number to get it. “If they’re a digital shopper you might give them a different message than an in-store shopper,” says Raider. “In essence we’re in the content management business. We know how to send messages, but it’s more about identifying how customers would like to be talked to.” Perhaps a few words should be added to the inStream slogan: Right Person. Ann Raider. It seems inStream is also good at identifying talent.
Amazingly enough, Raider still has enough energy to give back to the business community even after the long hours she puts in at the office, and at home. She is committed to helping young female entrepreneurs succeed in the business world. She was one of the twenty founding members of The Network of Executive Women, an organization devoted to the advancement of women in the retail and consumer products industry. She is also a guest lecturer at Babson Entrepreneurial School.
The only thing missing for Raider personally is a better balance of work and fun, which is difficult to do when running a company. “The work environment at inStream is intense because everyone cares about doing the right thing,” says Raider. “A lot of us work very long hours. We want the business to be successful. It’s like raising a child. There’s an obligation to grow this person.”
Well, raising a child is a 24 hour a day endeavor, and Raider understands the commitment it takes to be successful. Long after many of the doubting Thomases have retired, or burned out, she is still at it, light on, solving problems, thinking creatively, meeting goals, and preparing for what’s next.
Contact Saelen for memoirs, ghostwriting, and obits at: email@example.com.
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