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Bossing It: Why Veronica Lombardo Is Taking the Road of Self Accomplishment


Alliance of Independent Representatives president and co-founder on releasing control, leaving what doesn't work and why transparency will keep you out of jail

Bossing It: Why Veronica Lombardo Is Taking the Road of Self Accomplishment

Veronica Lombardo is president and co-founding member of Alliance of Independent Representatives ('AIR'), a 501(c)6 non-profit trade organisation formed to create a collective voice for independent representation & management reps worldwide.

She is an LA girl, born and raised on the West Side. Veronica is a first gen American. Her first language was Spanish (she is half Chilean), then English, French and Italian. 

Veronica got into advertising in 2002. She worked as a below-the-line talent agent at a few shops around town before starting her own which she had for 10.5 years. She opened VLM in 2015 with the vision of cultivating new and lasting relationships, not only for her rostered clients but for herself too. Every email, every phone call, every meeting, every screening, are all done with the intention of building a long term connection with people and learning something new about them and herself in the process, the icing on the cake.

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership?

Veronica> Are we talking in life generally, or in business specifically? Because as a Virgo, being a leader has always come naturally for me. 

LBB> How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be?

Veronica> It’s the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears story, isn’t it? You have to experience many beds before you know what works for you. We’ve all worked for people with great strengths and just as great weaknesses. The key is to pick up what works for you and leave what simply doesn’t. How you conduct yourself in business, how people feel when they speak with you, it’s all about being an ally, a partner, and maybe even eventually a friend.

LBB> What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership?

Veronica> Forming the Alliance of Independent Representatives (A.I.R.) with fellow rep-in-law, Ann Asprodites in March, 2020. A backlash to Covid. When the house is on fire, you react, you don’t stand across the street and take photos. When the shut-down happened Ann and I went into action, gathering other independent reps across the nation to join a weekly call in support of one another by way of information sharing, resource support, and hype duo. 

From that time to today, A.I.R. has continued to evolve, having formed as a 501(c)6 trade organisation and tackling some ongoing pain points in our industry which we are determined to bring solutions to.

LBB> Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so how did you work towards it and if not, when did you start realising that you had it in you?

Veronica> Definitely. As an only child, a kid of immigrants, and daughter of an entrepreneur, I was shown that nothing is handed to you. If you want something in life, you have to work for it. Growing up in LA I had access to favours but I chose to take the road of self accomplishment instead. From leaving a nine year career in the retail space where I climbed to manager and was being offered to oversee multiple stores, to choosing to take a pay cut in order to work toward a career path I had wanted since childhood. I started at the bottom as an office manager, worked my way up the ladder moving around to a few shops before I had the opportunity to start my own company. I’ve been an entrepreneur like my father was since 2008. Set goals, be accountable for your actions, know more than your competition, have a strategy to get to that next level and don’t bother yourself with the noise. Just get it done. 

LBB> When it comes to 'leadership' as a skill, how much do you think is a natural part of personality, how much can be taught and learned?

Veronica> Honestly, I think it’s innate to a certain degree. I do, however, believe that if someone has the will there is a way. It just means they may need to put in a little more time and commitment to get there. For those natural born leaders, they will find a way to the surface and hopefully they are the ones who create an environment for others to follow in their footsteps. Leaders should not be dictators, they should be groomers and foundation builders, examples for those with aspirations to lean on and look up to.

LBB> What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them?

Veronica> This one’s easy! Releasing control! I’m a Virgo, a little OCD, like my things my way kinda girl so when I chose to hire my first employee (social media manager) it was a struggle to release some of my ways of doing things. Being a leader or boss shouldn’t mean you are a know-it-all, in fact what makes a leader or boss great is creating an environment where those coming up the ranks feel safe and comfortable to speak their minds and maybe even teach you something along the way. I have to say, since working with my social media manager I now know the tricks and trades of Instagram and have given her the reins to push me outside of my comfort zone.

LBB> Have you ever felt like you've failed whilst in charge? How did you address the issue and what did you learn from it?

Veronica> Oh gosh of course. I mean, I’m only human. Failure however is part of evolution. You can’t be great without also experiencing some level of failure. I hold high expectations of myself which tends to bleed onto having that same level of expectation on those around me. So my 2023 lesson is to invite constructive criticism with an open mind and listen to how what I say, how I react, and what I expect from others maybe should be adjusted in order to be a better leader and partner. Everyone hears and digests what you say and how you say it (tone) differently and oftentimes how it’s digested is not how you may mean to express it. Everyone’s different so the art of managing and being a leader or boss depends on understanding human communication continually adapting in order to get the results you want to achieve.  

LBB> In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach there? Do you think it’s important to be transparent as possible in the service of being authentic? Or is there a value in being careful and considered?

Veronica> 100%. Transparency will keep you out of jail. That’s not to say you don't have a filter between your brain and your mouth. This industry is small, word gets around, everyone knows someone who knows that person who knows you. Playing it safe, only gets you so far. You have to be willing to take risks, while being aware of the consequences you may face. The beauty of humanity is that we are all different. We come from different backgrounds, have had different life experiences, and have different likes, dislikes, fears, adorations. The better one is at being themselves, being honest, asking for help when they need it, or speaking their mind with an idea the stronger the atmosphere of the community.

LBB> As you developed your leadership skills did you have a mentor, if so who were/are they and what have you learned? And on the flip side, do you mentor any aspiring leaders and how do you approach that relationship?

Veronica> My dad. He was an Italian immigrant who came to this country with nothing, not the language or support from family whatsoever. He met my mother, also an immigrant, started a business, a family, and eventually built a manufacturing business that became one of the most well respected leather goods factories in the United States. He showed me that anything is possible as long as you create a path for yourself, to never give up, to do it better and smarter, and to never forget where you came from. Through all his success he maintained close bonds with the sewers and cutters in the factory, went to their kids' weddings, and always treated them with respect. Be honest, take no shit, work hard, create goals, treat people fairly and kindly and have fun. He was an example of the kind of leader and entrepreneur I wanted to be. 

LBB> How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters?

Veronica> Well seeing as I’m a party of one, at VLM I’d say this is a better suited answer for A.I.R. where I continue to lead the causes that affect our independent reps and our rosters of production & post companies globally. Building anything from the ground up is never easy, especially when it’s something new. Reps traditionally have been competitors who keep to themselves or have had strategic alliances. With A.I.R. Ann and I challenge that behaviour by welcoming all independent reps to come together under one banner in the interest of the greater good. We have a core group of reps who see the value of being part of the association and understand that to change processes, create better accountability, and implement new systems that benefit our day to day operations as reps, we have to put our hands on top of each other. There’s a time to compete but there’s also a time to ally. That time is now.

LBB> This year has seen the industry confronted with its lack of action/progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader how have you dealt with this?

Veronica>As a woman, a daughter of immigrants, and half Latina I am always seeking more diversity across my roster at VLM. I currently represent three women owned companies in kroma digital cosmetics, TinyGiant, and Tessa Films. Four immigrant owned companies in FELLOW, Gradient Pictures, Picture North and TinyGiant, once again. Between my rostered shops diversity among the directors, editors, and VFX artists is countless. It’s a beautiful thing. When I consider a new company, diversity across the board is paramount.

Where I’d like to see more diversity is among the rep community. It is true that there are more women than men in this field, but in terms of racial diversity that is where we are lacking. With A.I.R.’s Diversity in Talent committee one of the many goals is to create a system to introduce the trade of representation to the next generation. Inform folks interested in entering entertainment then drill down to advertising and even another drill down to agenting/ managing/ representation that this craft exists. Not only is it a niche sector of our industry but it is a vital one that agencies, brands, production, post, all rely heavily on at some stage of creation to production. 

LBB> How important is your company culture to the success of your business?

Veronica> Since the pandemic folks are still slow to getting back out for meetings, lunches, dinners, whathaveyou. So I’d say that is a huge part of the sea change I as a rep that I have had to adjust to. For the last three years not being able to host a screening, travel for sales trips, or throw a mixer has changed the way I’ve had to stay relevant. Today it’s more about being, well, an ally. I know I’ve used that word a lot but to be an ally means to be more than a resource, it means to be, well a friend. Someone who listens, who advises, who has your back. I like to think I’m a good friend and ally to my Ad Fam, as I call it because that’s what you all are. I’ve been in the business for 21 years and counting and just like family, there are times we lean in and times we lean out but we know we can always rely on one another when we need a hand. 

LBB> What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey?

Veronica> Consumption of information is power. I rely on my databases, keep informed with the trades and LinkedIn, feed my satiation for visual substance from Instagram and get my kicks with Fishbowl. I’ve been reading about some of the great managers and agents from the Film business in Bernie Brillstein, Mike Ovitz, and Ron Meyer, the bedrocks of talent management. Take what speaks to you, leave the rest on the table, and always be true to yourself. Oh and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Without the mat, the camaraderie, physical and mental focus and exertion the daily stresses of business would have the better of me. Have an outlet that makes you sweat. Get your heartbeat up. Challenge yourself. The sense of accomplishment is a fantastic high. 

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VLM, Thu, 02 Mar 2023 08:57:27 GMT