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January 21, 2019 SHOP TALK

The new Vision

Photo | Brad Kane Julia Becker Collins, chief operating officer, Vision Advertising

After slowly taking over more responsibilities from founder Laura DiBenedetto for 2.5 years, Julia Becker Collins in December assumed control at Vision Advertising, two months after it moved from Worcester to Westborough.

OK, I have to start with this. What are your cats' names?

Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope. Not everyone gets the joke.

You were born in New Jersey and moved to California. How did you end up here?

I transferred to UMass Amherst from Sonoma State University in California. I met my husband at UMass. I like living here. I like that Massachusetts has all four seasons. Most of my family lives in California and thinks I'm crazy, but I like having the colder months.

What were you doing before Vision?

I spent 10 years working in nonprofits: fundraising, communications, marketing, event planning, major gifts. You name it, I did it. Big nonprofits. Teeny, tiny nonprofits. All in the Boston area. It was great, until it wasn't. You burn out. Plus, the commute from Marlborough to Boston was tough.

Also, I am the founding president of the MetroWest Women's Network. It now has 2,400 members.

How did you take over at Vision?

I have been doing day-to-day operations with increasing responsibility since I came on board two years ago. At the time, Laura was in the C-suite, and I was more middle management. Then, Laura had been in strictly sales and leadership for about a year and a half, purposefully out of day-to-day operations. I took over all the ins and outs, the good, the bad and the ugly in mid-December when Laura announced her semi-retirement, at age 36.

She is still involved in an advisory capacity, and we make some financial decisions together. I deeply appreciate I have someone to help me, because – I'm not going to lie – it's lonely at the top.

What are your goals for the company?

I have been growing the company for two and a half years and plan on growing a lot more. We have been creating new systems and strategies – the boring, behind-the-scenes stuff – to lay the foundation where we can add staff and clients. By moving to this new office in Westborough, we have the room to grow.

How do you like Westborough?

It is really fantastically located for us. We have clients in Boston, MetroWest and Worcester. It is easy for clients to visit us and for us to visit our clients.

How will you grow the company?

We've always had clients in hospitality and professional services. We are going to grow both sides of that, including by offering more services. We now offer more holistic marketing and business support, and comprehensive and custom marketing plans. Before, we used to be based more on products like website building and social media. We now think of ourselves more of a marketing solutions company instead of a plug-and-play provider.

I want to grow mindfully and purposefully. I don't want to grow for growth's sake. We need to stick to what we do well. I want to empower my staff to make decisions, to tell me when I'm wrong. I definitely don't want to be the smartest person in the room, because that means I hired wrong.

Did you always want to run a marketing agency?

No. I wanted to be a lawyer and actually went to law school. Then I left. But my approach now isn't that far off. I really believe in objective truth and not subjective truth. I am very logical and very fact-based in my decision-making. It is that lawyer way of thinking.

I am just generally excited. I love this company, and we have a really strong staff and a strong way of doing things. I love the impact we can have on people's lives. Marketing produces real results for companies.

Other than hanging out with Ron and Leslie, what occupies your free time?

I do competitive obstacle-course racing. Right now, I'm training for the Spartan Ultra, which is a 30-mile race in New Jersey with more than 60 obstacles.

Every Saturday, you can find me training on Wachusett Mountain.

Do you have a least favorite obstacle?

The spear throw. It is very difficult, and if you don't make the shot, you have to do 30 burpees. There are words I can't say in the press about that obstacle.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Editor Brad Kane.

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