The name Peggy Marion may not immediately sound familiar but you are no doubt familiar with her work. From her work as a copy editor in trade magazines such as Variety, to the countless individuals with HIV/AIDS she has served, to her trailblazing work in both the NGLCC and NGLCCNY, Peggy has set an unrivlaled standard of compassion, contribution, and community. Please join me to learn more about this generous and devoted role model.
Damon L. Jacobs: Tell me about yourself and your work with Rennert.
Peggy Marion: I am the Director Of Marketing at Rennert, a position I have held here for six years, and prior to that I was in the Translation Department. But I started my career in Journalism with the Buffalo Evening News and the Daily News Record, a men’s wear trade publication. I developed a freelance business and worked for some pretty cool publications. Variety was my favorite. I did not interview movie stars, but I got to spend almost the entire day talking about movies for work purposes. I came into this job with Rennert after doing a lot of volunteer work in AIDS organizations. Somebody I met through an organization later became a business associate. He introduced me to a good friend of the president of the company, and that is how I made this transition.
Damon L. Jacobs: That reinforces how giving to others and making connections can enhance our professional lives.
Peggy Marion: That’s true. I was doing the volunteer work because I felt it was important and significant. And, I enjoyed the people who were volunteering with me. I met quite a lot of nice people while running a dinner for people with AIDS. Every minute I have ever donated to doing a kind act has not only been satisfying, but ultimately has come back to me.
Damon L. Jacobs: Tell us about Rennert.
Peggy Marion: Rennert is a language services company that started with just one room and the company owner who taught Spanish. It eventually grew to two buildings in New York, a site in Miami, and a partner school in Istanbul. We are also opening up in Panama. We have a large ESL (English as Second Language) school that attracts students from all over the world. We get students who believe in learning the nuances of language and living in New York City.
Damon L. Jacobs: One of the distinctions I noticed about Rennert was its emphasis on arts and culture as educational activities. It seems to take learning outside the classroom and into the streets.
Peggy Marion: That is an accurate description. That is our reputation globally. We have a dance sequence, film sequence, fashion, music, photography, culinary arts. Once you attract that core group of creative people, that in turn attracts people who like to be socializing in creative groups. I loved being in Journalism, but this is my favorite job. You get to make such an impact on people’s lives.
Damon L. Jacobs: New York is so filled with linguistic diversity. English is often spoken in different ways in different boroughs. Do your students learn the various dialects?
Peggy Marion: In addition to the classes we have workshops. Some of them tackle slang. Some of them cover hip-hop, song lyrics, and then there are certain terms that are difficult to pronounce for certain ethnicities.
Damon L. Jacobs: Rennert was one of the first businesses to receive a Diverse Supplier Certification through the NGLCC. How did that come about?
Peggy Marion: We've been certified for about four years now. In New York, two years.
Damon L. Jacobs: Why was it important to you to be certified?
Peggy Marion: It is important to support the community. Also, it’s a great marketing strategy. You already have something in common with the people you are networking with. I knew this was a loyal business clientele.
Damon L. Jacobs: How long has Rennert been certified?
Peggy Marion: We’ve been certified for about four years now. In New York, two years.
Damon L. Jacobs: How has it benefited Rennert?
Peggy Marion: It has helped in three ways. First, from a business perspective, I have met people who have given us business. I, in turn, have given them business. So jointly we’ve exchanged a couple hundred thousands of dollars in business. Second, the annual NGLCC meeting is not only enjoyable, but you get to meet and sit down with the diversity representatives from many major corporations.
And the third way is that it has helped us to focus on community relationships. In this way it helped strengthen the concept of giving back to the community for Rennert. We had only done it before in spurts, now we do it consistently, and that started with NGLCC. For example, we raised money for the AIDS Walk by sponsoring thirty-five students from around the world. We also lend space to a Bellevue Project providing English lessons for immigrant survivors of torture. We contribute to various arts and community organizations, and our students volunteer for Housing Works and a church soup kitchen. It made us focus on community service and made us look at our hiring practices. Four of our seven top managers are gay. It was always known and informal before, but then we became much more sensitive to diversity.
Damon L. Jacobs: So the Certification has really impacted Rennert on multiple levels?
Peggy Marion: Yes, it has definitely been an advantage.
Damon L. Jacobs: What would you say to a business owner now who is not really sure if a Diverse Supplier Certification is right for them?
Peggy Marion: I would first say do your homework. Look to see who the corporate sponsors are. Attend a few NGLCCNY meetings. And most importantly I would attend the annual conference. You can meet corporate vendors, see what products they are looking for, and have a great time. It’s the only trade show I’ve been to that plays dance music. I think it’s a worthwhile investment to attend that conference. You will walk away with more contacts and a more realistic perspective of what you can attain through the NGLCC.
Damon L. Jacobs: What advice would you give to someone just joining NGLCCNY about maximizing the experience and profits of being part of this organization?
Peggy Marion: I would definitely have them go to the events, start collecting cards, and get to know people. Then I would start to think about using your own procurement as a way to bolster and show loyalty to our community. By procurement I mean buying products and services from another company. For example, I have moved 95% of our printing to Maurice Danielson’s company “MAD,” and he is a leading supporter of the New York Chapter. We have a lot of graphic design and web services we purchase, and I have shifted those purchases from many different suppliers to an umbrella supplier, OmniDesign, which is in Washington DC, and designs the NGLCC annual dinner brochure. Both people in those businesses, Eileen of Omni, and Maurice of MAD, have mentored me and opened opportunities for me. When I attend meetings I always attend knowing what services and products I’m going to need down the road in my division. I can then call upon people within the chapter, or in the national organization.
Damon L. Jacobs: What is the most important lesson you have learned that to help you thrive professionally?
Peggy Marion: Have integrity and have commitment to your job and to your clients. That will help you when Murphy’s Law prevails.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to grief and loss, HIV related concerns, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at Shouldless@gmail.com. An initial free consultation is offered to NGLCCNY members, or people who are referred by NGLCCNY members.