Linda Girard has faith in the groove – in what you know in your heart, what you feel in your gut. Faith in the direction life takes you.
Girard knew, for example, that Internet marketing was going to be huge. She didn't know quite how that hugeness was going to take shape in her life, but she knew as she pushed toward technology at various marketing jobs that it was the future.
"I didn't know exactly how I was going to get there, "she said. "But I found my way. I found the right groove."
Girard is co-founder of Pure Visibility, a three-year-old Internet marketing firm that specializes in search engine optimization and tracking pay-per-click advertising. Pure Visibility grew by 250 percent over last year, and in March the National Association of Women Business Owners named Girard one of the "Top 10 Women in Business in Michigan."
"That was so exciting," she said. "It was really a complete surprise. I'm honored; NAWBO is a great organization. I really hope it inspires other women to start businesses. I think women have a lot to offer."
Girard and business partner Catherine Juon are Pure Visibility's yin and yang. Juon, the catalyst, is very process-oriented and handles operations. Girard, the visionary, is a forward-thinking generator of crazy ideas – not the least of which was starting a company and convincing Juon to join her.
"Sometimes my ideas can get really wild, and she can pull them down and make sure they fit into the process," Girard said. "We know what we're good at and what we don't want to do. We focus on strengths in this company."
A Michigan native raised in Commerce Twp., Girard fell in love with Ann Arbor the summer before she enrolled at Eastern Michigan University. Plans to move to Chicago evaporated.
"I knew I had to live here," she said. "A month later I made sure I was in school, and it was that easy."
Although she and her family now live in her husband Garth's hometown of Chelsea, Girard still radiates enthusiasm for Ann Arbor.
"I love the community. I feel like I can walk down Main Street and I know half the people I see," she said. "It feels very secure to me, even though I read articles about it not being (so secure). I feel safe here."
She also loves the trend toward tech-related businesses in Ann Arbor and wants to see more, more, more of them. Pure Visibility rents the entire fifth floor of the First National Building at 201S. Main, and subleases space to three tech companies - Blue Newt Software, Vague Innovations and Procuit.
Girard's own career path has been a study in optimization. Take the best stuff from each situation and use it to make the next thing even better. That applies to every experience, not just the corporate work Her leadership style, for example, grew out of the three years she spent working at Mongolian Barbecue when she was in college.
"The main focus there is on teamwork and energy," she said. "Those values stayed with me, and I brought them with me to this company. It's really all about employees and making sure the team is in sync and all helping each other."
With degrees in psychology and telecommunications from EMU and a persistent faith in herself, Girard went to work in marketing after college. After dabbling in Internet marketing and landing a job doing search engine optimization with a small web firm, she started a freelance Internet marketing business.
"It was easy for me to get into agencies and help them out and there were a lot of small businesses that needed help," she said. "It was perfect at the time. I'd just had a child; she was a baby and I could stay at home."
Perfect then, perfect now. Thanks to Pure Visibility's success, Girard's husband, Garth, now stays home with their daughter. And while the business side of Girard's never life completely shuts down, she draws some firm lines around her family time. Work can wait, at least until naptime.
"I'd be kidding if I told you it wasn't a 7-day-a-week job," she said. "…Any spare moment you can, you (work). But it's because I love it. If you want to grow it as fast as we want to grow our business, you have to work really hard and be passionate about it. If it comes easy, it's not worth it."
Amy Whitesall is a Chelsea-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the Ann Arbor News, the Detroit News and Seattle Times. She is a regular contributor to Metromode and Concentrate.Photos:
Linda Girard Looking into the Future-Pure Visibility
Linda and Her Ever-present Pineapple-Pure Visibility
Linda Girard with You Rock Awards-Pure Visibility
Linda at Work with her Pure Visibilty Partner Catherine Juon
All Photos by Dave Lewinski
Dave Lewinski is Concentrate's Managing Photographer. He enjoys wearing waders.