No Commercial Breaks

Smart and driven, Renetta McCann heads one of the nation's leading media companies

brilliant media professional,” says Jack Klues, head of Starcom MediaVest Group, the holding company for Starcom Media. (The French media company Publicis recently bought both companies.) “Renetta is a tremendous manager of human resources. She also has an eye for rising stars and anticipates problems and can offer solutions before they become insurmountable.

“When you get into a management position of the magnitude of Starcom North America, you just don’t realize how much each one of your days is about putting out fires,” says Klues. “And they come at you fast and furious without warning, and it comes down to your ability to juggle multiple problems. A lot of people are jugglers, but what sets Renetta apart is that she can come at problem 25 with the same unflappable nature and same style she does with problem number one.”

In one instance, a servicing issue with a client looked as if it might cost the company the account. “I literally dropped everything, asked if I could come see them and find out what they weren’t getting, what they needed, and then went back to being an extreme advocate to make sure they got what they wanted.”

Mary Martin-Jarnegan has known McCann for almost 25 years and has worked as her executive assistant since January 2001. “She’s always straight to the point,” Martin-Jarnegan offers. “And with all the pressures, I’ve never seen her express anger.”

“Oh she knows when I’m angry,” McCann says later on over lunch. “But I really do think it’s my responsibility to control myself. I’m really focused on solving the problem. If I’m losing my cool, that rarely solves any problem. Not to say that I don’t feel any emotion, but OK, a white woman just dissed me by calling me articulate, but I’m going to put that right over here for a minute because I need to make her understand that if she wants my money, this is what she has to do.”

We dine at one of McCann’s favorite local restaurants, Smith & Wollensky, where on most occasions McCann will order a hamburger. “It’s my favorite food, and these guys do a great job. Hamburgers are easy to mess up,” she muses. “They’re harder to prepare than people think.” Our discussions range from film — she thinks The Godfather offers the greatest lessons about business — to French aristocracy — Marie Antoinette, she says, was terribly misunderstood. “I don’t think she ever said, ‘Let them eat cake.’ Her real downfall is that she was clueless. She didn’t read the signs that were around her.”

It’s easy to see that McCann deciphers the world a little differently. And it’s her unique and unrestricted perspective that contributes to her business successes. “I didn’t set out to be a CEO,” she says. “In fact, when I started in this business, it wasn’t an option. Years ago the media department was just that — a department within an advertising agency.” Leo Burnett is the agency where McCann got her start. In 1978 she worked as a media assistant

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