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A standout in the idea business

See correction below.

In 1997, shortly before she landed an interview at Roberts Communications Inc. for an entry-level position, Katrina Busch tore her ACL playing indoor soccer. The Macedon native, who honed her competitive spirit by playing multiple sports growing up, went to the interview on crutches—and launched her career

“I was very memorable,” says Busch, 43, recalling that first interview.

Nearly two decades later, she is president of Roberts Communications. While her position at the firm has changed, her spirit has not.

“I’m the most competitive person in the world,” Busch says. “I want to win at everything.”

Roberts Communications is a full-service advertising agency that has been operating in Rochester since 1971. Led by CEO William Murtha, its clients include Xerox Corp., Lifetime HealthCare Companies, Univera Healthcare, ITT, Greater Rochester Health Foundation and Jewish Senior Life.

With $7.9 million in 2015 local gross income and 61 staffers, Roberts ranked seventh on the Rochester Business Journal’s most recent list of marketing communications firms. Five years ago it reported 68 employees and 2011 local gross income of $11.3 million, which ranked third.

“Right now (my focus) is ensuring that I’m building a management team who will help take us into the future,” Busch says. “We have such strong talent in that level. I want them to feel included (and) part of the direction of the company so that they’re living it right alongside me.”

Starting out
Busch attended St. John Fisher College, graduating with a B.A. in communications/journalism in 1995. During her senior year, she worked as an intern at Post Central, now called Content Central, a production agency that was acquired by Partners + Napier Inc. in 2013.

“I got to sit in editing suites and see that happen,” she says. “I got pop and lunch for clients when they came in; it was a great internship to be exposed to the media side of things.”

She also interned at the American Cancer Society. That internship turned into a full-time post for Busch as the organization’s income development and special events coordinator.

“I definitely liked being around campaigns that were going to try to make a difference in someone’s life,” Busch says. “And I also liked being around the people (and) liked learning different personalities and how to adjust how you speak, how you act based on who you are talking with. Those were some early-on skills that I was able to learn (that) I put into play every day.”

A year later, Busch started as an account coordinator at Roberts Communications.

“All I thought was I’m going to do anything and everything to learn all I possibly can,” she says. “I had heard that they had started in sports marketing and (that) interested me.

“I (also) learned client service. I felt that I had a knack for understanding people and understanding what they’re trying to say without them even saying it. Pretty quickly, they started putting me in front of clients and I had those opportunities to get direct input and then brief the creative team.”

In 2001, after four years at the agency, she left to join Eastman Kodak Co. as manager of marketing communications.

“I thought that it would be really cool to try—it was a great brand,” Busch says. “Why not? I really liked this client, but even as Roberts had a going away party for me I was looking everyone in the eyes, especially Bill Murtha, saying, ‘I’m going to be back.’”

Busch reported to Joanne Boyd, Kodak’s vice president of marketing, who now is director of global strategic accounts for Kodak Alaris Inc.

“She brought a level of strategic planning and creativity to our service and support team that we had never had before,” Boyd says. “Colleagues and peers really loved her tenacity and ability to drive team members to think out of the box and not go with the traditional way of marcom strategy and tactics.”

The Kodak experience gave Busch insight into clients’ day-to-day work and how it affects their business decisions.

“I had been on this side in my career, giving clients what they want, not truly understanding what their life was like and then I lived it,” Busch says. “I realized how there are so many other factors going on in their day-to-day that doesn’t necessarily relate to what we’re providing them. I felt it before, but then I lived it.”

Return to Roberts
In 2005, she returned to Roberts Communications as vice president and group account coordinator.

“It was like I was coming home,” Busch says. “It really was a different dynamic, different people, different environment, because things had moved along, but I felt like this was the right place for me to be.”

Busch made her intentions about her future known right away, she says.

“When we were sitting and negotiating and talking about me coming back, I said, ‘You know I’m coming back because one day I want to be president,’” she says. “If I’m coming back, it’s because I want to be a leader.”

Busch was promoted to president of Roberts Communications in 2014.

“One of the things that struck me from the get-go was she was a cut above,” Murtha says. “You see a lot of people just starting out and you kind of get a sense, when you’ve been around the business long enough, that they’re good people, smart people, trying hard, learning. But sometimes there’s (someone) that you go, ‘Wow, that’s somebody who has star capacity and capability right from the get-go.’

“She was a little sharper,” he adds. “The ability to learn and soak things up—she only had to see it or hear it and

walk through it once and she knew it. (She is a) very quick, facile learner who every day was learning something, every day was moving forward.”

Busch served as the lead on the company’s Xerox account, working directly with Jeannine Rossignol, Xerox’s vice president of marketing, for more than a decade.

“Katrina has always come to meetings or approached everything with incredible energy and always lots of ideas and different ways to approach a problem,” Rossignol says. “You can tell she loves what she’s doing because she always brings such fun and energy. It makes working with her so enjoyable; it’s infectious.

“She’s the kind of leader that people just gravitate towards,” Rossignol adds. “She’s that type that people just want to follow her wherever she goes. It’s a special kind of leader that can do that; not everybody can.”

As a leader, Busch enjoys uniting her team.

“I think not thinking you need to be in the spotlight (is important). Because a leader—the whole definition of that is you have a whole group of people who are following you. If you feel you’re the one in the spotlight, then no one’s following you, no one is behind you; it’s just you.”

Busch does not shy from the difficult parts of her role at the firm. “It’s a stressful job, so there will be days where people really look at you and they can feel your emotions and your energy, and it’s tough,” she says.

“In the business world, she’s a natural-born leader—she leads by example,” says John Quinn, Busch’s husband. “She also genuinely cares about the people she works for. She’ll do whatever it takes and she always goes the extra mile. She’ll ask for help when she’s blocked and she’s leaned on mentors as well. She’s not afraid to do that.

“She’s a perfect example of how you move up fast,” Quinn adds. “I think she’s taken that work ethic right all the way through; she’s the hardest-working president out there.”

Busch sees the value of every team member at Roberts Communications as she has been in multiple roles there—rising in several steps from account coordinator to senior account executive and then account director when she returned from Kodak.

“Without truly listening to someone, you can’t make a change or know what else to do. It’s more listening than talking,” Busch says. “Making sure that we have a common goal we’re all marching forward to is really important.”

A changing industry
The challenges of the industry today are different than when Busch started out. But now as then, it’s about keeping up, Busch says.

“Making sure that we were always the smartest people the clients could turn to and providing them new insightful recommendations—that was hard and that continues to be hard,” she says. “They come to you for ideas they can’t think of, so if you give them what they’re already thinking of, what are you doing?”

The marketing communications industry is both a passion and fascination for Busch, who marvels at where it’s been and where it’s going.

“The amount that marketing has changed in the past three years is more than it had changed in 20 years prior,” she says. “That is surprising and it’s challenging, so that’s where you have to rely on a team to be experts.”

These changes include individual customization, the proliferation of social media, and the need for clients to be helped instead of sold to, Busch says.

“The No. 1 core purpose of what we’re here for is to create powerfully effective work in unexpected ways,” she says.

Operating in Rochester has been difficult at times. Some potential out-of-town clients do not understand what this area offers, Busch says.

“It’s a hurdle to say, no, we’re not in New York City sometimes, but once we have the opportunity to talk with them, they really realize what we can do for their business,” she says. “There’s great agencies here. There are some that are not around anymore, some that have been sucked up by others, (but) there’s some really good creative talent in this area. I’m proud of it.”

Busch is involved in the community outside of work. In addition to spending time with her family, she volunteers for organizations such as the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association, Causewave Community Partners, and the St. John Fisher College Media and Communication Advisory Board.

Though she remains as competitive as ever, for Busch these days winning means helping clients to succeed.

“The thing that excites me most of all is client success,” she says. “We’re selling people’s ideas and that’s what’s exciting,” she adds.

Katrina Busch
Position: president, Roberts Communications Inc.
Age: 43
Education: B.A. in communications/journalism from St. John Fisher College, 1995
Family: Husband, John Quinn; sons Johnny Quinn, 12, and Billy Quinn, 9
Residence: Webster
Activities: Working on creative projects such as refinishing and building furniture, or sewing; watching and playing sports with her sons; and volunteering
Quote: “The thing that excites me most of all is client success. … We’re selling people’s ideas and that’s what’s exciting.”

7/15/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

Correction
The July 15 profile of Roberts Communications Inc. President Katrina Busch contained incorrect information. The agency’s clients include Lifetime HealthCare Cos., Univera Healthcare, ITT, Greater Rochester Health Foundation, Xerox Corp. and Jewish Senior Life.

7/22/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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