“I am responsible for nurturing a culture where people understand what’s expected of them, where they can flourish personally and professionally, and where they intentionally share their talents to reach shared goals.” - Ben Markens
As President and CEO of The Markens Group, Ben will be the first to say that TMG employees don’t work for him, but with him. It’s Ben’s community-first approach to business that fuels our company and encourages team members to bring their best selves to work each day. “I am interested in creating community,” Ben says. “We are on a journey together, one where I see our teammates and clients collaborating to reach a better (enhanced) future.”
When Jennie and Ben Markens founded The Markens Group thirty-two years ago, they set up shop in their home––a computer, a desk, and a dream. Over the years, Jennie has been instrumental in hiring our best talent, shaping the company’s vision and culture, and adding the artistic flair we’ve come to know and love. (Jennie does all of the wonderful staff sketches you see on this very page!) While always connected to the business, Jennie’s primary career was in clinical social work. She practiced as well as taught graduate students.
Currently, Jennie serves as director of our largest client’s New Generation Leaders initiative where she co-facilitates discussion among people who are advancing into leadership positions, often within family businesses. “I help new leaders manage change, which can be emotional,” she says. “Business occurs in the context of complex relationships.” We can think of no one better to work in this capacity. A good listener, a warm presence, and an unflappable temperament––Jennie is a role model to many.
Outside of work, Jennie loves painting portraits and landscapes, birdwatching, and volunteering for local schools as well as arts and environmental organizations.
Vice President Finance and Administration
Sandy smiles when she recalls her childhood days playing “office” at her small desk, piled with accounting course materials and sample documents that she’d found discarded behind a local business near her home. Fast forward to adulthood: Sandy is living––and loving––her childhood dream. As the Vice President of Finance and Administration, Sandy oversees all accounts, both inhouse and those contracted by associations. On a day-to-day basis, Sandy is a multi-tasking guru. When the accounts reconcile at the end of the month and the year, you’ll find Sandy with a special twinkle in her eye. “Those are my favorite days!” she says. (Only Sandy can make number crunching sound like a cause for celebration.) While Sandy is exacting, adhering to all policies and procedures, she always brings a sense of warmth and camaraderie. One colleague remarks, “Sandy presents her work in a compassionate way that makes the accounting process feel human.” High standards and a friendly outlook make Sandy an excellent fit at The Markens Group, and she agrees. “I feel like I have found a home here,” she says. When she’s not working, she likes to travel, binge on Netflix, and work on house projects with her husband, Tony.
Vice President Marketing and Strategy
A consummate and caring leader. A marketing powerhouse who stops at nothing to achieve results. A mentor, a dreamer, and a strategic thinker, Emily serves our clients with foresight and focus on every step on the path toward success.
For every client campaign she oversees, Emily aims to curate an experience that emotionally and strategically connects the audience to a brand, down to the smallest of details: How does a web page make a visitor feel? How does the paper selection for a newsletter add to the sensory experience? Emily’s fierce commitment to excellence demands a lot from her team, and she often pushes her colleagues out of their comfort zone, igniting their creativity. That’s another reason we value Emily: she’s committed to nurturing the growth of others.
Emily attributes her work ethic to growing up with an entrepreneurial father and two older brothers whose shenanigans taught her to stand up for herself. “If I put my mind to it, I can do it,” Emily says. The proof lies in the pudding––Emily’s leadership in rebranding clients has brought forth substantial growth in association membership, often engaging young professionals in the field, as well as bringing new clients on board. Outside of work, Emily similarly curates high-end experiences––albeit it culinary ones—for friends and family. Word on the street is that her daughter Sienna has become quite the little sidekick sous-chef. Talent clearly runs in the family!
Vice President Operations
Focused. Dedicated. Driven. Kate Smith is a force to be reckoned with. As our VP of Operations, Kate’s go-the-extra-mile attitude ensures that all of our clients are happy and that our work has surpassed their expectations. Kate oversees the membership and event operations of every association we serve. She’s also our lead event planner. Ask attendees what makes our conferences so exceptional and you’ll hear about programming, community, and feeling welcomed with open arms. Kate is the driving force behind setting the bar so high. Her work ethic stems from her desire to make the world a better place. “I believe in spreading the widest influence for good and leading by example,” she says. “Our challenge is to improve our communities, both locally and globally, every day.” In her spare time, Kate volunteers at the Dakin Animal Shelter. Lucky are the furry friends who receive the attention Kate brings to everything she does.
Vice President Communications
Brian is a persuasive storyteller and an agile communicator. Creative and intuitive, his skillful use of language allows him to craft unique and consistent voices for our association and non-profit partners. A master of all things communications, Brian is known for his strategic messaging and thoughtful planning; he looks into the future, arming us with communication plans for the best-case scenario and any bumps along the way.
As our lead editor (Oxford comma, please!) and overseer of collaborative pieces, Brian has a knack for churning out consistently compelling content. “There’s so much behind-the-scenes work and thought that goes into our marketing and communication pieces,” he says. “Sometimes it can take days to find that one perfect word or phrase.” (Brian admits that his best ideas often come to him in the shower.)
A balanced leader, Brian holds the team to the highest standards while infusing the workplace with a healthy dose of fun. His contagious laugh is a reliable destresser when the assignments pile up. Outside of work, Brian creates collage art, practices mindfulness, and crafts short stories––all of which confirm our theory that his creative mind truly knows no bounds.
Director of Membership and Programs
Michelle Everard is experienced and comfortable at the helm. She’s directed educational programs around the globe; she’s ventured to destinations like Egypt and Namibia for leisure. That said, her philosophy on achieving success is no surprise: plan ahead and be prepared for the unexpected. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic Michelle flexed her ready-for-anything muscle by introducing new communications technology that kept our team on course. Today she leads crucial client projects like educational programming, membership drives, and Board/committee work. She’s also our in-house expert on strategic non-dues revenue development. “My goal is to contribute to The Markens Group programs in a way that exceeds clients’ every expectation,” Michelle says. Outside of work, Michelle volunteers at the local library and loves to explore the world with her young son, Elliott.
A hearty laugh, a creative soul, and a collaborative spirit. These are just some of the reasons we love working with Irene. From managing large-scale projects to creating eye-popping postcards for clients, Irene gets it done. One hat she wears is that of account manager, making sure clients’ needs are met on time and with excellence. She’s also our resident graphic designer. Websites. Magazines. Social media. You name it. What’s her favorite part of working at The Markens Group? “The teamwork,” she says. “We’re a family.” At home, you’ll find Irene cooking up a storm (channeling her inner Polish grandmother) and being an aunt extraordinaire to four-year-old Lego master, Bentley, and his new baby sister, Penny.
Senior Account Manager
Complex problems require creative problem-solvers. Whenever we need a fresh pair of eyes with an experienced lens, we look no further than Tessa O’Sullivan, our senior account manager. With over 25 years of experience in the industry, Tessa takes on new challenges with gusto. She oversees some of our largest projects, plans events, and serves as executive director for two of our client accounts. Tessa is known for her spunk, with one co-worker describing her as a “spark” that lights up the room with belly-laughs, tall tales, and nuggets of wisdom she invents on the spot. Where does Tessa’s dramatic flair take her outside of work? To all things theater! She plays historical characters at Halloween events (in real cemeteries) and writes her own screenplays to boot. With all that talent, it’s no wonder she’s a star amongst The Markens Group cast.
Born into a close-knit Italian family, Lauren grew up in a house full of aunts and uncles all swapping stories over pots of steaming homemade polenta. Lauren’s personality is as warm and colorful as the family from which she comes. Her vivaciousness shines through everything she creates at the Markens Group. From blog articles to press releases, Lauren’s work communicates positivity and growth, motivating and inviting our clients to engage with their members and move their organizations forward. As someone who once founded her own magazine that espoused diverse opinions, Lauren appreciates that the Markens Group works within a framework of open communication, collaboration, and accountability. Outside of work, Lauren maintains a poetry blog, attends live music shows, travels, walks her dogs, and supports animal shelters. If she weren’t so busy, maybe we could convince her to make us some of that homemade polenta. We can only hope!
Described by a co-worker as “the kindest human being you’ll ever meet,” it's fitting that Beth is often the first point of contact for office visitors as well as clients and members in need. Event registration, website credentials, inquiries of any kind––if a member needs help, Beth is there with a smile. Our clients have come to expect the warm and reassuring service she provides each and every day. And if that’s not enough, she’s always thinking about our team, too. Beth is known to dash off on bakery runs––just to make everyone’s day a bit brighter. The office is sweeter when Beth is around. Recently, Beth bought herself a road bike. “Every time I take a ride,” she says, “it feels like I’m on a vacation.” Three cheers to that because if anyone deserves a vacation, it is Beth.
People often wonder how The Markens Group runs like a well-oiled machine. It’s no secret to us. Our behind-the-scenes expert, Kyra attends to the finer details of our projects and then runs through them again with a fine-toothed comb. Does a client prefer to be called “Steve” rather than “Steven”? Kyra makes sure everyone knows. Is a client’s mailing address different from their billing address? Kyra had it on the records yesterday. Known as a “do-er,” Kyra is always ready to dive headfirst into any project at any time. She’s also not afraid to do the heavy lifting, literally, when she packs boxes of materials for conferences and makes sure they end up in the right hands. “Helping the members of our association clients get ahead in their profession is rewarding to me,” she says. When she’s not working, Kyra loves watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show, walking her pup, Rocky (no surprise on the name!), and helping out with community cleanups.
As a little tyke, Evan Ciejka could always be found nose-deep in a book or penning fantastical stories from his own imagination. As the wordsmith here at The Markens Group, his love of language seeps into everything he writes. Social media? His posts are fresh. Website copy? Clear and to the point. Blog posts? Compelling. “I want everything I create to have a human touch,” he says. “I want it to feel engaging to the readers.” What’s most important to Evan is that his work helps our clients have a greater impact in their communities. And if increased readership is any measure of success, then Evan’s intentions are right on track. Outside of work, Evan channels his creative juices a little differently...and at a much higher volume. As a punk rocker (yes, you read that right!) he plays bass in a band that performs at small venues throughout New England. Known for marching to the beat of his own drum, Evan inspires us to stretch our imaginations and think creatively about our goals.
The phrase “Keep going, keep growing” sums up Janice’s adventurous outlook on life. Born in Germany, Janice is an international traveler who spent four years running her own jewelry business. Every marketing project Janice touches is influenced by her worldliness. Sophisticated concepts, bold style, and diverse ideas are the hallmark of her work. Whether it’s social media, event marketing, web analytics, or video production, one thing is certain: Janice delivers results that go beyond. The motivation behind her industrious work ethic is simple: Janice loves seeing her clients happy. “Let’s show them growth,” she says. “Let’s show them readership is up 30%.” Spend one minute talking with Janice, and you’ll feel her contagious enthusiasm. If you’re lucky, she’ll invite you outside to roller skate...on any surface she can find and in (almost) any weather.
Back in high school, a wide-eyed Brandy received her first 98% on a report card. What class? You guess it: accounting. Her newfound talents gave her a confidence she hadn’t known before. “I was thrilled,” she says. “Numbers were a language I could speak.” In college, she double majored in accounting and business; soon she hit the ground running with an accounting position at a car dealership. At the Markens Group, Brandy juggles a variety of roles––invoicing, managing payables, and balancing the books. Even on the busiest days, Brandy approaches her tasks with ease and composure, reminding the rest of us to take a deep breath. Outside of work, Brandy uses her gentle touch to bond with her animals. Over the years, she’s been “mom” to horses, dogs, cats, and chickens. We are certain her fauna friends find her as loyal and dependable as we do!