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What You’re Worth

May 28, 2012 1 comment

How much is my time worth?  Most people don’t ask themselves that question enough, but more importantly, most people only equate “worth” to “how much money” they’re making.  Doesn’t work like that.

For the past three years, I made good money; I ran both a consultancy and brokerage business and had 3 payment models: 1) Consultant – paid hourly (made a ton of money here!) 2) Consultant – paid based on attaining sales or marketing metrics (more risky, but made a ton here also) 3) Brokering deals and taking a 5%-10% cut of revenue on a monthly basis….(this worked in my favor as well).  So clearly, I had figured out how to make money.  What I hadn’t figured out was how much I was worth.  Really worth.  Because all I was looking at was the monetary piece.

So living this seemingly great life, working 20-30 hours / week and making more money than I’d ever made before, I SHOULD have been happy; even thrilled.  And I should have felt like I was getting what I was worth.  But I didn’t.  I felt empty.  Almost all the time.  

Then I had a meeting for a potential consulting client and when I met their team and understood the mission of the company, I followed up the meeting with an email stating, “You had me at hello.  Let’s create a position for me”….and lucky for me, they did.  

As we were going through the negotiating process, I realized I was going to be taking quite a salary cut.  And I realized I’d be working 60 + hours / week, so not only would I be taking a paycut yearly, but hourly as well.  I should have been bothered or annoyed; but I wasn’t.  In fact, I hardly negotiated.  Some of my colleagues that I was nuts (for not negotiating); and I had to explain to them, “money is just one way for a company to show me my worth.  There are other factors I’m taking into consideration”.

So what were those factors and how did I determine what I was worth?  First, I figured out what mattered most to me.  And I listed the top 10 things that matter to me about a job.  “Compensation” was relatively low on the list.  What I wanted in return for sharing my skillset  was as follows:

  • I wanted to look forward to waking up in the morning.  Every morning.  Without fail.
  • I wanted to be inspired and do something that changes lives as well as the world we live in.
  • I wanted to be surrounding by people who are smarter than me; so I’m constantly learning and bettering my skill sets.
  • I wanted to be mentored; by those who are patient enough to make me a better person both professionally and personally.
  • I wanted to be a part of something that matters.  Not just a company, but a family.
  • I wanted the opportunity to be in a role where I could drive change in an organization and thus, drive change in an industry.
  • AND I wanted to be compensated commensurate to what I had made previously.

So that being the order of my list, I found that my worth could not be 100% measured in compensation.  I DID want to be paid “what I was worth”, but at the same time, had to balance money against all other assets; the other “wants” that really made me happy.  So, I actually took less money.  I didn’t want to negotiate.  And we see articles all the time written about how “women negotiate “X”% less time than men” and there is “unequal pay in the workplace”.  And these articles are informative and point out that women may be losing more than half a million dollars over their lifetime by NOT negotiating.  But I wonder, could it be that women just realize there are more important things in life than money?  I know in my view, “not negotiating much” was a concious choice.  Could it be that women just see the “bigger” picture and realize that money is not the be all and end all?  I wonder if anyone has ever looked at the gap between men and women being paid differently from that angle.  Is it possible that there is a small segment of women who CHOOSE to make less money or who believe their worth is displayed in different ways?  I’ve always wondered this….

And my response to my own situation as well as what I recommend to others is always the same:  Set up a structure where you will get paid for PROVING what you’re worth.  What you’ve done and your accomplishments in the past should lay the groundwork for you to GET a job.  It should not dictate what you get paid.  What you WERE worth in one job may not transfer to your worth in your new role.  Take a lower base salary and set up a compensation structure where you make MORE money for each contribution you make.  Define your contributions by quarter, define your goals; everything from strategic to tactile to driving revenue to cutting costs.  Everything is measurable.  Even one’s ability to “inspire others” can be measured.  That is where you will find out your true worth.  In looking at your overall contribution to a company, both quantitatively and qualitatively.  

If you’re not willing to take the lower base salary and structure something measurable – how confident are you in your worth?  Not enough for me to hire you…

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Get Yourself to the Greek – and Get Connected

May 10, 2011 4 comments

I was at my best friend’s wedding last weekend and when she made her speech she thanked her bridesmaids and laughed about how ironic it was that when we were in college (10 years ago) during sorority prefs, we used to always say, “I know these friends and sisters will be the bridesmaids at my wedding”; and there we were. So I started thinking about Greek Life and how different my college experience would have been without it. I realized that being in sorority had not only introduced me to the people I’m closest with today, but more importantly set me up for the successes I’d encountered in the future.

Like many people, I was defiantly “anti” sorority when I got into the University of Florida. I thought joining a sorority was for people who “had to buy their friends” or couldn’t network on their own. What I realized during my time in college was that the Greek system was actually a microcosm of the corporate world. Looking at statistics, it now makes sense to me that Of the nation’s 50 largest corporations, 43 are headed by fraternity or sorority members. I understand why Nationally, 71% of all fraternity and sorority member graduate, while only 50% of non-members graduate. And why 85% of the Fortune 500 key executives are fraternity or sorority members. It was not because they had bought friends; it’s because being part of the Greek System lends you an experience in networking that is unmatched anywhere else.

When I was at UF, there were about 50,000 students (on campus); but what I noticed over “Summer B” (everyone in FL schools goes to school over the summer) was that the people who were running things on campus – from Cicerones to politics – were all part of the Greek System. WHat I also noticed was that even when I went out; the businesses were run and managed by people all wearing Greek letters. I felt like I was surrounded by “Greeks”. So I listened to my mother and went through sorority rush. NOTHING could have prepared me better for going into an interview process in the job world. Day one and two consisted of interviewing with women; 8 houses / day for 40 minutes each / sometimes speaking with 3-5 women in each house. Each house had a different ‘mission’ (similar to a business’s mission) and I had to attempt to show how I would ‘bring value’ to a house as well as help grow their vision. Sound familiar? It was like an onslaught of group interviews. Cuts had been made after round 1 and it was clear I had been cut from the houses I had been most uncomfortable in. A similar process continues for rounds 2, 3, and 4 whereby houses ‘show off’ their philanthropies, their GPAs, and try to find if their house is a “good match” for you. Once again, similar to the interview process, the conversations get deeper with each round and by round four, I knew which house was for me.

After getting the house I wanted (GO AEPHI!), the learning experience was magnified. Similar to a large training class in a new company, I was not learning about the values, mission, and what was expected of me with 60 other women. I also had to learn very quickly how to get along with not only the 60 differing personalities in my pledge class, but the other 200 women in my sorority. Talk about learning patience, tolerance, and appreciation for people’s differences of opinions. Like any company, the sorority has an “exec board” (C level team). There is a President, VPs, and usually a total of 10 roles that keep the sorority running. Much like a company, there were decisions made on the executive level that were not in agreement with the house; I learned how to play politics quickly. I also learned that in order to have an impact on the larger ecosystem – the University of Florida – I would somehow have to maneuver my way onto that exec board.

Being on exec was an unmatched experience. Holding a leadership position for 200 + women was far harder than any management role I’ve held to date. It takes incredible discipline to walk the fine balance of putting the ‘sorority’ as a whole before the interests of your closest friends. But it taught me how to do what I do today; I can put the interests of a company before my own and before the relationships I have made in the office and sometimes out of the office. Similar to being part of a C level team in a company, you define the mission, execute on that mission, and ensure that the rest of the house is ‘on the same page’. It was part management and part sales; and looking across the members that were on my exec. board – ALL are now extremely successful, either owning their own businesses or making 6 figures in a legal or corporate career. I firmly believe our experience on the exec board aided in this process.

While many may disagree with me; they listen to the stories of the hazing and the ‘date rape’ drugs and all of the other outliers that do not define the Greek system, but are actually the opposite of what the system stands for (one offs), what one can’t disagree with is data. And data shows that being a part of the Greek system leads to higher graduation rates, higher GPA, a higher likelihood of getting a job, and a higher likelihood of holding a leadership role when older. My first recommendation to someone going to college: “Get in with the Greek”.

Gary Vaynerchuk Practices What He Preaches

April 15, 2011 3 comments

I originally interviewed and wrote this article for my FORBES blog, but wanted to ensure my readers received as well.

How many of you have ever reached out via email, Twitter or phone to an Internet superstar?

I have. Before writing this article, I gave Gary Vaynerchuk a test. I wanted to see if he really responded to all people, to see if he’s truly “engaged” and how much he “cares,” regardless of whether you’re a client or not.

He did and he does.

I emailed, asking him if I could ask him some questions about his New York Times bestselling book, Thank You Economy. Within 30 seconds, I had a response. “Phone number?”

While I was not able to get back to him at that exact moment, I responded back with my phone number later in the day and, again, received a personal response.

And finally on 3/30/2011, Gary called. He was on his way to an interview on CNN and he had put aside time for me. We connected and spoke.

And I found he is just as true to his concept as he said he was. He cares.

Thank you Economy was written for all of us. In typical Vaynerchuk fasion, the book was written from the heart, engaging us with a passionate intelligence surrounding business relationships and transactions. It’s for first-time entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 executives, and the first of its kind.

TYE demonstrates the ROI on social media. It outlines the dangers of “waiting” to see short term results and, most importantly, it clearly depicts what we are in the midst of – a humanistic revolution.

When I spoke with Gary, his thesis was so simple; yet he has proven to be the best at executing on it: “Be reactionary,” he said. “React to what the market wants. And the market wants one-on-one real time engagement. Now that we have the tools to engage, I’m going to continue fighting for the end user.”

TYE puts into words what we’ve all been trying to define since the onslaught of social media: what’s the best way to use it? According to Gary, we have the opportunity to regress back to the days before there was a Starbucks on every corner or a supermarket every five miles; using the same tactic we did when there was a locally-owned butcher or coffeehouse. Care about your consumer.

So simple, yet the U.S. economy has been so focused on “driving traffic” and mass media over the last 20 years, we forgot about our consumer. We looked at the numbers, and the efficiencies, but we stopped listening…Except for people like Gary.

When I first started the book, I admittedly thought it may be a bit elementary. The content of the introduction and first few chapters spoke of brands in a very similar fashion I had read of in college or other business books. There wasn’t any mind blowing differences in the actual content.

But as I continued reading, I found that Gary’s secret is not in the content. His secret is in inspiring and motivating others to act. In the book, he does this not only through passion, but also through specific examples and case studies showing the ROI of one-on-one engagement.

His reason for working IS the end user or the consumer. The consumer’s voice matters and we all need to not solely except that, but embrace it and use that first consumer to build our companies. We can all SCALE CARING.

And Gary certainly cares of everything in his life with the same fierce passion he does his consumer. When I asked him how he found the time to even write the book, his response, “We all have a different definition of work/life balance. Spending time writing this book was not remotely close to how happy I am when I’m with my daughter. But we need to cut out the fat.”

In the same conversation, he beeped over to take a call from his mom; but he did not beep over for business calls. What was cutting out the fat? “Stop doing things that waste time. Don’t replace time with your family or things that you NEED to do. I NEEDED to put together two fantasy teams this weekend because that’s something I enjoy, but did stop playing Nintendo Wii for hours on end.”

Gary has become a master author, a renown social media expert, the fighter for the end-user, and still remains a family man – able to see all the Jets games and do everything else he loves. How? By caring for the consumer.

And if you want to keep up and learn how to do this with your company, your personal brand, your product, and yourself; you’ll read his book too. Don’t pre-judge like I did at the beginning. Just read and be inspired. And then commit to Care.

5 Ways to Show “thank you”, not say it

February 12, 2011 5 comments

Yes it’s cliche, but sometimes saying “thank you” is not enough. We all have people who have touched our lives and helped shape who we are along our journeys. I always look for ways to build upon relationships by showing how important someone is to me; taking the time to do something a little “more”. It doesn’t have to cost money, it just requires thoughtfulness. Taking the time to do something meaningful speaks far more than a simple “thank you”. Below are 5 ways I’ve shown people how much I appreciate them. Some cost and some didn’t, but they were all wildly received.

1. Write someone a story. It doesn’t have to be long, it just has to be targeted to them. Many times we forget to tell people all of the little things we remember and how they’ve made us feel. Post the story online. Public display of affection shows love and commitment in ANY relationship – not just romantic ones.

2. Artwork – this doesn’t have to be expensive. There’s a great artist named Brian Andreas and on his site – storypeople – he has thousands of framed prints that have ‘mini’ quotes / stories that speak to all different types of people. A great one that I’ve sent to people that inspire me is here – the quote story is “Don’t you hear it? she asked & I shook my head no & then she started to dance & suddenly there was music everywhere & it went on for a very long time & when I finally found words all I could say was thank you.”

3. Research something you know the person is interested in and get them something that is rare and they do not have. Example: My old boss was a golfer and talked about Bobby Jones as the best golfer of all time. After a day he had been particularly patient with me, I found a ticket autographed by him on ebay. I bought it and gave it to him. He was floored. He had only mentioned it a couple times, but showed him how much I was listening and how much I cared.

4. Books – instead of just sending someone a book; send them YOUR book – with your notes and thoughts in it.

5. Music – make someone a playlist. Again – show them that you listen to them. If they love TED videos – add a TED podcast and 3-4 different songs.

I could keep listing, but the unfortunate reality is many people “don’t believe in” gifts. Or perhaps they believe in them on birthdays and holidays only. I assure you, if you want to show true, thoughtful appreciation for someone – review the list above and act on it. If you don’t have anyone in your life you want to thank in such a way, it’s time to start building some more meaningful relationships.

“I do”

February 8, 2011 7 comments

I spent the weekend in NYC at my cousin’s wedding and while listening to the speeches at the party and the rabbi speak during the service, I thought, “hmmmm – that sounds exactly how I feel when I’m going through the interview process and decide I want to commit myself full time to a business”. Some of you may read that and think, “she’s nuts!” and certainly I’m not one to argue your opinion; but if you break it down as I will below, you’ll see the similarities. Granted, there will still be those of you who think I’m crazy – but in response I would preface with perhaps you’re mistaking “crazy” for “passion”.

So let’s break down a wedding speech. They typically start with the story of how the two have met; and how “they just knew” or “there was chemistry right away”. Any job I have taken, there has been a definitive chemistry felt during the interview process. I only work with / for people who “get it”, “get me”, and vice versa. If a common bond or understanding is not developed with at least one of the Executives in the interview process, I do not continue. This works for ME because I’m a quick rapport builder; if you know yourself and know how quickly you connect with people, use that as a ‘judge’, but in my experience if there is no connection – the job will likely not be for you.

The speeches then talk about “how the relationship has grown” and at my cousin’s wedding, they talked about their relationship growing because “they had the same values; family was of the utmost importance.” Similarly, when you are attempting to build business relationships, especially with your internal team or attempting to evaluate whether a company is the right fit for you, having similar values is important. If, for example, your top priority is ‘family’ and you are in a company culture that does not value family; there is likely going to be a rift at some point. If you value your religion and your company Executives are all agnostic or atheist, it is probably going to cause a problem if you are the one person who wants to take off for every holiday. Values are a hard thing to find out about as the topic can be one that is not “HR Friendly”, but you can usually develop an understanding of the company’s values by reading their mission statements, by asking open ended questions about how the company reacts when put in certain situations, and even by external clues like looking at what’s on the wall in someone’s office. If an Executive has 3 diplomas and all pictures of his family, he probably values education and family; ask about the diplomas and the pictures. Here is where you need to ‘dig’.

The speeches typically end with “how they got engaged” or “how he knew she was ‘the one'” and they tell the story of their engagement. If the couple is ecstatic and happy, you can see it when they tell the story – they are teary, emotional, animated, uncaring if they look ‘cool’ or not, and they have an unmatched excitement that even makes you a bit jealous. When you are given that job offer from the “one” or the “right company”, you feel the same way. Well, at least I do – unbridled emotion and excitement.

You can even take it one step further to the wedding vows. While you certainly can’t use ALL language, anyone who has built a business from scratch with other founders can likely attest to, “In sickness and in health” (work ALL the time), “good times and in bad” (usually there are more bad than good when starting a business), “support your goals” (company vision – enough said), “honor and respect”….I could go on and on.

So, if you are a crazy passionate business person; perhaps you can see the similarities above. Or, of course, it is possible that I’m just crazy, but in the words of Jack Kerouac, ““The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

On Being Opportunistic about Networking (Guest Post)

February 2, 2011 12 comments

Most often asked question, “How are you always successful?” My answer is always the same; 1) I’m not; but like any gambler, you only hear of the successes, not the failures 2) I never underestimate the power of a person; I seek out mentors, find people who are smarter than me; and I latch on! So it only made sense that my first guest post was written by Allison Cheston – Career Expert, Marketer, Mentor, and most importantly – authentically unique “Baby Boomer” who UNDERSTANDS Gen Y!

As a Boomer who spends a lot of time with Gen Y’s, I can attest to the value of connecting with all kinds of people to ask and answer questions, trade information and share expertise. It’s what I do, all day long. And judging by the number of people contributing on sites like Brazen Careerist, it’s a pretty popular activity.

Why is it popular? It’s the combination of the sense of community and the appeal of crowd sourcing. The idea that you can post a question such as “Do you know any branding firms in Chicago?”, and within several minutes to an hour, not only receive a list of firms but often, someone willing to connect you to someone at that firm. Without knowing you. That’s amazing.

The majority of Boomers don’t operate that way—most of them want to be able to check someone out before making a referral. All the books on networking, like Never Eat Lunch Alone and Love is the Killer App—they’re all directed at Boomers. Because Boomers always want to understand the purpose of networking, what is the end goal. Or they’re not interested.

It’s one of the great things Boomers can take from Gen Y’s. Of course there’s risk attached to it, but there can be great rewards.

Let me give you a direct example of the power of being opportunistic when it comes to networking. I’m writing a book: In the Driver’s Seat: Work-Life Navigation Skills for Young Adults. In the spring, I posted requests on Brazen Careerist.com, LinkedIn and Facebook, inviting Gen Y college grads to interview with me. Because these are Gen Y’s, they were responsive. They loved the idea of the book and they wanted to be part of it. Some of my Boomer friends asked if I was paying them. I was not.

One of the first people to respond and interview with me was Jamie Nacht Farrell. We hit it off, and she sent me a huge number of her friends to interview. And then she hired me to coach her. And then she became my #1 editor for the book. And now she is making deals for us to turn the book into a curriculum both for online use and as a companion product to a variety of career sites catering to young adults. And by the way, I live in New York City, Jamie lives in Dallas and there are 20 years between us.

This probably seems totally plausible to those of you reading this who happen to be Gen Y’s. But from where I sit, I can tell you it’s unusual. And that’s too bad.

The first two ingredients necessary: openness on both sides and a generosity of spirit. And Jamie has that in spades. Not to mention her genius for packaging and selling people and products. So we’re a great team.

The message: With risk come rewards. No matter what your stage of life, stay open to opportunities and network with people you might not cross paths with in your daily life. That’s the beauty of the Internet but you have to be ready to take advantage of it.

Allison Cheston
Career Advisor
Contact Me If You’d Like to be Interviewed for My Book!

You Have to Love the Process

January 23, 2011 4 comments

What is that special something that “winning” entrepreneurs possess?

The standard answer seems to be part luck, part guts, part brains and part the people they surround themselves with. Or, in mbaspeak…”right time. Right place. Right product.”

Lately, I’ve come to realize that the recipe is far different, seemingly simple, but, extremely difficult to execute.

I’ve been fortunate enough to spend my career working for and with entrepreneurs. Some who “get it done” and some who don’t.

The ones who do follow a pattern. A recipe that allows them to orchestrate success in the same way as a conductor does a symphony. They love the process and engage as it unfolds.

So, rather than a formula it’s a series of steps, notes on a page that blend together.

The winning entrepreneur:

(1) Checks their ego at the door
(2) Doesn’t become emotionally attached to their original idea to the extent that it outweighs sound business judgment
(3) Seeks out and listens to opinions from experts and their target market
(4) Engages in intellectual debate when challenged
(5) ACTS quickly when a suggested change of course makes sense

And, most importantly

(6) Embraces the process

Sounds simple. But, it’s not. By nature, serial entrepreneurs are egoists. They not only love their ideas, but many are in love with themselves and therefore emotionally tie themselves to their creations. Whether it be a product, a website, or a commercial, to WIN – the entrepreneur must actively engage and WANT others to better what they’ve done. Many CEOs engage in steps 3 and 4, but have never mastered 1 and 2 and therefore cannot execute on step 5. They know it all; the project is their “baby”. Who could create something better?

I’ve lived a real life example with a winning CEO. My CEO at Education Connection had been massively successful. He had started and sold several businesses – for millions of dollars. He was known in the for profit online education space as well as internet marketing industries as “the golden boy” or the “man with the midas touch”. He was incapable of creating something that was not a success. Having the opportunity to work for him and now having worked for several other CEOs, the difference is clear; he loves the process. He had said to me hundreds of times while building our business, “enjoy the journey – be present – don’t always rush to the end goal” and only now – a couple years later – do I understand what that means and why it led to his success. It’s the process outlined above.

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