Tuesdays with Corey interview with Kay Dempsey, Laura Kahn Travis, Nancy J. Lewis, and Tonni Bennett
Kay Dempsey is the CEO of the Dempsey Companies in Atlanta, Georgia. The Dempsey Companies, founded 31 years ago, provides unique planning solutions to insurance brokers, and investment advisors for their clients, specifically in life insurance, long term care, disability income, and fixed annuities. She holds the designations of Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), and Certified Long-Term Care (CLTC). Kay is a partner in Brokerage Resources of America, LLC.
Kay was recognized by the Atlanta Business Chronicle with its DECA Award, honoring Atlanta’s Top Ten Business Women.
Kay is a member of the Atlanta Financial Planning Association, having received the Chapter’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She is active on Capitol Hill through her involvement with the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting. She is past President of the Atlanta Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, past National Board member of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, and a member of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.
Connect with Kay on LinkedIn.
Laura Kahn Travis a Senior Vice President in the Commercial Banking Group of Bank of America. Laura earned a BBA at the University of Georgia & an MBA from Columbia University in New York. She has an extensive background in the financial services industry, specifically in Corporate & Investment Banking, having previously worked for SunTrust Banks and the Prudential. Laura is a Big Sister under the auspices of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Atlanta and a former member of the Executive Board of Yeshiva Atlanta High School (Atlanta Jewish Academy).
Connect with and learn more about Laura and the work she does with JIFLA.
Nancy J. Lewis is a leading motivational/inspirational keynote speaker, trainer, author, and registered corporate coach. She is the president of Progressive Techniques, Inc. based in Fayetteville, Georgia where the theme of her organization is “Developing a Better YOU!” She earned a M.S. degree from Georgia State University in Urban and Public Affairs with concentration in Human Resources.
Connect with Nancy on LinkedIn.
Tonni Bennett with Terminus is a sales leader who is passionate about building a unique, diverse and value-driven sales team.
Connect with Tonni on LinkedIn.
Intro: Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it's time for Atlanta Business Radio, spotlighting the city's best businesses and the people who lead them.
Katy Galli: Hi, everyone, and welcome to another great episode of Atlanta Business Radio. This week, we have one of our great episodes, Episode 4 of Tuesdays with Corey, hosted by Corey Rieck of The Long Term Health Care Planning Group. What's up, Corey?
Corey Rieck: Hey, we're ready to go. Appreciate the introduction.
Katy Galli: Yeah.
Corey Rieck: Another great show of Tuesdays with Corey. Today, we've outdone ourselves today. We have Kay Dempsey from the Dempsey Companies. Welcome, Kay.
Kay Dempsey: Thank you, Corey.
Corey Rieck: We have Laura Khan, who has a 30-year experience in banking. We're going to talk today about one of her passions. JIFLA. Laura, welcome.
Laura Khan: Thank you.
Corey Rieck: And Nancy Lewis, who has 30 years of experience in helping companies become better with their leadership and their talent development. Nancy, welcome.
Nancy Lewis: Thank you.
Corey Rieck: And also, Tonni Bennett, who has a number of years involved in marketing automation and things of that nature. Tonnie, welcome.
Tonni Bennett: Thanks.
Corey Rieck: We're going to start off today with Kay Dempsey. A little bit about Kay. Kay is the CEO of the Dempsey Companies, and they're an organization that was founded 30 years ago. And she has done an incredible job of developing unique planning solutions for insurance brokers, investment advisors, and really helps advisors help their clients with life insurance, long-term care, and disability. And the first thing I need to ask you is, how is it possible that you could have 30 years of experience in that? Did you start this when you were three?
Kay Dempsey: You're very kind. Corey. And only my hairdresser knows for sure. But the great, great message, I think, to our listeners is dream big, dream in color, and understand what it is that fills your heart with joy, and go after it. So, a long time ago, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and worked every step of the way to make that happen. So, thank you.
Corey Rieck: How did you decide to start the Dempsey Companies? Was there an event or a series of events, or why did you start the company?
Kay Dempsey: It's been said the highest form of learning is your own personal experience. And I watched my parents and my brother lose a 50-year-old clothing, retail clothing business because of poor planning. And I found myself on the opposite side of the courtroom with my sister opposing my brother in a will contest. So, that was seared in my mind that my life mission should be to help families, do good planning toward financial security. So, that was the first step.
Corey Rieck: Well, you certainly won a litany of awards. And, you've had a lot of experience in the industry. What do you like best about what you're doing now?
Kay Dempsey: Helping financial service professionals place insurance for their high net worth clients, helping businesses stay in businesses, helping employees retain their job, helping individuals and families plan their financial security is what I believe is noble work. It's very, very important work. The education, people need to understand and be educated about financial security. But it's seeing individuals build financial freedom, financial independence, and in our own lives. My husband and I, over the years with our work, have been able to have the freedom to travel, to make our own schedule, but very importantly now, to give back to charities. And so, that's what I love about this work.
Corey Rieck: One of the things that's always impressed me about you is looking over your bio and knowing you for the years, you've certainly accomplished a great deal, but you're very, very humble. And I think that that's a great trait in our leaders now to be humble. And one of the things that has impressed me most about you is that in working on committees and stuff with you is that you really operate from a servant's perspective. Really, "Hey, how can I help you?" are usually words when I call you that offered to me.
Kay Dempsey: Thank you.
Corey Rieck: How did you get that or why is that important to you?
Kay Dempsey: Fortunately, I had a wonderful mentor in the insurance business who communicated that it's always serve first. And if you don't have a servant's heart, it's so transparent about what your motives are. So, learning to serve and what is it that each of us can do to make this world a better place to make a difference in the world, and that's the basis every day that I want to start with. How can I serve? How can I help you? Because it's been said a million times, helping others will far, far enable you to have all your goals achieved.
Corey Rieck: I think you're right about that. I think, you strike me as someone ... one of the things you we've talked about is, hey, your history, your parents, it doesn't mean if you've had a good history, if you've had a good upbringing, that's not a pathway for accomplishment. Can you tell us why you share that position?
Katy Galli: I think it's very important, again, for our listeners to understand that failures can be personal defeats. Certainly, I was paralyzed by personal defeat, but it takes the experience to understand that failure is that much closer to success. And so, learn from your mistakes, but really welcome those mistakes. Find a mentor because mistakes are not original. And I think we have to take the ceiling off our brain, as Oprah says, and expand our thinking. Tony Robbins' Personal Power, of course, was instrumental in changing my life, as was Dan Sullivan's Strategic Coach. All those were very important milestones along the way.
Corey Rieck: How many employees do you have at the Dempsey Companies?
Kay Dempsey: Just under 20. And we use some part-time, some subcontractors that have worked very well for us. And then, a core group of the key team, as I call them.
Corey Rieck: How do you inspire them every day?
Kay Dempsey: Well, with the element of mastery today, with the ability to ... with technology to master so quickly, it's a challenge to keep a highly motivated group of folks challenged to grow and to learn. But the difference here is they have to learn. Their relationship building is still face to face. No matter how much we can accomplish online, it's still a relationship business. So, getting them to understand that, getting them to understand that it's not the technical, it's the relationship.
Corey Rieck: The relationships are are really important. And clearly, you've built a lot of relationships over the years. You were recognized recently by the Atlanta Business Chronicle with the DECA award. Tell us about that. That's a significant accomplishment.
Kay Dempsey: Well, the Business Chronicle, again, reached out to a number of women to say, "Tell us about your business." And so, they recognize some of the top 10 leading business women in Atlanta. But I will tell you that what has happened in Atlanta exponentially, the women now and the success of women in their own business has grown so exponentially. But I was very pleased and honored. Jenny Pruitt, a well-known Atlanta realtor, was in that group of women, but very-
Corey Rieck: It sounds like she's in good company.
Kay Dempsey: Yeah. I'm humbled to be in the same sentence with her.
Corey Rieck: What we do on the show is we talk about all the great contributions that women are making to their communities, to their organizations, into their industries. And I think we've got a tremendous show here today. Kate, how do you decide with everything, with all the brokers you support, are you in all 50 states with your organization?
Kay Dempsey: We are. Actually, we're licensed, Corey, in 45 states. There's some states in which we don't have a footprint, but wherever our customers have clients, we will become duly registered and licensed to do business in that state to help them.
Corey Rieck: With supporting folks with life insurance, and with disability insurance, and with long-term care, how do you decide how to spend your day?
Kay Dempsey: We have to prioritize every single day, and I try to do that at the end of the day about what needs to be done the next day. But in our business, there are a number of changing priorities. And that's so important to be able to juggle the priorities. And if you only got one or two things done on your to-do list, it's easy to be frustrated, but welcome it and know that there were other problems or challenges solved.
Corey Rieck: I had a number of coaches, having played in high school and college, that would just say to me, "Did you get better today?"
Kay Dempsey: I love that.
Corey Rieck: And it seems like that would be a good outcome for you. But when I think of your organization, you have such a significant footprint in the life component. And I know it would be easy to say, well, you're a life shot, but you're not. You're much more than that, but what you've done such an outstanding job with the folks that you've supported with your life insurance.
Kay Dempsey: Thank you.
Corey Rieck: And how do you get people to understand that you're so much more than that, which you clearly are?
Kay Dempsey: Well, clearly, at cocktail parties, when people ask me what I do, I can clear a room when I say I'm in the insurance business and, particularly, the life insurance business. But we have a facet of our business where people, despite the bull market, are very, very intrigued with products, with guarantees. And so, annuities become very attractive to them. Getting individuals, as you well know, Corey, to understand asset protection. What happens if you lose your ability to earn a living? That can be insured. And most people don't understand that. What happens in the event of a long-term care. So, many people are in denial about planning for that. The government-
Corey Rieck: Denial is not a river in Egypt-
Kay Dempsey: That's right.
Corey Rieck: ,,, by the way, for the listenership.
Kay Dempsey: That's exactly right. So, it is. It's a broad spectrum of what is the issue that the client has when a financial service professional meets with us. What is the issue? What is most suitable? And what is the priority? Sometimes, there are four, and five, and six issues. You can't solve them all at once.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, take one step, get better each day. And I think you've brought so much value to the financial services industry for both men and women with your organization. And just tremendous value with what you do for life folks with disability, with long-term care.
Kay Dempsey: Thank you.
Corey Rieck:And in bringing multiple options. Neutrality seems to be a big theme with the Dempsey Companies.
Kay Dempsey: Yes, it's very important because we're independent and represent up to 50 of the major, major carriers. We are a product and insurance company neutral. It is what is appropriate for the situation. And also, how can we leverage the competition in the insurance market, so that Tonni gets a better offer than, maybe, initially a lesser experienced financial service professional brought her. It's the knowledge of how to start the bidding process and win.
Corey Rieck: Well, you've done it. The other thing that I think you've differentiate yourself on is you're very, very effective. And correct me if in my advanced age, I'm inaccurate with is. Your back office could be somebody's front office, and you've done a tremendous job of one of your advisers has a client, and they identify a need, you find them the solution is best for them. Is that fair?
Kay Dempsey: It is. We are the behind-the-scenes. We're the backstage. And the financial service advisor is the front stage, so that we can prepare her, we can prepare him for the complexity having met with CPAs, and attorneys, and the design, and the plan to come up with the appropriate solution and the placement of insurance. It is a complicated acquisition. And people should not in any way diminish the responsibility.
Corey Rieck: No, no. And you certainly have not done that. You've really differentiate yourself there. But it doesn't stop there. You work, you help people with multiple products, you are neutral, agnostic, but it doesn't stop there. You're a partner in the Brokerage Resources of America. Can you tell a listenership about why that's meaningful?
Kay Dempsey: Well, as a strategic planning step, as a individual entrepreneur, I always want to be independent and own my own business. However, to get the talent, the ideas, the markets, to leverage technology, to leverage the training for our team, the ability to be in a consortium. And I've been in this consortium for over 20 years. And this consortium is across the country representing over 10,000 financial service professionals and doing multi-million dollars of premium a year. That has clout with insurance companies. You need a bigger voice today. So, if joining a bigger consortium gives you more leverage and clout for your clients, then it's a good thing.
Corey Rieck: Well, you've done a lot of things to advocate. That's a word that I would use in conjunction with you and your organization, the people that work there, all the way from neutrality to making sure that you were really leveraging your contacts and your experience. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently having started the company and having gone through the iterations that you have in the past 30 years?
Kay Dempsey: What is very important, as I said earlier, is to find a mentor. I was fortunate to have a mentor who, ironically, at age 83, is still in our business and is doing business with us now. So, the student and the teacher have come together again. But to find a mentor, to take courses, or read books like Strength Finders, Version 2.0, Quantum Leap in your Confidence. I always say read that book and understand it. To take the courses that I mentioned. Tony Robbins or Dan Sullivan or Vistage. I think these groups are so important. Or hire a consultant, a coach, if you will, because you need that. We can only say so much to our spouses who or our good friends. I would do that very definitely.
Corey Rieck: Is there anything that you personally would do differently knowing what you know over the last 30 years?
Kay Dempsey: I would be less tough on myself because that insecurity of being in the proving stage while you're building a block can make you tough on others. And when you're so focused on achievement, you miss the joy of the journey. So, I would be more in the moment and less tough on myself.
Corey Rieck: I thank you for that. That was candid. So, if there were a young lady that was thinking about building a financial services empire like what you've done, what would you tell her?
Kay Dempsey: Again, I would say make a written business plan, and dream big, dream and color, have audacious goals, and never lose sight of what fills your heart. Find the financial backing and be able to communicate in very simple layman's terms what it is you want to do, what the economic viability is, so that that banker financier understands that. And then, make certain that you're tracking your goals. And doing the same thing is insanity. So, seek advice, seek network, learn from people that have gone ahead of you.
Corey Rieck: You've had a tremendous run, Kay. If our listenership wanted to get in touch with you, how would they do that? Is there an email address or a phone number to call?
Kay Dempsey: Yes, the letter email@example.com. And 404-604-2068.
Corey Rieck: Kay, you've been a tremendous guest. Best wishes in the future and keep the momentum going. Thank you. Well, next, we have Laura Kahn. And Laura comes to us with 30 years of banking experience with SunTrust Bank of America. But we're going to talk today about one of your passions, Laura. There is an organization called JIFLA, Jewish Interest-Free Loans of Atlanta.
Laura Khan: That's right.
Corey Rieck: Tell us about that organization.
Laura Khan: So, the Jewish-Interest Free Loans of Atlanta is based on the principle in the Old Testament that one Jew does not charge interest to another Jew in need, and the principle of helping your fellow man and lifting them up. And what the Jewish-Interest Free Loan of Atlanta does is we make, as the title implies, interest-free loans. So, we look for people who are experiencing some form of financial distress, and we can talk a little more about that, and we help them through an interest-free loan. So, one of the things we like to say is that it's a hand up, not a handout, and a way for people to get help while still retaining their personal pride.
Corey Rieck: What a great thing you're doing. Tell me, how long has your organization been around?
Laura Khan: Well, one of our challenges is that we are pretty new. So, we had our seventh anniversary in 2017. I was an original member. This isn't an organization. There are Jewish-Interest Free Loan organizations all around the country and actually around the world. And there is an international kind of consortium. Each one operates completely independently. We do our own fundraising. We'd make our own rules about what kind of loans we'll make and the criteria. But it's a tremendous thing to come together once a year. I went last year, there are, I think, 27 interest-free loans from Milbourne, from Tel Aviv, from Ontario, as well as from about 15 or 20 cities in the United States. So, we draw energy from each other. We draw ideas from each other. But to go back to your question, there was no interest-free loan fund in Atlanta. It was just kind of had fallen through the cracks. We've got a Jewish community of about 125,000 people. Most cities that size do have this kind of organization. And so, some wonderful folks came together and decided to form it. And I was fortunate enough to be one of the kind of founding board members seven years ago.
Corey Rieck: Is it accurate for us, for me and for the listenership - to call it as JIFLA. Is that an accurate term or is that-
Kay Dempsey: That’s the acronym for the Jewish Interest-Free Loan of Atlanta. We call ourselves JIFLA because that's a mouthful. Yeah.
Corey Rieck: Okay.So, the organization, is it unique to Atlanta? It seems like there are other organizations that are similar around around the country and around the world. Is that right?
Laura Khan: Right. So, as I mentioned, so there are about 27 cities that are members of this consortium, but each of us does. There are actually funds with millions of dollars. We're not there yet, but you have New York, you have Los Angeles, you have Chicago, and these are multi, multi-million dollar funds that some of them have been around for a hundred years because, as I mentioned, it's really kind of a core Jewish principle to offer this kind of service. We are a fairly new one. And each of its cities has their own loan criteria, and that's what we've been developing.
Corey Rieck: It seems like there are assemblies or get-togethers of other similar organizations where you get together. How often do you all get together?
Laura Khan: Just once a year. And we always send. We have one part-time employee. The rest of us are all volunteers. Our main organization is we have a ... so, we have our executive director who's fantastic and works about 30 hours a week. I think we pair for 25. She probably works about, at least, 35 as anyone who's ever worked for a nonprofit is familiar with. So, she is wonderful, and she does our loan intake. So, if someone finds out about our organization, they go to our website. And if they want to apply, Nancy will be their first point of contact, either via email or phone call. And she works on the loan intake, as well as running the office, and doing outreach in the community, and trying to make sure that all the other Jewish organizations are aware of us because we are very heavily reliant on referrals. And frankly, in our seven years of existence, our biggest challenge as a new organization has simply been getting word out to the community that we exist. So, that has been a really big focus, particularly, for the last two or three years. I became president of the organization three years ago, and I made our number one criteria, "Just let's figure out how to get the word out, so that we can generate more loans and help more people." That's what we exist to do.
Corey Rieck: How have you been getting the word out?
Laura Khan: So, we work with other Jewish organizations. So, when somebody calls, there's an organization called JF&CS, which is Jewish Family and Career Services, which actually helps Jews and non-Jews. They are a United Way beneficiary agency. So JF&CS is a place that a lot of people in the community know to go if they need help. So, we work closely with JF&CS. We work with the Jewish Federation of Atlanta, which is the kind of umbrella organization for Jewish causes. And then, we go to synagogues. We try to meet with the rabbis. We try to meet with the people in the offices who actually know, is somebody coming to them and saying, "I can't pay my dues anymore." Most rabbis have discretionary funds where if someone really gets in a pickle, they'll go to their rabbi, and they'll say, "Rabbi, I'm embarrassed, but I can't make my mortgage payment. My husband lost his job," whatever. So, our primary focus has been other Jewish organizations, synagogues, and places like the federation.
Corey Rieck: What has been your best decision that you've made as the leader of the organization?
Laura Khan: Yeah. So, it's getting the right people to do a lot of the work. So, when I took over, there was a fellow who was the founding president, and he was a retired gentleman who frankly made JIFLA his life. He worked, at least, 40 hours a week. And he kind of did everything. But we have some really fantastic volunteers. And so, when I replaced him, the first thing I did was put in a formal structure, created an executive board committee, created a committee structure. So, we have a treasurer. We have a loan committee, which is in charge of processing the loans, and the interview process, and setting the loan criteria and all of those things. We have a marketing committee which has been absolutely critical to that outreach process. And so, by having a committee structure, everyone has become more invested. We've gotten people to feel like they're making a meaningful contribution. And in doing so, they've really, really stepped up. And what that's allowed us to do is we were making 11, 12, 13 loans a year, which is wonderful. But in 2016, we doubled that to 24 and-
Corey Rieck: Congratulations!
Laura Khan: Thank you. Well, and with God's help, last year in 2017, we made 31 loans. So, that's 31 families and individuals in Atlanta who would not have ... some of them took out payday loans, and they were paying 18% and 20% plus fees. And as we all know, that's something you can never get out from under. It just drags you down and ruins your life. So, some of what we'll do is refinance payday loans, refinance credit card debt, plus just help people. They need dental work, they need a downpayment on an apartment. We had a couple that was 82 years old, the most delightful, lovely people. They were living with their daughter, and all they wanted was to be able to get into their own apartment. And via their Social Security payments, they were able to pay us back from the $3000 loan we made to allow them to make their security deposit and first month's rent, so they could move out.
Laura Khan: And on the other end of the spectrum, we had a couple that was an adorable little 22-year-old couple. They had both just finished PT schools. So, they were on a wonderful career track, but they graduated in May. Their job and their first paycheck didn't come until August. They had just gotten married. They were living with her parents and they were like, "We really want to get out." So, it was the same loan, but on the other end of the age spectrum, where we help them get into their own apartment, and they paid us back once they started earning the money.
Corey Rieck: How do you use all of the experience that you've picked up over the years with? Prudential, 19 years at SunTrust, and now going on 10 years at Bank of America, how do you use what you've learned to help your organization, JIFLA?
Laura Khan: Yeah, wow! Every job is a people job, right? So, it's all about respecting people's contributions and being grateful for those contributions, valuing people, understanding their strengths, and getting them to utilize their strengths towards your common goals. So, I would say, honestly, that the jobs that I've always been in, I think a lot of people consider them quantitative and that I do spend a lot of my days looking at financial statements. But really, my title is Relationship Manager. So, what I do is I manage large corporate relationships on behalf of the bank. And I am their go-to person. I'm their person at Bank of America. And I bring all the resources of the bank to these people. So, it really is a people job, even though I might spend a lot of my time looking at income statements. And I think it's the same thing at JIFLA is just, again, having respect for people's strengths and contributions, and helping them be their best in bringing all those resources to the organization.
Corey Rieck: What do you like best about what you do for JIFLA?
Laura Khan: Honestly, I started on the loan committee, and I love the loan committee. It's just so much fun because you get to meet the people, you get to interview them, you get to hear their story, you get that feeling of immediacy, of seeing the difference that you're making in their lives. And I raised three kids, with my husband, a great guy. And so, when my kids kind of grew up, and were ready to leave the house, and I really wanted to dedicate more of my time to some charitable endeavors. And when you're like all the people at this table, and you start looking around, everybody's like, "Oh, you should be on this board, and come join this big organization and be on the board." But what I always really wanted to do was really very hands-on work. So, the two things that I selected was I have a little sister under the Big Sister of Atlanta Program that we've been together now for eight years. And-
Corey Rieck: I bet that's been rewarding for you.
Laura Khan: It's awesome. I'll give her a call out to Marissa Stevens. She's a junior at Grady High School now. We started when she was nine years old.
Corey Rieck: Good for you.
Laura Khan: And she's a fantastic girl. And then, the second thing that I picked was JIFLA because it is very hands-on. You get to see the difference you're making in people's lives every day.
Corey Rieck: It must be incredibly gratifying to see these people come to you, and then you being able to help them, you on your team with JIFLA?
Laura Khan: It really is. And we actually just had our first instance where somebody who was a borrower became a contributor.
Corey Rieck: Oh, that's outstanding.
Laura Khan: So, that was super neat. And we do have people who've come back and gotten a second loan because there's a lot of people that live on the edge. And it's very easy for a lot of us to forget that. We tend to live in a pretty comfortable segment of the world, and there are so many people, and they're good people, and they're hardworking people, but there's medical emergencies, and there's job losses, and there's a lot of unpredictability in life. And so, it's the ability to help people pull their lives back together, and get on their feet.
Corey Rieck: With all your experience you've had, what would you tell the the younger version of Laura knowing what you know now.
Laura Khan: I was listening to Kay and I was thinking, I feel like I've had such an incredibly blessed life in that I've been able to find something that I feel like works to my strengths. I don't have so many of them, but I think that the things that I found allowed-
Corey Rieck: That's not true. You have a lot of strengths. That's clear.
Laura Khan: Well, the things that I found allow me to play to my strengths. And so, I remember when I was with SunTrust for 19 years, in the last few years before you changed jobs, usually, there's a reason you changed jobs. And it was a wonderful, wonderful run. And I feel lucky that unlike so many bankers, because of all the acquisitions that happened in my field, I was able to do it by choice, and many people didn't have that choice. And for the last few years, my husband was like, "You should change. You should look for something else." And I wasn't ready. And then, when I was ready, I found what I think is like the ideal job. I absolutely love my job.
Laura Khan: So, I have to say, I think that everything you go through, it just gets you where you are. I married the right guy. He's supportive. And I know another thing, Corey, that you asked is what advice would you give young people? It's like have the right life partner, have your goals, play to your strengths. You go through high school, and you may hate science and love English, but you've got to take science, and you've got to take calculus. But you know what? When you get out in the world, if what you love is English, find somewhere that uses your passion. If you love math, then find some that uses that passion. So, I've been very lucky in that I feel like in my life, I've been able to gear my work and my philanthropic activity towards my passions.
Corey Rieck: Well, you've certainly been a tremendous contributor to the Big Brother, Big Sister organization as well as JIFLA. And they're fortunate to have you. We appreciate you being on the show. How would our listenership get in touch with you if they needed your services or they need your assistance?
Laura Khan: Thank you. Well, it's just jifla.org. So, the best way really is just to go on jifla.org if you are a Jewish individual living in Atlanta, or you know someone who is, and you need financial assistance, or if you would like to volunteer for the organization. Or donate, you can always donate. Every dollar that we lend is from fund raising. And I think one last pitch I'll make is the really neat and totally unique thing about JIFLA that most people find very inspiring is that every dollar of charity that's given to JIFLA is recycled. We lend it, people pay it back, we re-lend it. So, you give $1000 dollars today, that $1000 is a donation in perpetuity.
Corey Rieck: Thank you so much for your contributions.
Laura Khan: Thank you.
Corey Rieck: Thank you for being on the show. Next, we have Nancy Lewis. Nancy, welcome.
Nancy Lewis: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
Corey Rieck: Well, you've had an outstanding career of 30 years, and you have an organization called Progressive Technique.
Nancy Lewis: Yes.
Corey Rieck: Tell us about how your organization helps companies. I mean, clearly they help with leadership and talent development. But how does Progressive Techniques help organizations?
Nancy Lewis: Well, we go in, and we provide management development training in areas that are challenging for many companies and getting people to work better together, specifically around-.
Corey Rieck: Companies have problems getting people to work together?
Nancy Lewis: Just a little.
Corey Rieck: When did that happen?
Nancy Lewis: It's an ongoing thing. But specifically around diversity and inclusion, which is a very hot topic. I do a lot around leveraging millennials with the new generation coming in the workplace, helping organizations learn how to manage or not manage, because you don't manage people, you lead people, you manage things. And then, around leadership and just the communication. And so, with my background, I just have been very blessed to be able to go in and share insights to help them, because I've worked as an HR practitioner, I've worked in corporate sectors. So, I bring real life stuff to the table.
Corey Rieck: There's no question about that. I remember when I was introduced to you by a previous Tuesdays with Corey guest, and we had lunch, and you told me a story about when you are in HR and some challenges. And I thought that that was a tremendous story when you were working with some union folks. And I think the listenership would would benefit by hearing that story because you have put in yourself very, very well there.
Nancy Lewis: Well, the airline will remain nameless, I have to say that. But I worked for a major airline over 20 years ago, and I was brought in as the HR professional and was the first time they had had an African-American person come in in that role. And I was not airline-born. So, I came in from the outside. So, that was a whole new thing. And so, I came from the Dale Carnegie background. Everybody loves you. They just talk to you, and you're just wonderful.
Corey Rieck: That's not reality?
Nancy Lewis: It wasn't reality here. So, one of the first meetings I had to go to, they set me into a crew chief meeting and say, "We want you to evaluate the meeting, and talk to the people, and just come back, let us know what happens." So, when I walked into the room, I was the only female because, again, we're talking about it was about twelve mechanics, the crew chief, and his team. And so, I sat down, and he yelled at me and says, "We don't want you in this meeting. We want you to leave."
Corey Rieck: And you left, right?
Nancy Lewis: No, I knew instinctively I couldn't leave, but I was like, "I am not prepared for this." And I don't know. Had I known that I would have to encounter the things I did, I probably wouldn't have taken the job because I didn't anticipate some of the things I had to go through. But I knew instinctively I couldn't leave. So, I said, "Well, if you end the meeting, I will just leave. But if you have it, I will stay." And we sat there at about three minutes of total silence looking at each other. And they're looking to me, twelve sets of eyes of males who were looking at me who are not like real happy and me looking at them. And I'm like, "Okay, we're going to see. This is gonna be a stare down."
Nancy Lewis: [00:36:20] So, after three minutes, it seemed like an eternity to me, but after about three minutes, he said, "We're going to have a meeting." So, the meeting took place. It was concluded. When everybody left the crew chief, I never forget his first name was Jessie. He said, "That was a test to see what you're made of." He said, "And a word on the floor, now that you got a backbone, you got to spite." I was like, "I had to go through all of that to prove that?" So, it was this interesting, that experience. I have stories, and I just had no idea setting into a union environment, the landscape, because that was not my terrain before that. So, I didn't understand what I was getting into. Probably I wouldn't have stepped into it had I known that. But God knows everything. So, He knew I needed that because as a professional, and working with organizations, I now talk real stuff. That's something in a textbook. I've taught at Georgia State, I've taught theory, and academics, and how you can walk through something. But that's not real life when someone's in your face in HR.
Corey Rieck: Yeah. Well, I think the other thing that, if I may, it took a tremendous amount of courage to sit there when you're in a room, and you're clearly outnumbered, they don't want you there, and you just decided. And that resonated with me when we had lunch where you told me that story, because I thought, "You're unique in a lot of ways. But that was really sort of defining." And I think you have all this experience, and you have all this value you can bring to companies. You're a national speaker. You have all this HR experience. How do you channel all your talent to figure out exactly what to bring to each one of your client? You have a client list that's incredibly desirable here - Delta, Chick-Fil-A. How how do you figure out how exactly to help each client because you have so much skill?
Nancy Lewis: What you really want to play to your sweet spot, the things that you really enjoy doing because when I left corporate, one of the things I said I didn't want to have anything to do with was diversity and inclusion. I'm like, "I'm through with it. I've lived through this. I don't want to have anything to do with this." And-
Corey Rieck: Why though, if I may?
Nancy Lewis: Because when I worked for a major organization, it was not embraced. It was just something they were checking off a box. And so, what happens in so many organizations, they're checking off boxes. People go through a class for four hours, eight hours. And now, they're diversified. I'm like, "Really? That is not true. That's far from the truth." We're talking about cultural change. We're talking about life changes. You talk about challenging people's history, what they've known and believed all their life. You can't fix that in four hours. What I do tell organizations is that we can't fix you or make you want to play in a sandbox together. While you're here for these eight hours, you will comply with the organization's mission and vision, or you need to play someplace else. So, that's kind of the landscape. So, just working with organizations and having seen how it was ... when I left that organization, basically, the diversity and inclusion initiative just basically fell by the wayside because there was no champion behind me. And so, if you don't have the infrastructure in place for ... not one person can't carry it. It has to be a top down initiative, not bottom up.
Corey Rieck: What do you like most about what you do?
Nancy Lewis: When I do a class, I did a diversity class a few weeks ago, even though we now sometimes even change it from diversity to leveraging differences because when people hear diversity, they sometimes just automatically just shut down, "I don't want to go." And so, there was a gentleman who came to the class and he said, "We heard this is a good class." He said, "The word on the street is you're pretty good. So, I'm going to see for myself." I said, "Okay." So, at the end of the class, he said, "You're really good." Well, what I tell people is it is a gift that God has given me. I am just the steward of what He's called me to do. So, I go and I share, but I keep it real for people. And sometimes, that got me in trouble earlier in my career because I was too real. And everything people think they want to hear, they're not prepared to hear.
Corey Rieck: I don't see a lot of gray area in my interaction with you, and I think that's the way I like it. I'm sure that others prefer that. But you do a lot of speaking. How did you get going in that? And tell us about that.
Nancy Lewis: Well, I started my career working with the Johnson&Johnson Company years ago in training and development, doing training in sale support. And I was living on the East Coast. And this is kind of funny because they said, "You were too direct." I'm like, "I'm on the East Coast. How can I be too direct?"
Corey Rieck: Yeah, "Do you know where you are?" Yeah.
Nancy Lewis: This is the New York New Jersey area and they said, "Well, you're too direct." I said, "Well, if you ask me something, I kind of tell you what you asked me." They said, "Look, people don't always want to hear the truth." I said, "Oh, okay." So, they decided at that time, they wanted to see me to Dale Carnegie because they needed to refine me, so that I could do some things differently. And so-
Corey Rieck: Did it work?
Nancy Lewis: Well, the first few weeks, I was in the Dale Carnegie class because I'm like, "I don't need to be here." Then, I realized this was a very positive environment, and I really loved it. I was like, "I want to teach this course." And then, about three or four years later, I became one of the first African-American Dale Carnegie instructors. And so, that helped catapult my career because when you teach Dale Carnegie, people respect that. It taught me a lot of tools of how to engage people, how to tell people stuff that they don't want to hear in a way that was respectful, it was tactful, and all the diplomatic. I was always diplomatic but, sometimes, we might be a little bit assertive or over the top.
Corey Rieck: Carefrontational?
Nancy Lewis:Yeah, carefrontational, I like that.
Corey Rieck: That's an old saying I just made up.
Nancy Lewis: Yeah, I like that. I'm going to use that. But it was a point of where I'm just a straight shooter, I'm direct, and I've had to learn how to temper that because when I moved to the south, I was so direct early in my career. I'd say whatever I thought, which was correct, but it didn't need to come from me. And I didn't have a mentor to tell me, "Everything you think, you don't say." So, I think about that, that was some things that I would have done differently because I burnt some bridges over my career because I would speak the truth, but people were not prepared for the truth that I was giving them. So, that was just interesting.
Corey Rieck: The challenges that you've had, how do you overcome them, and how do you manage to keep on keeping on?
Nancy Lewis: Well, some of the challenges that I've had to overcome is that I had to just come to grips with the fact that I had realized that God had made me good enough because when you're black, you always have to go that extra mile because, sometimes, you want credit, you don't get it. So, you're always fighting to make sure that people know who you are. So, I always had to be number one. It was like I had to be the best, had to be the best. And one of my colleagues, one day, told me, she said, "You can rest now." She said, "You're good enough." She said, "You don't have to prove yourself anymore." And that was kind of like. I said, "Okay," because I was always in that quiz, because it's just a fact, you just realize it is what it is. It's the reality of the world we live in.
Nancy Lewis: And so, when that happened, I just began to step back, and begin to just kind of like ease into it, and just realize that God made me good enough. And so, I'm comfortable in the skin I'm in. And those who like me, wonderful. Those who do not want to be around me, that's okay too because everybody you work with, you don't take home to dinner. That's what I share in my diversity workshops. You don't go to lunch with everybody you work with. You don't have to love them, but you have to learn how to respect and work with them. That's a requirement.
Corey Rieck: And you do some executive coaching also, right?
Laura Khan: Yes. And I get in people's face sometimes, and because I can. It's says one-on-one.
Corey Rieck: That's impossible for me to believe you do that.
Nancy Lewis: It was one-on-one. So, we're in a close space, and we can really be very frank and candid. And so, it's really good. I enjoy that. When people really realize that where they are is not really have to be, and there's things they can do to elevate themselves to another level by, sometimes, simply making small moves.
Corey Rieck: How did you decide to go out on your own? And was that scary?
Nancy Lewis: Well, I'm a baby boomer that had a lot of jobs. I had like about eight jobs. And that is there A typical for baby boomer. They tend to stay in one job. If I didn't like a job, I would tend to just say, "I need to be looking for something else." So, I was always looking for something else. And so, my mom was like, "You can't hold a job," and I'm like, "Well, if I'm not happy, I'm just not really the best employee here."
Nancy Lewis: And my last hour, I realized that I really want to be out on my own because when you work in HR, you have to say things to people, and you have to tell people things they don't want to hear. You have to fire, you have to hire. You have tough conversations. And it's not an easy job. It's a thankless position because people don't come in and say you're doing a wonderful job. And so, I really realized I need to be my own boss. And so, the opportunity presented itself 21 years ago, and I stepped away, and have had a lot of faith walks, but I would not do it any differently.
Corey Rieck: You published a number of books, and one of the last books you published is Millennials and Beyond: Making the Leap from Texting to Talking. So, tell us about that. I guess, that's a hot topic.
Nancy Lewis: It's a very hot topic because in three years, according to some of the research, 50% of the workforce will be millennials. So, that's one out of two employees could be millennials in an organization. And most organizations are not prepared for that shift. And so, it really kind of came out of doing the diversity and inclusion workshops because the generational aspect became a real issue. It was like people were attacking each other almost in the class. Boomers and Generation X is caught in the middle getting no recognition because everything and everyone's focusing on millennials because there's so many of them, over like about 75 to 78 million millennials.
Nancy Lewis: So, I realized that there was something going on here. So, my colleague and I decide to do a practical book on giving people strategies for how to lead millennials in this workplace, but more importantly, give millennials some business etiquette because this needs some business etiquette that needs to be applied when you come to the workplace. Everything you think, trust me, you don't need to say. And you don't get trophies for just showing-
Corey Rieck: Boy, is that ever true?
Nancy Lewis: Yeah. And you don't get trophies are just showing up. And this is the first generation that get trophies for participating. And that doesn't mean that all millennials are the same, but this is the first group that they have helicopter parents, they have snowplow parents who fix up for them, who call. They call the interviews to say they're running late for their interview. I mean, literally, they go to the interview with the young adults. They show up with them and want to come in the interview with them. They will get an interview, the millennial will get an interview. And sometimes, we'll take a phone call when the interviewer was asking them questions. So, I've heard horror stories.
Corey Rieck: It's just shocking to me.
Nancy Lewis: That's what I hear, it happens. When you disciplined, or correct them, or give them constructive feedback, the helicopter parents are calling organizations and say, "Hey, John came home yesterday and said X, Y, Z." Now, again, this is not all millennials anymore than it's all Generation X or Boomers.
Corey Rieck: [Got you.
Nancy Lewis: The reality is that it is happening. It is current. Everywhere I go, basically, someone will share, "You are right, I had a parent call me the other day." Matter of fact, the parents showed up with him for the interview.
Corey Rieck: I'll bet you would be a tremendous resource to organizations that are looking for assistance on that. You started an event about 10 years ago called Transforming Women Entrepreneurs. Walk us through that, and walk us through the genesis of that?
Nancy Lewis: Well, a colleague and I, Rhonda Hight, we wanted to create a forum for business women, upscale business women, C-suite business women, entrepreneurs where they could come in a private setting and get education, information, and connect because I'd say, people don't network, you connect. So, we launched Transforming Women Entrepreneurs 10 years ago because we're actually celebrating. March 8th this year is our 10th year celebration of doing the event where-
Corey Rieck: Congratulations!
Nancy Lewis: Thank you so much. Where we're bringing women together. And men, actually, attend the event. And we just share with topical discussions on any kind of topic you can imagine - branding, marketing, health care, balance. Whatever the topic is that's relevant for business professionals, we provide it. And if one is upscale, it's classy. I'd say it's got class because it's a classy event. So, we do that, and we do it quarterly. She stepped away after the first year, so I've been doing it for the last nine years. But I love it.
Corey Rieck: If you could give the younger version of Nancy some advice, knowing what you know now with all of the experience you've done, what would you tell her?
Nancy Lewis: I would tell her to get a mentor earlier because had I had a mentor earlier, as Kay said, I wouldn't have burnt some bridges that I burned early in my career. I was correct with what I said, but it didn't need to come from me, but I didn't have anybody to guide me. So, I would say, get a mentor earlier in your career, someone that you trust and you value that can kind of give you some insight about your next steps. And that would have been very helpful for me. And realize that you're good enough. And even though as an African-American, you always have to be twice as good, that is real. You have to be twice as good, but you just ignore that. You ignore it faster because excellence cannot be denied.
Corey Rieck: Yeah. If there was a young lady that wanted to start an organization like yours, what advice would you have for her?
Nancy Lewis: To take speaking classes, get involved with ... well, this Dale Carnegie, I would suggest taking Dale Carnegie courses. You have Toastmasters. You have a lot of things out there. But to become a consummate professional at being able to articulate your ideas in a clear and concise way, that would be critical because communication is key. It's a tipping point. Those who can articulate their ideas, and sell ideas, and influence other people, that will take you to that next level. So, I would say learn how to speak effectively, seek every opportunity, and find someone who's doing it that you can work with and learn from them.
Corey Rieck: Well, Nancy, you've been a tremendous guest. We appreciate all of the success, and all of the history, and all the experience you brought to the show. Thank you for being a guest. If somebody wanted to get a hold of you, our listenership, what number would they call or what e-mail address would you give them?
Nancy Lewis: Well, the number is 770-964-5533. That's 770-964-5533. And the email is firstname.lastname@example.org. That's email@example.com.
Corey Rieck: Well, Nancy, thank you so much for the show.
Nancy Lewis: Thank you so much.
Corey Rieck: Next, we have Tonni Bennett. Tonni is the Vice President of Sales for Terminus. Tonni, welcome.
Tonni Bennett: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Corey Rieck: You have had a great deal of success in experience and have experienced what I would say is a meteoric rise, given your ... how do I say this?
Tonni Bennett: Age?
Corey Rieck: [Yeah. I mean, you're a Vice President, and you've had a lot of success with SalesForce, with SalesLoft. Tell us about that. That, to me, is just incredible that you're a Vice President of a large organization at such an early age.
Tonni Bennett: Well, I wouldn't say we're a large organization. Terminus is still a startup but, certainly, we've had really exciting growth. So, I think it's the flipside of what Nancy was just talking about, the other side of millennials. Some of us are spoiled brats, but others of us don't play by the rules that the last generation did, and we we want to achieve as much as we can as fast as we can. That can make us a little challenging, but I would say a lot of it has to do with the fact that I've really committed to working in startups.
Tonni Bennett: So, if I had taken the path that many of these other women had, I certainly wouldn't be in this spot simply because at a startup, the title Vice President doesn't mean the same thing. It may mean like a Bank of America. But I guess what I would say is starting in a startup, working in sales, and proving my track record for being able to sell software, marketing and sale software, and then working under incredible sales leaders, and getting to watch them build great sales organizations have given me a lot of insight even though I hadn't done that myself before Terminus to really understand how I might kind of mirror what others have done.
Corey Rieck: Yeah. You've had a lot of experience. There's a lot being written, a lot being said about businesses now with marketing automation. You have deep, vast experience with Pardot, and SalesForce, with SalesLoft. Tell us about why marketing automation should be a consideration for business owners and folks.
Tonni Bennett: Well, I think marketing technology has blown up. There are thousands and thousands of different technologies that a B2B marketer can use to reach their audience. And so, I, pretty early in my career, worked for Pardot, one of the first forms of lead-based marketing automation. Now, I work for Terminus, and we're focused more on account-based marketing, which is if you're not in this phase, I suppose it's mostly the same thing, but the idea being the buying center, a lot of companies has changed IT to marketing. And so, it's been exciting being a part of several growing companies that are building incredible software for marketers, and approaching it from different angles, and trying to continually innovate how can companies better reach their target market and better understand their buyer. And buyers aren't just sitting by the phone anymore waiting for a phone call. So, what are the different channels and mediums by which you can reach the right audience?
Corey Rieck: The Pardot experiment is really fascinating. For those of us that are advanced in our experience, myself included, what is marketing automation? What does that mean?
Tonni Bennett: Well, there's two ways you could define it. So, marketing automation, in general, is finding ways to automate your marketing efforts. Marketing automation specific to Pardot is a type of product or platform that would allow a company to better understand who's coming to their website and engaging with their content, so that they can trigger actions for sales. So, if you're a company that sells software to financial services companies, you'll want to create some type of content and materials that would attract that audience. And when that audience comes and finds you or comes in Google's terms, that would indicate they're in the market to buy your type of technology, you want them to find your content to come to you. And once they do that, this software allows you to understand what they're doing on your website and to provide that information to a sales team, so that they can be more empowered to reach out to that buyer.
Corey Rieck: So, is it fair to say that what that particular solution, Pardot, does is it marries information from the website to your CRM, so you can leverage your time and understand, "Okay, this person, this lead, this prospect has taken these actions," maybe you give them a score, and you're able to figure out, "Hey, where in the prospect funnel are these folks?"
Tonni Bennett: Absolutely, absolutely. It can help you to understand who's engaging, how interested they may be, and again, empower that sales team to better know how to reach out. And then, the new phase of that where I am at Terminus, I think a lot of this marketing automation software got us so focused on lead-based marketing. A lot of organizations forgot that, sure, there are leads, there are individuals, but, really, at the end of the day, you're selling to companies, to businesses. And so, how do we take all of the data we're collecting about people and individuals, and put it together under one account view, so if a company is trying to sell to another organization, an intern comes to their website to collect more data, you might think that's a bad lead because that's an intern. However, if you know that intern comes from a company or organization that is of high value to your company, that's still may be a lead you want to follow up on. So, understanding how all of that lead activity rolls up to accounts that you can better prioritize your time, so you're not wasting time, and energy, and effort following up with leads that are never gonna buy your technology.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, leverages is a word that I would use for what you're doing, whether it's your experience at SalesForce, Pardot, or SalesLoft, or Terminus, because you only have so much time. And so, how do you advise your folks, your clients, your customers on building content, and building the right content, and how much content? What are your thoughts on that?
Tonni Bennett: Well, B2B marketing is really complicated. So, it's different for every business, but it's about understanding who you're selling to, and what information would be important or appealing to that company, and tailoring your message to the right types of companies, but also the right types of buyers. And then, finding as many ways as possible as you can deliver that message. And so, what we say a lot about IBM, it's about if you can identify best-fit companies that you want to do business with, and you can understand the key personas that you want to reach, how then do you create content that's appealing to those individuals, and how do you find the right mediums and channels to get it in front of those people? And it can be through social media, through e-mail, through phones, through direct mails, all of a sudden popular again with a lot of B2B companies because people don't get mail anymore. So, how do you understand the right message, and get it in front of that person?
Tonni Bennett: And so, I don't think there's a specific answer in how much content is enough. More content is always great. But if you're creating more and more content, and it's not meaningful, that's pointless. So, as much as you can build meaningful content that would resonate with your buyer, you should do that in as many formats as possible. You want to have longer formatted content pieces for people who are super detail-oriented, and then shorter things like blog posts for people who just want to read a quick snippet of something.
Corey Rieck: So, what your organization does at Terminus, an account, you have company X, and it sounds like you're selling to more than just one person. You might have to sell the concept of 15, 20, or more people, right? Isn't that what account-based marketing is?
Nancy Lewis: Yeah. If you look at stats, according to Gartner, the average ... and we, again, sell to B2B companies. So, probably a little different than maybe some of the listeners. But if you look at the average B2B technology buying decision, it's made by 7 to 10 people. Buying decisions and committees keep growing and growing. So, you're not going to sell to one person at Bank of America. You're probably going to have a committee of 20 potential buyers. And often, as salespeople, we're only reaching one, two, three, four individuals in that organization. And so, Terminus, in particular, is trying to empower marketers to help reach a lot of the other stakeholders that aren't on the phone speaking with our salesperson. How do we still get the message in front of that larger buying committee?
Corey Rieck: I would imagine that concept of a company's marketing helps the salesperson or the sales folks, because you're putting content out there, you know who's engaged, you know who isn't. I'm assuming you have tracking measures put in there, but it must make that person's time, the salesperson's time must be really leveraged, and you're able to put the content out there and figure out. To me, it's very fascinating that you would be able to engage 7 to 10 stakeholders with the same messaging, the same information. But what a great thing for the salesperson to be able to put that content out. How do you guys measure all that?
Tonni Bennett: Well, there's a couple ways. So, we say engagement is the new form filled. So, the lead-based marketing, a lot of people are focused just on, "Did someone fill out a form on my website?" But if you're trying to reach a VP or C-level decision maker, the likelihood they're going to go to your website, download content, and give you their email address is very low. So, what are other ways that you can reach those higher level stakeholders and not necessarily require them to give you that information? But then, if they're not giving you their information, how do you know if it's working?
Nancy Lewis: And so, measuring things like engagement. And so, not to get too in the weeds. This might be boring for some people. But basically, if you can prove as a marketer to your CEO that the content that you've created or, in our case, we serve display ads, so the display ads you're sending out to your audience is getting more people from a certain target account of yours to your website, and they're spending more time on your website, and that's also impacting your e-mail open rates, those are very powerful engagement metrics that you can say, "We are engaging the right people and the right accounts at a higher level than we were before." And there's no way that activity is not going to lead to higher conversion rates through our sales marketing funnel and, ultimately, more revenue for the business.
Corey Rieck: You have had a lot of experience with startups, as we noted beginning outside of our discussion. Why do you have that affinity towards startups?
Tonni Bennett: That's kind of a-
Corey Rieck: Other than the fact that they need your help.
Tonni Bennett: So, I started my career in sales for UPS. Out of school, I was pre-law. I, last minute, freaked out and thought, "Oh, my gosh, I can't do more school, I had tons of debt from school. So, I just needed to start my career." And so, I kind of fell into sales. I hated it at first. And then, over time, throughout kind of the first two years, I started to really understand and develop my skill set. And then, when I went to Pardot, my first startup, I fell in love with sales because it wasn't about trying to push or pressure someone to buy something, which is what my misconception was. It's about really wanting to help someone. And so, I saw and at UPS, I was working with a lot of people much older than me. I was like 23 at the time.
Corey Rieck: Careful.
Nancy Lewis: And so, what do you do at the time when I first started my career, but I was trying to emulate. It was almost exclusively men, and they were in their 30s, 40s plus. And so, I was trying to emulate these older men and say big words and sound smart. And then, I realized when I'm just myself and just try to connect with people, that's way more powerful and effective. And so, at Pardot, it was a very young crew, people of 20s, really 20s and early 30s, and they're killing it. They're making good money. And they were genuinely helping buyers to improve their businesses. And so, I just kind of fell in love with it of both the startup world and sales. And I just continued in that path. Pardot was, then, acquired by SalesForce, which is a great company, but with a much larger organization comes a lot more rules and process. It makes it more difficult to move up in an organization.
Tonni Bennett: And so, I left there, got back into another smaller startup, and just have really enjoyed the ability to impact change. When you're in a 50 or 100-person company, the kind of impact you can have is just incredible. And so, at Terminus, this is my first chance to not just be a salesperson to contribute to revenue growth, but to really be a leader in the organization. So, my husband knows our co-founders really well. He actually made the connection. He went to our co-founders and said, "Tonni really wants to come build your sales team." And then, he came up to me and said, "The co-founders at Terminus would really love for you to come build their sales team." So, he kind of brokered this blind date.
Tonni Bennett: We met and everything just kind of clicked. But I went from individual contributor as a salesperson to, now, managing or growing an organization. And so, was employee number nine, first on the sales side. And now our sales work is 40 people. And I've seen this grow from zero to 10 million a revenue in less than three years. So, it has been incredible, and humbling, and frightening at times to know that you're making decisions that could greatly impact your organization or people's jobs and livelihoods. But it's also so exciting to be a part of that and to be able to help people, and give them jobs, and support their personal growth.
Corey Rieck: Well, you certainly had a great run and just tremendous experience. And I'm certain at Terminus has benefited handsomely by you being there. If you could advise the younger version of Tonni some 10 years ago, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give her?
Tonni Bennett: So, I don't want to be long winded, but a lot of the things that these other three women said really resonated with me. I think, Kay, what you said about dreaming in color would be my biggest piece of advice. And the way I've said it too, so I'm a millennial, but I often get calls from other young people who will call me and say, "I've just been in sales for a year. How do I become a VP of sales next year?" And my advice is always dream big, expect more, but at the same time, you have to be realistic, and you have to earn your way to where you're going. You can't ask or demand something you haven't earned.
Tonni Bennett: But at the same time, many of us, especially women, aren't vocal and aren't aggressive about pursuing the things that we deserve. And so, it's tricky, but find the right balance of dreaming big and not trying to follow in someone else's career path or footsteps. Pave your own way, but also, you have to be sensitive to making sure that you're earning the promotions or the steps that you're asking for, and that you're really understanding what is expected of me by this organization in this role, and how do I overperform in that.
Tonni Bennett: Laura, I think what you said about find the right partner has also been huge. I got married really young. My husband is super supportive. Being, I think, a female in this kind of industry, I work a lot of hours. Having a partner that's super supportive and encouraging of my career, and has never wanted me to do anything else, or demanded that I stay home and clean the house or anything like that. We're equal partners in this thing together. We don't have kids yet. But having the right partner that can support you in the whole thing is important.
Tonni Bennett: And then, Nancy, a lot of what you said about like the mechanics story and feeling like you have to do twice what other people do. I think for me being female but, also, being younger than most people in my role, I have felt this added pressure I put on myself, which I think is partially real and probably partially something that I put on myself, but I have to do two or three times as well as other people to be respected. My entire sales team is older than me, minus one person. Most them are males. And so, at first, I spent a lot of time thinking and projecting things on myself. What if this person thinks this or that? And finally, I just had to remind myself, I've earned where I am, I worked hard, I'm good at this job. And so, I just need to be confident in that. And so, all those things I would say to young women is find the right partners and friendships and, also, be aware of what makes you different, but don't let it define you.
Corey Rieck: If there was a young lady that wanted to be the next Tonni Bennett, what would you tell her?
Tonni Bennett: Don't do that. I really think if you look at all the most successful people, they didn't try to be anybody else. They completely paved their own way. And I think that's the key. You can't take someone else's same career path and make the same thing happen, especially with how fast our world is changing. I just think per the other advice just shared, like if you're bold and you pursue what you're passionate about, then good things will happen.
Corey Rieck: Well, Tonni, you've had a great run, great success. Thank you for being on the show. If the listenership wanted to get in touch with you, how would they do that via email and/or phone?
Tonni Bennett: Actually, social is probably best. On Twitter, @tonnibennett. Or on LinkedIn. You can find me, Tonni Bennett at LinkedIn. I will see a direct message on LinkedIn or Twitter faster than, usually, anything else.
Corey Rieck: We appreciate it. We've had a great show today. I want to close this up. Kay Dempsey from the Dempsey Companies. Thank you. You were a great guest. Laura Khan from JIFLA, thank you for your contributions. Nancy Lewis from Progressive Techniques and Tonni Bennett from Terminus, thank you, ladies. We've had a great show. Everybody have a great day.
Nancy Lewis: Thank you
Kay Dempsey: Thank you
Laura Khan: Thank you.
Nancy Lewis: Thanks.