Share This Episode

Denise Hamilton: Watch Her Work: Closing The (Achievement) Gap

We're here with a fascinating guest who's empowering the lives of women and altering the trajectory of careers and businesses all over the country.

With over 25 years of experience as a corporate executive with Fortune 500 companies like AOL and CBRE, she saw an opportunity to venture out, to start WatchHerWork, a digital learning community for professional women.

This Founder and CEO have been featured on NPR, Forbes, Fox, Huffington Post, CBS, NBC, and is the host of Project Comeback on Lifetime.

She was named one of the 41 Most Fascinating People in Houston by the Houston Chronicle and Women Who Means Business by the Houston Business Journal.

Please welcome to the Get WealthFit show, Ms. Denise Hamilton.

Denise
Thank you so much for having me.
Dustin
I always like to start with something a little special, a little different. I did some digging and found out that you worked with the one and only J. Lo, Jennifer Lopez, and she gave you the secret to success. What did she teach you?
Denise
It’s the most valuable lesson of my life. I still practiced it and think about it every day. A million years ago, I worked in production in music videos. When you work in production, you're doing all of the details, all of the minutia. They need 1,000 tennis balls, you get 1,000 tennis balls. It's the coffee, the arrangements and everything, all the logistics. When you're working on a video, you get what's called a writer from the artist. It'll say, “I need this kind of water. I need the room to be this temperature. I need kiwi, but it can't be from New Zealand.” We're all sitting around and we're looking at J. Lo’s writer and we're laughing at her. We’re like, “This is over the top.”
What we were thinking is like, “Who do you think you are?” A senior producer walked over to me and she said, “How many people are here now?” It's over 200 people. It's craft services, dancers, grips, electrics. It takes a lot of people to make something like that happen. I don't have to tell you, you're living it. It’s over 200 people. She said, “Are any of them here for?” I’m like “No, ma’am.” She said, “What happens if you don't do your best?” “Nothing. The show is going to go on. Everybody else will pick up my slack. It'll be okay.” “What happens if J. Lo is not at her best? All of this work, all of this money, all of this effort ends up on the cutting room floor and never sees the light of day. If we're not here for you, why should we drink the water that you like? You have been dancing for two hours. Why should the room be the temperature that's comfortable for you? Why shouldn't it be the temperature that's comfortable for her? For all you know, she has a food sensitivity around a fruit that comes from a certain part of the country. Why shouldn't she control for that? Knowing that if she has a problem, it's going to ruin the whole day. Instead of making fun of that, you need to take an example from that.”
The example that I take is you have the courage to create the optimal conditions for your success. It takes courage to say, “This is what I need. This is what I have to be successful. It doesn't happen accidentally. If I decide I'm going to take on some big exercise regimen or some big diet, I’ve got to clean out the old stuff out the fridge and the pantry. I've got to make time in my schedule. Things have to happen for us to achieve the things we say we want to get. What we do is we set lofty goals, but we don't have the courage to create the optimal conditions for those goals to happen. That's what I learned from J.Lo. I think about it every single day.
Dustin
The question that spawned for me was, you lead teams, you've got a company, you've worked in large organizations, do you think it was critical at some point for them to explain that why? If you had known why, if she had that conversation before you made those thoughts around it, do you think that's the important part of the process?
Denise
I do think it's an important part of the process, but I also think you have to not care if people understand your ‘why.’ That's what it is. J. Lo was not sitting around thinking, “I wonder if Denise understands why I want the room to be this temperature.” That's where we mess up. We're accommodating other people's lack of understanding. It's great if you have the time, the energy, the bandwidth, the opportunity to explain everything. Great leaders are skilled at communicating what's the intent and what's the outcome that we're going for. You also don't always have time and you want to be the person that trusts your leader. You have a great relationship with everybody on your team.
Sometimes you’ve got to do what you think is the right thing to do. I talk a lot in my keynotes and my materials that there's nobody that can keep you regular like your family. This idea of you have to sometimes fight homeostasis. You have to say, “I know you don't understand what I'm doing, but I'm going to do it anyway. I know this doesn't make sense to you, but this is me creating the reality that I need to get to the place that I want to be.” Sometimes those contrary beliefs and opinions, you’ve got to be able to brush it off. Keep going to what is your true north even if everybody doesn't understand it.
Dustin
That's big for me because for me, this may sound a little crass, but I always assume like they don't care. Our whole goal as leaders is to find the people that do care and are proud of the work. I always want to assume a worst-case scenario. I always feel like I have to communicate what the why is to them, enroll them and get them excited, almost sell them. At the end of the day, sometimes situations you don't have time, you’ve got to get out there, you’ve got to do it and feel okay about it.
Denise
It's building trust that they trust you. You've got common sense. You're good at what you do and you need to hire for that. I now hire for that. I hire people that I believe have the ability to come in, get the broad vision, but not have to be instructed on every single step of the journey. They understand sometimes you're a cog in the wheel. That's okay as long as you have the big picture. Sometimes we get everybody involved in everything. It's like, “At some point, I have to get something done.” You don't want to be the leader that you're in meetings all day long because you’re convincing people. Everybody doesn't get the vision. It's why Steve Jobs was such an amazing leader because he's like, “We're going to sell people stuff they don't even know they want yet. You might not understand it, but come with me.” I want to be the leader that people want to come with you. Even if they don't understand at all, they want to come with you.
Dustin
You have a very interesting path. You're an achiever. You were a manager, a VP, a COO at some point. It would have been very easy for you to stay on that course. People would say, “She's an achiever. She's going to go that route.” You pivoted. You decided you’ve got to go start WatchHerWork. For people that are in corporate, that have that dream, what's your advice for them and how did you know like, “Now is my time?”
Denise
This is a subject that I'm passionate about because we have fetishized entrepreneurship. We've gotten to this space that everybody feels like if they don't have a side hustle, they're a failure. I have a company. I want employees that love what they're doing are fulfilled and are giving me 100%. I feel like everyone feels like they have to be divided right now. That being said, if you have a passion to start a business and you're in Corporate America, you're not starting it because everyone else is starting one. You're starting it because you have a great idea. One of the things you have to do is take inventory of what are the skills that you have. Invariably you have more than you think you have.
You've done more. You've accomplished more. How do you translate those skills into an entrepreneurial environment? How do you identify appropriate mentors and partnerships? Sometimes we're all trying to get to Oprah where we need to get to the person that's more of a peer because they're going to say, “You can use Upwork for this. You can do this way.” They'll have all the tips, the tricks and the small things that move you to that next level. Let's not romanticize it. Let's not glamorize it like, “I'm going to be an entrepreneur so I'll be able to sit by the beach with my laptop. I only work six hours a day.” No, you'll work more and understanding and counting the cost of what it takes to be an entrepreneur.
Do you believe fully in your idea? That's what it comes down to. I'm of the opinion and I call it 55-45. Most of the decisions that you make, they could have gone either way. It's your will to make that decision a reality. There are ten people you could have married and it would've been all right. It's not about, “I married the one.” It's about, “I'm committed to the one I chose.” Sometimes where we struggle in entrepreneurship is, we're not committed to this idea. We're not willing to do what it takes to push it up the hill and push it on the other side of that mountain. To me, it's about that like focus on that commitment and tenacity. If you've got those things, go for it. Life is short, do it.
Dustin
I can feel the passion coming out of you. Did your friends think you were crazy that were non-entrepreneurial or did they support you because they knew who you were?
Denise
I choose my friends very carefully. My mom always says I cream. I only take the best of the best like, “How is it that all your friends are fabulous?” Going back to that whole concept that creates the optimal conditions for your success, I've curated an amazing tribe of friends. I believe there are two types of people, creators and critics. I don't hang out with critics. I hang out with other creators. If I can share the vision, they support the vision. How can I execute that vision? How can they support my vision? Those were the conversations I had. They were in. They were like, “This sounds awesome. How do I help you? How do I support you?”
That's one of the biggest pieces of advice I give. I'm speaking at a university. Specifically, when I talk to younger people, I say, “Be very careful about who's in your ear, who's telling you what you can and you can't do, who's that force in your life, who is feeding you.” That goes right into your subconscious and it's in the back there. Even if you say you don't believe it, it's back there. Surrounding yourself with positive people is critical. I had been blessed with that through the beginnings of WatchHerWork. It's been the key to success.
Dustin
I want to get into WatchHerWork. I want to ask you though, burn the bridges or save for that leap, which one did you fall in? When you were saying, “I'm going to do this,” were you saving and doing it or were you like, “I’ve got to get here, back up against the wall?”
Denise
I was a save and take the leap. It’s not that I don't have any problem with people who burn the bridge or who have to start a business out of necessity. You always want to do whatever you can do from a position of power. We always underestimate how long it's going to take for a business to get viable, get moving. I'm of the opinion that goes ahead and puts a little money away. More importantly, it cuts your expenses. That always amazes me. I'm like, “It doesn't matter how much money you have. You need to understand this is a different season. You're going to have to take everything down. If last year you went to Hawaii. This year, you go to Santa Monica.” If you do that and you have that discipline, those both places, you'll have the gas and this theme to keep it going. Don't kill it in the crib. Give it a chance to get to toddlerhood.
Dustin
How did WatchHerWork
Denise
I started WatchHerWork to solve my own problem because I was the only African-American or the only woman in so many rooms. I became a lightning rod for mentees. Everybody wants to take me to lunch. They wanted to pick my brain. I could have had coffee eleven times a day. It occurred to me as I was talking to my peers, they're all having the same problem. These are people that don't even see their own kids. That's how much they're grinding. That's how busy and they're at the tip of the spear. There's this incredible expectation that you're going to mentor 150 young women. I don't need to see my own kids.
Let alone, I can't assume that responsibility. It's like they wanted to help, but there wasn't any way to scale that help. The number one request or complaint that women have in the corporate environment is that, “There aren't any mentors. I need a mentor. I can't find a mentor.” We’re a small group. It's not that many people. There are all these spoilers around it. The other piece of it was companies were doing this artificial, “We'll match you with Linda from another apartment and she'll be your mentor.” That doesn't work either because what do you need advice for at work? It's sticky situations. Do I want to tell somebody from my company, “I slept with John in accounting and now he's telling everyone, I don't know what to do?”
I'm not going to do that. I’m not going to call my hoity-toity fancy mentor that the company assigned me until I cried in a meeting. I don't know what to do tomorrow to regain my dignity, re-established my authority. What do I do? What women do? They don't do anything. They bottle it up or they ask their friends that work at TJ Maxx and their friends do not know. Their mom does not know. They're asking the wrong people how they should handle these complex situations. It was like we have this supply problem, demand problem. It was tough. I thought there's got to be a way to utilize technology to solve this problem. Another important factor in this is who gets mentored the shiny, sparkly girl with the perfect hair, in the sparkly eyes and the dimples? She's probably going to get a mentor.
If we don't have a mechanism to mentor everyone, I'm not down for 5% of women to be successful. We need everybody to grow and step up. How do we democratize access to this core advice? That's how WatchHerWork was born. We started turning on the cameras and filming these women because everybody's asking the same questions, “I make more money than my husband. How should I handle that? How do I ask for raise? How do I tell my boss I'm pregnant? What do I do if a client hits on me?” It's all the same questions. If we can get thought leaders, entrepreneurs and executive women to answer these questions and to have it readily available, everybody wins.
Dustin
You have this idea. You see a need in the marketplace. You turn on the cameras and you start recording. When did you know this was it or you could know, but you'd know when the numbers come in or when the response comes in?
Denise
It’s almost right away. I would tell people what I was doing and they would burst into tears, “I wish I had this. I think of so many times that this could have helped me.” It filled a hole. I still get the handwritten cards like, “I was going through a divorce. I couldn't get out of bed, let alone get through this project at work. Watching Kathy's video helped me to get myself together.” When you need it, you really need it. We can see that in the metrics. We'll see somebody sit and watch the same video 22 times because they're trying to get their nerve up. It's an example. One thing about how we even source the women that are on this site.
I'm 5’11”. I have a booming voice. I'm an extrovert. I am confident. It's easy for me to say, “You need to go in there and you need to tell him that we are not doing that.” I can pull that off. A 4’9”, petite, soft-spoken, I might as well tell her to fly. We cannot get all of our advice from Michelle Sandberg. We're all different. If you're giving advice, you have to have all kinds of people giving that advice. People asked me, “Why do I interview so many women?” We have hundreds of women on the site. It's because I want you to find your muse. That person that's like you, that person that's totally not like you. You can pick and choose and see what methodology is going to work for you.
We have every race, every age, every level of attractiveness. Let's be truthful. Work is different for pretty girls and for girls that are not as attractive. If you're heavy, if you're thin, let's be honest about it. Give people a place to connect with people they will never know. Last but not least, what I think of as super important, regional. Just because you're born in its bits Iowa, that doesn't mean you're not ambitious. You may not know a woman as a VP of anything. If you can't find that mentor, I’ll give you access to hundreds. I feel like what we're doing is democratizing access and giving women the tools that they need, to be able to tackle those things in a just-in-time model.
At their convenience, if they want to watch it 10 or 20 times at 3:00 in the morning, I don't care. It doesn't tax the advisers. As a matter of fact, the mentors are delirious because they want to help. They have all of this wisdom in their minds, but they want to have a receptacle for it. There's the other little interesting twist that we tend to marginalize women after they hit 45, 48, 52. We push into the side. It's like, “Come back in here.” Those are the chicks that know where the bodies are buried. They know how this stuff works. They’ve got all the magic sauce. This also creates a cross-generational dialogue. It's weird. It's not happening in real life anymore.
As professionals, we don't tend to live in the same city as our families and most of us don't go to church anymore. The impact of that is all of our friends are the same age. They're all like us. We don't know a bunch of toddlers. We don't know a bunch of high school kids. We used to because you live close to your family and we all went to church. You knew people from all generations. Now, our experience has truncated. That's damaging. People are interested in hearing, “You're 30 years old. What do you think? You're twenty years younger than me. How do you look at that?” I've also created an energy of cross-generational communication that we had lost as a society.
Dustin
What have been the challenges in building the platform?
Denise
Black women are statistically highly unlikely to get tech funding, startup funding. When I started this, I went door to door and did a lot of pitching. I did a lot of pitch competitions and looking for investment. People didn't get it. They were like, “Why would I want to do that?” I remember I pitched and this guy raised his hand. He said, “I'm married and I have two sisters. They don't share their secret sauce with anybody.” I was like, “I have 150 people on a waiting list. Your family is mean.” People bring their own stuff to your idea. Having the resources to push this into the world side of self-funded and we funded with revenue. At the time, I was pissed. I was so mad because it feels unjust. You hear every day about this person getting $100 million in funding for an idea that does not touch 51% of the population of the world as mine does. I'm glad I didn't get funded.
Dustin
You can be nimbler.
Denise
I am the captain of my own universe. I do whatever I want to do. I have control of me. When I think about the deep thought leadership that is infused throughout, WatchHerWork, if you need a 20X return by next Tuesday, we don't have time to do the foundational work. It gets pushed to clicks and ads and not how we build this community and capitalize on it. I had to self-fund, be nimble, be creative, be skilled in the relationship and partnership building. Now, it's like what I wanted to be. When people talk to me about like discouragement about not getting funded. Racism and sexism in tech, it's real. It's not an imagined thing, but that's okay. You can do it. I grew up in Brooklyn. I’m a child of hip-hop.
I'm from the generation of Run-DMC, Jay-Z and all those guys selling CDs at the trunk of their car because the record companies won't give them the time and day. They wouldn’t even take their meetings. Now, hip hop is the number one musical genre on planet Earth. I always want to encourage people that they don't have to believe in you. You believe in you and keep pushing, build your idea, seed it, do the research, collect all the data and build it. It may not be what it could have been if somebody gave you $100 million, but it will be. You create inertia. If you're building something great, other people are going to want to jump on board and be a part of it and it will get there. Managing the discouragement of other people not being interested or not receiving the idea, those people are calling me now.
Dustin
I appreciate that because that obstacle is the way. There's a book out about that. Your journey has made you resourceful. I want to ask you this because this is ridiculously resourceful. You have 7,000 videos and if I did my numbers correct, that's over 1,000 a year. That's three a day. You don't have the funding of these things that companies you hear about. How have you been able to do that and why so many?
Denise
The first most important decision that I had to make was choosing between perfect and done. The struggle I see so many people having both in corporate and in entrepreneurial pursuits is I'm not going to do it until it's perfectly right until I have the big studio, the perfect lights, the perfect this and the perfect for that. We went to South by Southwest. I bought a camera and a tripod. I got a friend and we figured out the settings and we started filming. It has been completely low tech. Sometimes you have to allow yourself, you have to release the presumption of what it took to get things done. That's hard in a rapidly evolving tech environment. You feel like, “It takes this to accomplish that.” When can you get by with that? It only takes a little bit.
We said, “Let's start filming. If they're terrible, we'll pull them down and we'll put up some new ones.” People would write, “Your production quality is so excellent. We love it.” We're looking at each other like our $500 camera and our $20 tripod. That's the thing. I always say this to people, just start. Do it. You think it’s so Herculean and it's not. We have a goal of 20,000 videos by the end of 2020. We are launching WatchHerWork in Espanyol at the beginning of Q2, so that we have Spanish language content because they've got a whole different set of problems. They want to be a part of this too. How great to be able to learn in your own language. I don't see any end in that.
One thing we're hoping we can get to is that people start sending in their videos. There's no magic. You can make a movie on an iPhone. If you have a great experience and you’re like, “I want to tell people about this. I don't want this to die with me. I want to tell somebody what happened, how I handle this and how it worked out.” Film it, sent it to us and we'll put it on the site because we want to curate female brilliance from wherever it is. Why so many videos? People ask me all the time. The reason is, first, this was a brave choice. I got a lot of pushback on this, but I believe in it so I stuck with it.
In a world where everybody is trying to niche down, “I only sell socks. I only sell razors that fit.” This is not a niche situation. It's advice about work. That means everything, it's money, relationships, mental health, financing. There are so many topics that touch this topic. It wouldn't have been complete if we didn't have the coverage of all of these different topics. Every topic has many questions. Every question, sometimes we have 5, 6 and 7 answers to the same question because we're all different people. What we see is somebody found out they're pregnant yesterday. They sit and they watch our videos for an hour-and-a-half.
Our videos are short. They're 1 to 3 minutes each. They watch every single one in a category. When you need it, you need it. There aren't a lot of women that wear a hijab to work. If you wear hijab and you want to know, “How do I handle negative reactions or whatever?” you need that information and that's why we did this. We did this to help. One of the challenges that I see as a slightly older, seasoned executive is that a lot of the advice that is on the web, all these millions of articles and whatever, they don't say anything. It's surfaced. It's five tips for this, six tips for that and seven ways to do that. It's like these don't say anything. I was at a work lunch in a restaurant that’s called Houston in Houston. I wore a boxy gray suit. I didn't wear hardly any makeup.
We met for lunch, not for dinner. I did everything I was supposed to do to maintain the professionalism of this lunch. I think it's going great. I'm spending my commission check because I know I've aced this deal. We get out to the parking lot and a guy pushes me up against my car and tries to kiss me. Can I go to your top five ways and your top three lists, all these little lists and all these little articles? No. There’s no, “What do I do now? Do I tell my boss? Do I call his boss? Do I walk away from the deal? How am I going to get my commission? Do I smile and act like it didn't happen because I want my money? What do you do?” I wanted to go deeper and that's harder. It's easy to do surface. You can't do deeper with six videos. You’ve got to do thousands.
Dustin
That's what WealthFit is. We create content on the show and courses. We're not at 7,000. How do you catalog? If someone is coming with that question, you are finding that you're serving up that right information.
Denise
We take great pains to categorize everything as carefully. It is one of those spaces if anybody wants to send me a check for $500,000 so we can upgrade our IT, we'll take that money. It's hard to make everything super searchable, but we try to at least categorize it and organize it. It's a discovery site. It's like, “I'm going to go through and I'm going to watch the videos about compensation,” or whatever that situation is. Even that is an education. A little bit that Steve Jobs is in the back of my head as you have to give people stuff they don't even know they need. I don't necessarily love this like over-curation environment that we're in now. People only get to pick and choose.
It's like kids, “I only want Rice Krispies treats and chocolate milk.” You'd be sick and you'd be unhealthy. You have to have a mixture of content. Sometimes I like it. You may have to watch seven videos to get to that question you had, but that's an interesting topic. What would I do in that situation? It's designed to create a conversation and to make you wiser in general about that topic. It's an iterative process. We're always trying to grow and to have it become more. If you've got a problem and you sit down for a little bit, you can get there. Something that's fun about WatchHerWork that I don't have a whole lot of theories about, but 17% of our audience is male.
Dustin
They’re trying to figure out women.
Denise
That's what it is. It's people who have a female boss that they don't connect with. Managers that have women on their staff and they feel like they're not doing a good job. This is a place that you get to hear women talk in their own words about what they think about the best way to handle situations. It's such a powerful training tool even for men to understand like, “Where is this coming from? How do they look at this? What do they think about this?” I remember one great example. An executive, they did a hunting trip. This is in commercial real estate. That was an incentive if you are one of the top brokers and you had been one of the biggest producers. It's a 24-hour hunting trip, hunting doves. I don't want to kill a dove. The guys were like, “This is going to be so fun. We're going to the lodge.” It’s a private jet they pick you up.
You hunt all night and come back the next day. I could think of ten torture devices that I would prefer to doing that. It was so powerful to me that the male leader that was coordinating that trip, it didn't even occur to him that this is not an incentive. Not only is it not an incentive because I don't want to go, it's not an incentive because the guys don't want me to go. It's not an incentive because their wives don't want me to go. All of these like dimensions to something that was a perfectly well-intended deal. There's so much value for people that want to utilize that, both male and female, because it's like, “How do other people think? Here's this perspective that I may not be aware of, but it's shaping the experiences and I'm not even getting the outcome that I want. I thought this was a prize.”
Dustin
I never even considered that. I was going to say, “Why don’t you take the jet? You drop off the boys. You can take the jet and go wherever you want to go.” I want to go back to something you said earlier. It was a perfect lead into this next part, which is this idea of offline. You had said this idea around curation is that we're so niched now where we're getting so curated that we're only getting advice or ideas around the things we want. Back in the day, you'd have a newspaper. You'd have church and you get introduced to new ideas and new people. You said that comment about this power of old school. I think about the power of offline. I know WatchHerWork isn't just an online platform. You believe in the power of offline, which is consulting. It's events, meeting with people, a community. I want you to talk a little bit about the offline stuff you're doing and the power of that.
Denise
It’s eye contact, talking to people, understanding what they care about, listening to them. I want to sit and talk with you. It's becoming a lost art. I hate to say it, but it is. We do networking events. We have a retreat. We did a retreat in Bali. We took a group of dynamic, incredible women. I believe in creating dynamic interactions where you're talking to real people about real things. If you come to WatchHerNetwork events, it is not like anything you've ever been to because you think you're going to come, have your cocktail, walk around and people are going to say, “What do you do?” That's not what we do. It's facilitated. I throw out a question and I match you with a stranger and you’ve got to talk about that question. That question may be, “What was your biggest disappointment? Who are the three most important people in your life and why? What are you most proud of right now?” Deep questions that you're talking to a complete stranger.
I have to tell you, I have to use a crowbar to pull people apart. I'm like, “You all don't even know each other. How are you in this deep conversation?” People are desperate for real conversations. I saw a study that 71% of the American population reports themselves as being lonely. When we do an event, we do anything. We're doing Texas Female Founders Day the day before South by Southwest. We're gathering 200 female founders and we're going to love on them.
In classic Denise form, no investors, no funders, no ecosystem builders. Everybody out, just founders. Do your kids have health insurance? Is your husband pissed off because you're not bringing in money? Is that causing stress in your relationship? Are you sleeping? Are you taking care of anxiety? Real things that happen because you're a founder. I said to the point in my life, I'm old enough that I can like to move beyond the surface and the basics and move to, what's going to help you? What's going to feed you? I believe that's an authentic relationship. It's an authentic exchange of great ideas and it's listening to each other.
Dustin
I’m thinking specifically of this Founders Day coming up. Do women lean into it or are they showing up not knowing what they're going to get? By the process, they bond. Is it more of a lean in or it's like they show up and you give them your thing?
Denise
It's the brand. When people talk about building your brand, your brand should be what people think about you, your business and your offerings. I took a group of women to Bali, for example. They didn't know where they were staying. They didn't know what the agenda was. People still can't believe that I pulled that off, but I wanted them to have a surprise. You've never been there. What do you care about? You're going to have a nice bed. It's going to be five-star accommodations. You're going to have activities every day. These women are so used to controlling every detail and managing every factor. I wanted them to have the experience of, “You don't know, just show up. Have delight and surprise.” The only way I was able to pull that off is because I have a brand that people associate with being wise, thoughtful and supportive, so they will take that risk on me.
When people come to our events, “I don't know what's going to happen, but I know it's going to be good.” I don't need Michelle Obama to speak at my events. Three hundred people show up. They don't even know who the speakers are because I've spent the energy with the offering of creating a space where people know what they're going to get because they know who I am. As people who are tuned into this conversation, when you think about your brand, go beyond the logo and what colors on the website. People spend a lot of energy on that stuff and you'd spend the energy on who are you and who do you want people to think you are and do those things match. If you can get those things to match, you can create unlimited opportunities because your tribe is going to follow you. When you come to WatchHerNetwork or Texas Female Founders Day, you're going to get fed. I want to always make sure I protect that brand.
Dustin
The big thing or the big lesson I'm learning, there are many lessons, but the one that's calling to me is there are surface-level in business. We all been in those situations. We go to that networking event and people are talking, but nothing's being said. What you're talking about is going that level and maybe it's because of the years that you’ve walked the planet. You're at that point. If we all could get there quicker, we can have a dramatic impact. That's where the magic happens. A lot of us, myself included, had been playing the surface, shaking hands and smiling. When you get to that next level, then you build that brand, whether it's a personal or business brand. People come to you to rely on you for that.
Denise
That's why the podcast is important. I believe a podcast is a whiplash to brevity. Everything is short, niche little. People like, “No way. I want an hour-long conversation. I want to hear more.” That's what this is. Think about how much podcasting has exploded. It's a direct response. People want depth. They want more. How do you find a way to give that to them? One revolutionary thing we're doing at Texas Female Founders Day is we're not doing any panels. I hate panels. You have five people on the panel, everybody gets 1 or 2 questions. You feel like you've got to make your mark with your answer, your question or else why were you there? It's so dissatisfying.
I'd rather sit and interview somebody for 15 or 20 minutes. What happened? What did you do? How did it go? What were the problems? Even if it's 15 to 20 minutes of talking to one person, that's what we're going to do. We're going to do mini-interviews on stage, classic Oprah style, so you can get to like what happened and get out of this soundbite universe that we're in. I cannot wait. We're doing a series of conversations with quitters. When should you quit? How long have you been doing this? What are your KPIs? How do you know if it's time to keep going or if it's time to step away? Who's talking about that? WatchHerWork is talking about that.
Dustin
A lot of entrepreneurs or business builders and even people in corporate would want to know what you have in your head. You've got Apple, GE, Shell, United Way, Chevron, IBM, DP, WNBA, ExxonMobil. These are your clients. At some point, people decide like, “I want to get sponsorship. I want to work with corporations. I want to partner,” whatever it looks like to them. How have you been able to do that? How have you cracked that code? What's your advice for people that are like, “I want to serve, I'd like to partner, I want to get into the corporate space, sponsorship space or deal-making space?”
Denise
It's like any other part of your business. You have to study it. You have to figure it out. You have to crack the code. You have to build those relationships with people. You have to build things in a way that people can consume them. You have this great idea that you want to do workshops for Human Resources groups in different Corporate America. You don't have an outline for your workshop. You don't have your learning outcomes clearly enumerated. You don't attend any Human Resources events. You don't follow any people on social media that are human resources professionals. You're not in any human resource LinkedIn groups or Facebook groups. You're not a student of the game, but you want to have this result that I have. You're not going to get what I get unless you do what I do. Very often people think, “If I got my card, I put on my website, I can't wait until everybody comes.” Nobody is coming. They're not looking for you. They're busy. You have to create a path.
Are you set up from an organizational standpoint that people can pay you or that you have all your documentation, all your structure or your businesses done in such a way that the corporations can do an RSVP or they can invoice you? You'd be surprised at things that people get stuck on. They haven't built the structure with the customer in mind. They built what they wanted to build. It's important to develop those relationships to be a true brand, to be an expert in that space. You want to sell them as your expert in that space. You can't name ten people that are leaders in that space because you're not a student of it. Those relationships, they get other relationships. Dive in, become an expert in your community, in your specialty, podcasting, fly fishing. Whatever your thing is, own it completely. Those opportunities are going to present themselves.
Dustin
What I hear you saying is put the time in, do the work. I also hear that you'll find some people to connect with, but it's those people that you talk with that are going to refer you out. It's probably going to be another level deep. There's no shortcut.
Denise
You might have to do something for free. They hear you and they're like, “She's got something to offer.” Come on in and start hitting it. You have to get in where you fit in and it's great. Don't underestimate asking your friends. I'm always struck by how fearful we are to require reciprocity in our relationships. If somebody called you and asked you a favor, you'd probably do it, “Sure, happy to do it.” Why don't we ask our friends to help us in the ways that we need help? You’ve got friends at every company. We have friends that are employed, “Who's the person that's in charge of HR? Who's the person that's in charge of this in your company? Could you do an eIntroduction?” LinkedIn, you can reach out to almost anybody.
Stop trying to get with Oprah. Get with Dustin. Reach out on a lateral level because you can grow together and those are people that are going to listen to you and give you a chance, “I'm going to take a risk and let me bring you in here.” A classic verse, “You have not, because you ask not.” You haven't asked and so you don't get it. Don't be afraid to ask because let's be truthful. Let's say you ask and they say no, that's a gift. If I thought that our relationship was at a nine. You told me our relationship is at three. We're dealing in reality and I can sow interrelationships that are out of nine, but we're afraid to test those relationships to see, “Is this person in my tribe? Are they on my team?”
I probably have 30,000 LinkedIn contacts. The social media thing game is crazy right now. I can live for the rest of my life. I don't need another friend, not one. I'm strictly looking for people to drive the getaway car. People I can call from jail. When your rubber hits the road, those are the relationships I want to add to my universe. You're not going to know that if you're afraid to ask anybody to ever do anything, that's how you know. If I'm willing to show up for you, you can show up for me. That's the first place I start. What's my network? What are my relationships? Who knows who? Who can help me move into this space? What advice do you have? What concrete relationships do you have? You revise your relationships. They're valuable. It’s nothing wrong with that.
Dustin
You're the host of Lifetime’s Project Come Back. What is it about and what can you tell us?
Denise
We're waiting to see if they pick it up for sure, but it is about women who have been out of the workforce for some length of time and they're ready to get back in. I coach them to help them get their mojo back. This is the beauty of social media and what the opportunity is, the power of building your brand. They found me, reached out on LinkedIn and said, “We'd like the work that you're doing. Would you consider coming to LA and shooting this pilot?” I was like, “What?” My skeptical friends were like, “It's a scam. Don't do it. It's not real. It's not authentic.”
It absolutely was. I flew out, did a couple of pilot episodes and we're waiting to see if they pick it up. It was super exciting and it was so positive. One of the biggest challenges of building an organization like this is it's hard to do from the middle of the country. There's very much like the world revolves around the coast. I'm based in Houston, Texas. Who are you to think that you can pull this off? I can pull it off like your audience can pull things off. Keep being you doing your thing and if you're good enough, they'll find you. It's exciting and I can't wait to see what happens.
Dustin
Aside from the show, Español coming, what do you like most thrilled about these days?
Denise
We launched our digital course, Master Yourself, Master Your World. I'm obsessed with it. That is a concept that guides and drives my entire life. People ask me a lot of questions about career success, “How can I be a more accomplished and how can I get this?” They generally start with, “My boss is doing this. My coworkers are doing that. My husband is doing that.” They're complaining about other people. I always stopped them and I say, “You are not in control of anybody else. All you control is you. Are you in control? Let's talk about the places you are not in control of. If you get that right, now we can talk about the next set of decisions, but if you can get yourself mastered, there isn't anything you can do.”
Dustin
For people that want to continue the conversation with you, check out the platform, check out the community, go to WatchHerWork.com. Where else? You mentioned social media. Are there any places you want to direct them on social media?
Denise
You can follow me personally, @OfficialDHam. I'm from Brooklyn. I have an ode to the DJ, Official Dham. The company is @WatchHerWorkTV on Instagram, Twitter, on all the usual places. Your follow matters. Your joining the mailing list matters. It's a currency. I always ask specifically for people to follow and to support because it matters. I appreciate every single member of the community and drop me a line, drop me a note. I love it when people say, “Will you cover this subject? I was on your side. I didn't see anything about this. Would you do some videos about that?” If you want to submit videos to the site, shoot them to us and send us a note. We'll send you a link and can upload them. If they meet our editorial guidelines, we put them on the site because we want to curate female brilliance all over the country, hopefully all over the world.
Dustin
I want to acknowledge you for that. What you're up to is a big mission. I'm grateful to have met you and gotten to know you and have you on the show. I want to acknowledge you for coming on the show. Thank you for sharing your message and paying it forward.
Denise
Thank you.

RELATED TRAINING

 in 

MONEY

article
Sitting At Home? Get a Financial Education Today — For Free

If you’re staying at home to help stop the spread of Coronavirus, or Covid-19, chances are you’ve already filled your time with movies and games. Why not use this time to learn about money? 

Sitting At Home? Get a Financial Education Today — For Free

Cash Lambert

Read Now
article
4 Ways To Conserve Your Money During the Coronavirus Crisis

Follow this simple 4-step process to spend less and save money during the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, pick from our list of 101 side hustles to boost your income.

4 Ways To Conserve Your Money During the Coronavirus Crisis

Cash Lambert

Read Now
article
What Are HOA Fees?

Learn what HOA fees pay for, how much these fees cost, and whether or not they’re right for you and your finances.

What Are HOA Fees?

Cash Lambert

Read Now
article
What the Coronavirus Tax Extension Means for Your Taxes ...

Because of the economic impact of Coronavirus pandemic, the IRS filing deadline — what’s known as “tax day” — has officially been moved by three months, providing tax relief.

What the Coronavirus Tax Extension Means for Your Taxes ...

Cash Lambert

Read Now
podcast
Budgets Are Sexy, Accidental Entrepreneur & The ‘Drama List’

From an accidental entrepreneur to a millionaire blogger, J. Money shares how his decision to get his personal finances in order lead him to build and acquire many successful blogs and hustle money like a pro.

Budgets Are Sexy, Accidental Entrepreneur & The ‘Drama List’

podcast
Redefining Wealth, Emotional Spending & Seeking Wisdom

Tune in as America's Money Maven, Patrice Washington, takes us on a mission to redefine wealth. After the big crash and an even bigger hospital bill, Patrice shares the lessons she's learned on her journey and how she built a successful business by chasing purpose instead money.

Redefining Wealth, Emotional Spending & Seeking Wisdom

podcast
Quit Like a Millionaire

Imagine retiring in your 30's and traveling the world on permanent vacation. Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung live this lifestyle and sit down with Dustin to explain how you can do the same. By going against the norm, investing their money, and quitting their jobs, tune in as they share helpful tips from their new book, Quit Like a Millionaire.

Quit Like a Millionaire

article
How To Graduate Debt Free

Learn how to graduate with NO student debt by thoroughly researching a career, winning free money, and picking a major with a high ROI.

How To Graduate Debt Free

Erica Gellerman

Read Now
More Cashflow, Less Stress

More Cashflow, Less Stress

How To Boost Your Monthly Income By "Going With the Flow" of Wealth

Dale Gibbons

Watch Now
Financial Adulting

Financial Adulting

The 20-Something's Guide to Debt, Investing, and a Wealthy Life

Ellen & Micah Long

Watch Now
Zero Student Debt

Zero Student Debt

How To Make a Smart College Investment and Graduate Debt-Free

Ellen Long

Watch Now
podcast
unHustling - Work Less, Earn More

Join Phil Newton as he and Dustin discuss how to de-stress your life and achieve work-life balance while increasing your income.

unHustling - Work Less, Earn More

article
How To Improve Your Credit Score In 30 Days

Want to improve your credit score fast? Learn 3 different strategies to improve your credit score in 30 days or less.

How To Improve Your Credit Score In 30 Days

Michelle Black

Read Now
Money 101 for Teens

Money 101 for Teens

The Ultimate Guide To Making, Spending, Saving, and Investing Money

JP Servideo

Watch Now
podcast
Wealth Acceleration

Learn how Stuart Arakelian recovered and prospered from the 2008 financial crash—and how it impacted his philosophy on wealth management.

Wealth Acceleration

Wealth That Lasts

Wealth That Lasts

Simple Secrets to Getting (and Staying) Wealthy

Tom McFie

Watch Now
Getting Out of Debt

Getting Out of Debt

How To Eliminate (Bad) Debt and Maximize Your Cash Flow

Michele & John McFie

Watch Now
Wealth-Building 101

Wealth-Building 101

How to Get Out of Debt, Boost Your Active Income, and Start Investing for Passive Income

Andy Proper

Watch Now
podcast
Timely Tax Benefits, Wealth Preservation & Leverage

Preserve your hard-earned wealth. Learn to use tax advantages to your benefit and leverage trusts with Supreme Court Counselor Lee Phillips.

Timely Tax Benefits, Wealth Preservation & Leverage

podcast
Cutting the Cable

What’s the cable cutting movement all about? Cable Cutting Academy's Jeremy Edmonds discusses tech and finance hacks to save you money.

Cutting the Cable

article
How to Write A Goodwill Letter That WORKS [Templates Included]

Is a late payment hurting your credit score? There's good news: you write a goodwill letter and ask the creditor to take it off your credit history.

How to Write A Goodwill Letter That WORKS [Templates Included]

Lance Cothern

Read Now
podcast
How To Negotiate a Higher Salary

Want to boost your salary? Rich Jones and Marcus Garrett help you determine your financial worth. Negotiate for the life you deserve.

How To Negotiate a Higher Salary

article
6 Different Kinds of Car Insurance: Which is Right for You?

If you don’t know what your car insurance plan covers—now’s the time to find out. You’ll be surprised by how much you can save.

6 Different Kinds of Car Insurance: Which is Right for You?

Nathan Wade

Read Now
The Hidden Power of Life Insurance

The Hidden Power of Life Insurance

How to Protect Your Ass(ets), Save Smarter, and Start Putting Your Money to Work

Stuart Arakelian

Watch Now