Meet the Burgundy Fox Interns

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Nicole Fallert

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Who she is

I’m a digital marketing intern at Burgundy Fox who focuses on blog and podcast content. I curate every part of this blog, from the homepage design to the writing to the graphics. I also work with contributing writers, brainstorm upcoming material and research new brands to feature in Burgundy Fox boxes. In addition to managing our blog, I’ve taken advantage of the exciting opportunity to launch our brand new podcast, Seamless! On Seamless, I interview accomplished and up-and-coming women entrepreneurs and creative thinkers who have inspiring stories to share. I study journalism at Northwestern University and am originally from Pennsylvania.

Why she chose Burgundy Fox

I trained in classical ballet for seventeen years. When I was a little girl, I always thought all women were petite like the prima ballerinas. It took me a long time to accept my body as it was, even if it meant I didn’t have the “perfect” dancer’s form. I love that Burgundy Fox is championing empowerment of the mind and body. I think one of this company’s biggest strengths is its focus on the celebration of all women.

3 Fun Facts
  1. I have traveled to Europe and Asia
  2. I studied ballet from the ages of 3 to 17
  3. I’m passionate about bookstores, art museums and vintage shopping

Stephanie Aguilar

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Who she is

I’m a born & raised Chicago girl. I’m passionate about making people smile–It gives me great joy to know I had a part in adding a little shine to someone’s day, through my work, creating something new, dancing, or cracking jokes. I’m a Digital Marketing Intern for Burgundy Fox, and I absolutely love it! Meanwhile, I am in a Master’s program at DePaul University studying digital marketing and communications.

Why she chose Burgundy Fox

I love Burgundy Fox because I am a firm believer in good karma and doing something that can change the world. The values Burgundy Fox has are honest & what our generation needs right now. Being able to do good & being mindful of all women’s bodies is empowering. This summer I’ll be working on optimizing our website, email marketing, Facebook and Pinterest marketing.

3 Fun Facts

  1. I can ballroom dance and have competed in the past
  2. I’m a proud pug mom, her name is Foxy Cleopatra!
  3. I’ve recently started learning how to DJ

Kourtnie Nunley

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Who she is

I’m the Social Media Intern at Burgundy Fox. I help curate the content for our social media platforms and manage relationships with our brand ambassadors.

Why she chose Burgundy Fox

I chose to work for Burgundy Fox because it is a start-up that has so much potential for growth. Burgundy Fox also aligns with my own personal goal of starting my own e-commerce business. I knew that a position with this company would be a stepping stone in the right direction for me.

3 Fun Facts

  1. I am a very proud big sister
  2. I have at least one piece of chocolate every week
  3. I’ve always wanted to be my own boss no matter my career field

 

 

 

 

 

5 Stages of Building A Brand

This past Thursday I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ryan Killackey, Head of Community, at Cloudspot, a cloud software service that enables photographers to download and share their photos seamlessly. What I love most about this company is their committment to their community. In my opinion, community is their brand.

This past Thursday I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ryan Killackey, Head of Community, at Cloudspot, a cloud software service that enables photographers to download and share their photos seamlessly. What I love most about this company is their committment to their community. In my opinion, community is their brand.

As Ryan and I were talking about Burgundy Fox, he nudged me to move past the visual communication–the logo design, colors, fonts, things that designers are experts at (I’m not a designer)–and talk about what the brand means, aside from all that. You can watch a full replay of the webinar by signing up here.

He hit the nail on the head. Brand is what your market understands and feels about you, when your logo is covered up. What is the Burgundy Fox brand? Our mission to celebrate all bodies and empower women to love themselves, is our brand. You must intimately understand your ‘who’ and ‘why’ before building a brand. When your logo, colors and fonts are covered up, what else is left?

That’s when something struck me. As a small business owner and startup entrepreneur, brand at it’s core is the intersection of your mission and your market’s passion. It’s your vision, meets their aspiration. It’s the glue that will make them stick to your product or service, all basics being met (timely delivery, quality of product, responsiveness) << even these can be brand attributes.

Burgundy Fox Brand Deck

There are a lot of steps you can take when building a brand. Here are the 5 main stages I went through when building the Burgundy Fox brand.

Step 1: Who is this for?

Burgundy Fox was born from a problem I experienced myself. I felt intimidated and awkward every time I shopped for lingerie. I even felt embarrassed of my imperfect body. “Where was this coming from?” I thought. Then I realized it was born decades ago, when I was a 13 year old flipping through Victoria’s Secret and Delia’s catalogues of teeny, tiny, women with no chub or dimples to be seen. I’m a 32 year old woman, I considered who else was shopping for lingerie and experiencing the same feelings I did. I thought about the woman who would wear Burgundy Fox. When Burgundy Fox was just an idea, I would walk past strangers on my way to work, and ask myself if I could envision her being a Burgundy Fox customer or not (it’s really not as creepy as it sounds!). I thought about the other brands ‘she’ would buy. Now, I didn’t have a market research budget per say, so I researched (Googled) demographic information on the target market of the brands I thought she’d buy. I came up with a target demographic of women, ages 25-40, $80,000 median income, plus a few qualitative traits, like career aspirational, mission driven and community-minded. Within that demographic, I came up with a few key personas. I then looked at the other brands in the lingerie and sleepwear market. This is really important because you need to distinguish yourself from the noise. E-commerce is an incredibly noisy space, just as many industries are. You need to consider what will stand out to your market and also feel authentic to you and your brand. 

Step 2: Why am I doing this? 

This is the next piece and the most critical. Why are you doing this? This should be something that you’re truly passionate about and something that you can imagine being passionate about for years, at least 7-10. I boiled this into a mission statement. It was one of the first things I created when putting together a pitch deck. Your mission could be what your customers ultimately care about and what they will feel and remember, when your logo is covered up. For Burgundy Fox’s mission to celebrate all bodies and empower women to love themselves. It’s what speaks to me and to the soul of our customer. Our mission is our brand and it guides everything we do, from our content to our brand ambassadors to who we hire. It is the second most common reason customers list for why they became members. The most common reason is a need/want for the product. They could have bought lingerie from another online retailer, but our mission led them to choose us.  

Step 3: What do you other people think? 

If you’re the only person who correctly interprets your brand the way you envisioned it, you likely need to go back to the drawing board. When I started Burgundy Fox, I had different names and logos. I shopped them around to friends and asked what they thought. Ask open-ended, un-bias questions, like “What comes to mind when you see this logo?”, “What do you think about this mission statement?” It is really important to ask ‘why’ several times throughout this process.

I always think back to that quote by Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” At the heart of it, is Ford saying ‘don’t ask your customers’ or is he saying ‘don’t solve problems the way your customers tell you to’? I can agree with the latter, but definitely not the former. I don’t wholeheartedly agree with either to be honest. You should listen to your customer and do these 3 things:

  1. Determine the root cause: keep asking why. To keep with the Ford example, people eventually would have shared they didn’t want more or faster horses, they wanted to go somewhere faster. 
  2. Factor in statistical significance: Pull from a wide sample size. The larger the sample, the more significant the learning. A resounding ‘no’ from 10 people versus 1,000 people is very different and serves as a more valid signal to pay attention to. 
  3. Prioritize action over thought: Once you’ve formed a solid hypothesis and are ready to test your product or theory in the real world, you’ll need to do just that, put your product out to market. If you’re in business, dollars are the final word. Customers might say they will purchase something, but you won’t know if they really will until they can. One way you can test an idea is sharing it with an online forum built around your industry. Share your idea and see who is willing to pay for it. Or you can go the route of a crowd fund, which is another way to validate through action/dollars.  

Step 4: Launch 

This highlights my last point about validating a product or service in the real market, by just launching it. There are several ways to support validation prior to launch, but eventually you just need to do it-perfect or not.

This is one of my favorite quotes by the co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman. “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Step 5: Question everything

Launch quickly and revise as often as needed. Always be curious. Ask your customers and your non-customers questions. I e-mail our customers once a month and ask what they thought about their experience plus how we can make it better. Additionally, check-in often on your own feelings about your product or service. Are you inspired by your own brand, product/service, team and mission? Your customers and the market will feel and see your passion if it’s there and you’re talking to your customers/making improvements often. Have you ever been to a restaurant when you ask a waiter about the food, and they reply with a lackluster ‘it’s okay’ (shoulder shrug)? That is exactly how you don’t want to feel about your brand. The same goes for your employees and customers. You, your employees and customers should light up when talking about your brand. If this isn’t happening, you know you’ve got some work to do. 

I hope this article has given you insight into starting or revising your brand. I’ve learned from many friends and educators along the way that have been tremendously helpful in launching Burgundy Fox. I’m constantly learning and listening, here are a few resources that continue to help me:

  • Rising Tide Society (a digital and analog global community of entrepreneurs and small business owners that provide feedback, support and free education)
  • Masters of Scale Podcast (inspiring interviews with founders and CEO’s of multi billion dollar companies)
  • Optimal Living Daily Podcast (mixture of practical knowledge and inspiration by acclaimed entrepreneurs)
  • Project Entrepreneur #TheTools Podcast (practical knowledge on building a large scale business by woman entrepreneurs)
  • Gary Vee Audio Experience Podcast (interviews and thoughts by Gary Vaynerchuk and guests. Great for when I need a pep-talk)

About The Author

One time (11) copyLeslie Wong is the Founder of Burgundy Fox, a subscription lingerie brand on a mission to celebrate all bodies and empower women to love themselves. Burgundy Fox strives to create a more inclusive shopping experience and a kinder message about beauty for women now and in the future.

We’re on Two Bright Lights!

Happy day! We are live on Two Bright Lights, a tool for creative professionals to have their work published on top-notch wedding and lifestyle publications. I’ve admired many of these publications for some time, so it’s exciting to see that we’re amongst these publications, but more so–we are excited to highlight your creative work!

We hope to be a home for boudoir, wedding and lifestyle content that celebrates all bodies and minds. Already, we have received the most stunning content–weddings, boudoir photoshoots, styled shoots–ranging from casual and relaxed to bold and extravagant. We love hearing the stories behind each creative work and look forward to highlighting the people and concepts behind the event or styled shoot.

In celebration of our partnership with you and Two Bright Lights, I’ll share a few of my favorite images from our last ‘casual boudoir’ photo shoot when I got to collaborate with 5 badass, hustling, real models who are stunning on the inside and out, and 2 creative bosses: wedding & boudoir photographer, Capture Life Moments Photography and makeup & hair stylist, Vamp by AJ. All lingerie and sleepwear was curated by Burgundy Fox.

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Burgundy Fox Cassandra

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If you loved the photography and styling, contact Colleen at Capture Life Moments Photography and AJ fromVamp by AJ. Visit our site to learn more about how we curate lingerie & sleepwear for all bodies.

If you have photos to submit, head on over toTwo Bright Lights and submit them to Burgundy Fox! We are looking for summer and fall content now.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One time (11) copyLeslie Wong is the Founder of Burgundy Fox, a subscription lingerie brand on a mission to celebrate all bodies and empower women to love themselves. Burgundy Fox strives to create a more inclusive shopping experience and a kinder message about beauty for women now and in the future.

How to Grow Your Career with Coffee

Photo Credit: Brandy Pham

Coffee has been a ‘make or break’ for me. I’m sure some health nutritionist (or my mom) is shrieking at these words, but it’s true. Not in the way you think–yes, coffee gives me the kick in the pants I need every day to keep hustling–but in this instance, I use the term coffee, loosely.

Coffee, wine, lunch–anything that brings two people together, has been the vehicle for which I’ve built lasting relationships and an exciting career. For the past 10 years, every single job opportunity was born from a coffee meeting, not a listing or online application. Even as a new entrepreneur, I’m finding those coffee meetings to be just as important. I like to call them coffee dates, because the word ‘meeting’ conjures up a dry, usually fruitless, agenda-filled gathering. What I’m talking about, is no such thing. So how do you do it? I’ll break down 5 components that’ll give you the confidence to snag that coffee date and make things happen.

Step one: Ask

Why

Why are coffee dates so awesome? I think it’s the most high value, low barrier maneuver out there. Most everyone likes some beverage to get them going in the morning and/or can stand a 15 minute break throughout the day. In it’s simplest form, you’re offering to pay for something they’d already be doing–but the value for both sides isn’t the free drink–it lies in making and sustaining the connection, until it potentially grows into something meaningful. Meaningful could look like a lot of things, so keep an open mind. Don’t go into coffee dates expecting something magical to happen right away, even though some might.

Who

Here are some usual suspects that you could consider asking to coffee:

People you respect but don’t know: These are people who are not in your immediate reach, but you admire. How do you get a ‘big shot’ to meet with you? People are people. You never know, so you should just ask. A well crafted email or a warm introduction could do it. I’ll share how I go about both types of emails. If you’re inclined to make a phone call, this could also go favorably, just practice what you want to say.

People you want to get to know better: Think coworkers you only have time for fleeting conversation with or counterparts at different companies, even different industries. See what works in their business and how it might apply to yours. Don’t stop there, get to know your competitors. You’ll be more knowledgeable about your industry and can even get a pulse on things like market salary, job training opportunities, business referrals and job openings.

People you haven’t seen in awhile: I love this one, perhaps because it’s the first stop on the transition from acquaintance or colleague, to friend. I go into these meetings with zero expectations, simply to catch up and hear what’s new. Also, you never know when you might be able to provide value. I believe that giving value, versus taking, is actually a better position to be in. Think of anyone who’s gone above and beyond for you–you never forget, and would do almost anything to reciprocate, right? The more you meet with people, you’ll start to develop a database of connections and information that allows you to give value to multiple people you know. You learn new things, talk about new ideas and this makes life a lot more interesting.

How

Bottom line, you have to ask. I don’t know about you, but I love the uncertainty and possibility that comes along with reaching out to someone completely out of your realm to connect. I’ll walk you through a template for how I structure emails.

Warm introduction

If you can have a friend introduce you, that is always the preferred route. Luckily, LinkedIn exists, but before you ping all your buddies for introductions, understand that introductions are precious gems that shouldn’t be treated lightly. If you are asking a contact for an introduction to someone else, you should have a good relationship with the person you’re asking. Have you connected in the last 6 months? Have you ever helped them? Do they trust and like you? All things to think about. When someone is making an introduction for you, it helps to send the introducer an email they can forward–explain who you are, what you think there’s to gain, and suggested steps–so that it can be forwarded on with little effort from the introducer.

Cold outreach

I find people that’d I’d like to have coffee with through a variety of ways, including:

Reading: Local publications in your city, industry specific publications. I love finding thought leaders this way. If their email is not published, you can search on LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter for their email. If you can’t find it, you can direct message them on these platforms for their email address. Or, look on the website for an info@companyname.com so you at least know the extension. From there, you can try first name and last name combinations until you find the right email address.

Social Media: I comb Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn and keep an eye out for people who are being tagged, speaking at conferences or events, posting to community forums, publishing papers or books, etc. These people are notable, valuable (they are providing value) and you can usually find a common connection.

Podcasts: I listen to a lot of podcasts (#solopreneursbestfriend) and get exposed to a ton of different thought leaders I’d like to reach out to.This is a gold mine for finding interesting people in your field who are sharing great content. Find the podcasts that are relevant to your industry, subscribe to a few and listen. Or, subscribe to a podcast outside of your industry. At the least, this’ll make you an interesting conversationalist. At the most, you’ll be able to share relevant stories and information to friends.

The ask

Research. First things first, research the person you’re reaching out to. A good Google search will do, but I find that looking into the person’s social accounts also provides me with ‘real time’ content they are sharing and maybe some small, more personal, detail about themselves that I wouldn’t have seen from an article or a blog post. When you’ve actually engaged with someone’s content it is much easier to craft an email that’s relevant to them. It makes your communication targeted (you can reference specifics and show you’ve done your homework), flattering (shows that you care about their work) and more interesting (you’ll seem more likely to have something specific and valuable to offer from the interaction–rather than a vague idea of how you can benefit each other).

Know your audience. Why are you writing and what type of communication is that person used to receiving? I try to make my emails as short as possible, but having an idea of what the person’s ear is tuned into, will help get through. If I’m writing to another person in business development or who is used to looking at businesses in terms of numbers, I will frame my business in numbers. If I’m writing to a content partner, I’ll write in a slightly more flowery (that is my nature) and longer email, simply because it explains more about my personal story, and because personality and brand story is important to content partners. Whatever style your writer is using back, either direct or descriptive, try to mimic it as best as possible. This is an old sales technique called ‘parroting’. In Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, it’s a theory called ‘likeness’. People are more willing to trust someone who shows traits similar to their own.

Here are some templates: 

Cold Emails

Hi (name),

Thank you for taking some time to chat with me at CCNYC! gives recent context. I mentioned I just joined XYZ and am a big fan of the community you grew. shows I understand her background. 

As a new entrepreneur, reading your journey of fearlessness and building a tribe is very inspiring. flattering and makes my ask more relevant. I just launched a subscription lingerie and sleepwear service to celebrate women of all sizes. I’m in San Francisco this week and wanted to know if you were free to grab coffee on Wednesday or Friday. I’d love to learn more about your business and hear any advice you have on scaling a women focused lifestyle product. I’ve established I look up to her and want her to bestow her knowledge upon me. This is again, flattering and a bit hard to ignore without feeling bad. 

Hi (name),

I heard you speak on The Awesome Webinar recently. I loved your engaging slides and case studies. Thanks for being so generous with your time and even encouraging us to email you. relevant context. reminding him of what he promised, another Robert Cialdini concept called ‘Consistency’. 

3 months ago, I launched an e-commerce brand on a mission to celebrate all bodies and personalize shopping, beginning with a $15bn industry, women’s lingerie. Framing this as a big, exciting opportunity. 

We’ve seen X% MOM new member growth, X figure MRR and a passionate online community that’s grown X% every month. Framing with numbers. I would love to hear if you have any advice to go about growing an early business to the point of scale–pitfalls, mistakes you’ve seen, etc. I think asking for advice is a good place to start. If you develop a relationship, they might offer you other things to help you, like introductions. Would you be free to hop on a call or grab coffee next week? 

I greatly appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you. Thanks!

Warm Email (here is an excellent one that was sent to me, to make an introduction)

Hi Leslie,

I really appreciate your offer to introduce me to your contact at XYZ to see if they would be interested in working with ABC (hyperlink to the home page). Point to the ‘why’ immediately.

I started ABC, a social beauty platform, a year ago. We launched an iPhone app (hyperlink to app) for users to:

Discover looks and products (makeup, skincare, haircare, nails, etc.) by following friends, bloggers and brands.

Save go-to products by simply searching and loving them.

Create and share looks (aka how-to’s).

Buy favorite products.

Succinct context for what they do, in quick bullet points. Great if reader is busy and skimming.

We have had great traction to date with our user growth doubling month on month, all virally. We have been featured in the Zoe Report, HelloGiggles and FabFitFun (hyperlink to articles) recently as a must have app in beauty. Social proof.

We are looking to partner with beauty brands to help them showcase their products to current customers and gain exposure to a new user base. Value statement. This would simply entail setting up a brand profile. Low barrier ask. We are working with Smashbox, Murad Skincare and a few other brands and would love to feature XYZ. More social proof! I look forward to connecting with them. Thanks! I use the phrase ‘connecting’ a lot too, leaves it light and open to a phone call, coffee, etc.

Step 2: Prepare

Plan ahead. Think about what you’d like to share with them, and if you’re in any way pitching a business or a partnership, you should have your stats down cold.

Research. Know the person’s background, dig into their company, their past jobs, their blog, the comments they post on social media, their Snapchat videos. All of this will give you context to have a much richer conversation and make a meaningful connection when you meet or chat on the phone.

Arrive on time. For business meetings, I schedule travel time into my calendar to be prompted to leave. If you’re running late, send an email with apologies.

Step 3: Give

Who buys? As the person who asked them to meet, you should buy their coffee/meal/drinks. If they offer to pay, politely insist that you’d like to cover them as a thanks for their time. Coffee, lunch or wine is relatively inexpensive, less time consuming than dinner, and is a low enough investment to avoid making the other person feel obligated.

This isn’t about you. When you meet, you should be thinking about giving value. You can do this by putting yourself into situations where you can provide value through information, connections or a platform/attention for their purpose. Once you start connecting the dots, you’ll see that you’ve created your own network, where you can provide value by connecting the right people or sharing knowledge.

Volunteering. If you aren’t involved in the leadership of an association, a non-profit or some type of community, you should find one and join as soon as possible. This is great way for you to give to people who need it while building all 3 of your value ‘banks’: information, connection and platform.

Step 4: Follow-up

Follow up. Send a thank you note or email within 24 hours of meeting with the person. Handwritten thank you notes are more memorable, so keep some cards and stamps with you at all times. Admittedly, this can feel burdensome at first, because we are so digital centric, but a handwritten card will differentiate you.

Next steps. Include next steps in your email and remind them of the value you want to deliver to them. Then actually follow-through if they are interested in whatever you’ve offered. This is big, many people are all talk, or vague when it comes to next steps. So be specific and then do what you said you would do.

Step 5: Repeat

Introduce. When it’s relevant, connect them to other people. How do you know when it’s relevant? I make introductions when:

  • Two people share a common industry, market, personal interest, stage in business
  • One person has a problem and I think another person can help them solve it. This can range from a more complex problem where the guidance of an experienced ‘mentor’ type makes sense–to a more direct problem where a referral to a trusted provider works.

Circle back. To ensure you stay in touch with this person, put a calendar reminder for you to follow-up with them a month to 2 months later. What do you send? If you see an article or event that’s relevant, forward it to them. If you’re listening to a great podcast episode that makes you think of them, share it. The key here is learning about their objectives, remembering them and then serving them when you can.

Photo Credit: Sophie Galeria

Update. In the same vein as sharing information that’s relevant, share updates on your progress. If they’ve shared advice with you or introduced you to someone you’re now working with, they’ll feel good knowing the time and energy they spent with you was fruitful. They may be even more likely to want to keep helping you, because it shows you listened carefully and are receptive to being ‘mentored’. If you’re working with someone they referred, they’ll be happy to hear they helped 2 friends solve a problem and might even get some kind of future perk from the person they referred.

So, now that you have templates and a 5 step plan to building your career and network through coffee dates, you have nothing in your way to stop you from shooting for the moon. Listen, read and look out for people you want to meet or get to know better. Make the ask, give value, stay in touch and watch great things happen. Let me know how your coffee dates go!


About The Author

One time (11) copyLeslie Wong is the Founder of Burgundy Fox, a subscription lingerie brand on a mission to celebrate all bodies and empower women to love themselves. Burgundy Fox strives to create a more inclusive shopping experience and a kinder message about beauty for women now and in the future.

SUZY BLACK

Before meeting the brand’s founder, Diondra M. Julian, at the Lingerie Selection in New York City, I felt like I had gabbed with her for hours over tea and spa masks. How you ask? SUZY BLACK‘s About Us page is everything. I’m a total mama’s girl so hearing how her mother influenced her love for feminine things, pulled me in.  Then I saw the craftsmanship of her stunning bodysuits and 2 piece sets (the DVF credentials weren’t shabby either) and had to meet this budding brand. What really made us fall in love with SUZY BLACK was their range of sizing. You mean these fierce garments were for bodies XS through 3X? The message that sends is huge and right in line with our mission–that all bodies deserve beautiful garments. We knew we had to bring their collection to Burgundy Fox.

Diondra M Julian

Since a young age, Diondra’s mother instilled in her a love for all things feminine. While she recalls growing up in a conservative home there was never an absence of glamour. Her mother’s perfumes, stilettos, lace nightgowns and long baths were all small touches her mother wove into her world of womanhood, to simply take care of herself, while taking care of others.

The day Diondra left Chicago for a college internship in New York City, Diondra’s mother gave her a box of lingerie she had curated over time, lacy nightgowns, silk camisoles and said, “This should get you started”.

Fast forward, Diondra launched Suzy Black in 2014 after spending 7 years as a technical designer with Diane Von Furstenberg. She now channels all that experience and her mother’s bold femininity into divine, couture-like collections.

Diondra says “A woman’s femininity is one of her most amazing assets. So many of us don’t embrace our femininity because we think it makes us weak, but quite the contrary—it is our power! And nothing speaks to this feminine power like a beautiful piece of lingerie. My mom knew this, she knew that this indulgence was about loving yourself just as you are, taking a moment to adorn yourself like a princess. That’s what SUZY BLACK represents, it is a gift to yourself, a moment to be free, to explore, to indulge, to surprise”.

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We’re thrilled to partner with SUZY BLACK. Take a sneak peek at some the Fall/Winter Collection which we’re bringing to an upcoming Burgundy Fox box this fall.

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Love Suzy Black? Let us know!

 

Exactly How to Negotiate Your Salary

Facts: No one likes to negotiate. Or I should say, no one likes to admit they like to negotiate. It sound sleazy, swindling and cheap. I never thought of myself as a negotiator until I reframed the way I thought about it. Since I was 5 years old, I’ve had a knack for trading. I’d trade sleeping in my parents bed for cleaning up my toys (true story), and if you have a child, you understand how negotiating actually comes naturally to us. I kept trading things through high school leadership, into association leadership into Head of Business Development for a B2B startup. It wasn’t until I read Stuart Diamond’s ‘Getting More’ by the advice of a Wharton School grad, that I realized what I was doing my whole life: trading values–a core negotiating principle. I tell all my girlfriends to read this book. Once you do, you’ll actually want to practice your newfound skills.

Since then, I’ve made it an intentional practice to negotiate when I want more. I’m not excessive, but I do it when it really counts, like during salary negotiations. I’ve given a lot of women friends advice on negotiating their salary, and recently helped a friend negotiate a 25% increase from her starting offer (she is obviously awesome and deserved it). It doesn’t always work out that way, but I was happy to know that my collected advice works for other people besides myself. Here are my 3 basic principles to follow: 

1. Get into the numbers

Add 10% more (at least) 

Know that every employer is doing their job by getting more for their money. They might actively benefit by giving you the lower end of a salary range. This seems obvious, and I use the word might, because there’s no such thing as a free lunch, for long. Salary negotiation is your job to ensure you aren’t walking into a role feeling undervalued or disgruntled–because that isn’t sustainable and won’t benefit you or the company in the long haul. Unless your role is commission based,  you’ll likely maintain that salary for the next 12 months, so be sure you’re happy where you are. So we know the employer will likely be holding back some cards. Here is my rule of thumb. When you’re asked about salary requirement, take the number you really want, add 10%, and you have your answer. There is a good likelihood they will come back with an offer or 5-10% less, landing on what you really wanted in the first place. Do this and the gap between what you really want and what they offer will be much less to negotiate toward.

I touch on this later in the article, but my experience tells me you aren’t going to have several chances to counter offer-1 to 2 at most, so this is an opportunity to really think about what you need to feel whole and what your ‘walk away’ number is.

Let’s revisit the first sentence in this paragraph “every employer is doing their job by getting more for their money”-it’s a business. With that in mind, they will expect you to negotiate.

Market rate

Approaching a counter offer can feel uncomfortable. It feels much less so, when you have data. Gather data that supports what the market believes your time and expertise is worth.

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Presenting this information lends validity to your request, because there are facts which support it’s justified. Sites like Glassdoor.com and Indeed.com are great for getting an idea of salary range for your role and your experience level while factoring in things like company size, company revenue or funding stage and similar jobs in your location–this is called ‘market rate’. You should present relevant examples only. Irrelevant examples will create holes in your argument and might reduce how compelling your stance is overall.  

Stock

I’ve learned a bit about stock options as a part of overall compensation in the last few years. I’m not a financial advisor, but I have helped friends better understand the value of stock options when they are tied into employment contracts. Here are a few basic terms I had to understand the first time I was offered options. Warning: a mini dictionary lies ahead. If you’re not into learning about this stuff, skip to principle #2. 

Options: Options are like building blocks in a company’s house. They are valuable in order to construct a house, but don’t necessarily have value until value is placed on it, such as when a home is listed on the market. The more valuable the house, the more valuable the bricks that make it up. A company, especially a new one, can grant options to employees as incentive to work hard and grow the company’s value and sometimes to compensate for a lower salary due to the early stage of the company. The earlier the employee, or the more impact provided, the more options granted.

Exercise: This is when you purchase your options. Your options are not ‘given’ to you, you have to buy them.

Strike price: The price you buy your options is called a ‘strike price’ and it’s dictated at the time you signed your stock agreement. Typically, the earlier employee, the lower the strike price–that is a benefit of joining a company when they a higher degree of uncertainty, you’re trading higher risk for higher reward. If your strike price is $1, and the company goes public at $40 per share, you just made a 40x return. If you owned 50,000 shares, your stock is now valued at $2 million.

Vesting period: This is different at every company but the standard structure is a 4 year cliff. You gain (or vest) 25% of your options after 1 year, then vest month-by-month after that. You can only exercise what you’ve vested.

Liquidating event: This is when the stock receives a ‘real’ monetary value in the market and can be converted to cash when sold or taken off the market. A company’s stock turns liquid in an initial public offering (IPO), a merger or an acquisition. If the company is acquired, your vested and exercised stock will either be paid out by the buyer or else absorbed into the buyer’s stock at a 1:1 ratio.

Valuation: This is how much the company is believed to be worth, and is a figure that’s determined upon investment, capital or private. Ever seen Shark Tank when the contestants offer a portion of ownership for money (20% for $100,000)? That tells you the company’s assumed valuation ($500,000). This matters to you because it tells you what your stock might be worth. Take the valuation ($500K) minus stock the company doesn’t own (like the 20% from investors) that leaves $400,000. Say there are 100,000 shares outstanding, divide $400K by 100K shares, which say each of your options is worth $4. Multiply this number by your shares and you’ll learn how options could add to the overall compensation an employer is offering you. Bare in mind this isn’t guaranteed income that will come quick, or at all, depending on the company and it’s stage.

Dig into the company and understand what they are worth, so you understand better what your options are worth or could be worth. As an option to negotiating salary, you could ask for an increase in options. This shows your belief in the company and could also pay off big in the future.

2. Frame it right  

Value

At every point in your interview process and even into negotiations, you should continue letting the company know how excited you are to bring them value. While you hopefully love your soon-to-be job, the company is still tuned into WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) and you must play to that in order to tactfully negotiate salary. If you are already employed but seeking a raise, outline and quantify all the great things you’ve done for the company. Numbers are difficult to argue, so there’s potential so use them to your advantage on why X value you created, warrants X raise–and you foresee even larger growth ahead. You’re excited to take the company to new heights, you look forward to continuously growing with the company and want to feel fairly compensated for your performance. Always frame what you want, into terms that will make them want to say yes–because it benefits them. And of course–be great at what you do. 

Assume the best

The company should want to make you happy. Walk into negotiations assuming they wouldn’t want you to take a job where you felt underpaid, which could damage motivation and cause future underperformance. Understand that by digging into all scenarios of a job and an offer letter, you are ensuring you are the best fit for each other and that neither of you will need to be repeating the process in 6 months. I like to think of this as ensuring each side is ‘whole’ on the offer, a win-lose, is a lose for all. Any employer should understand that and want the best for you, as long as you’ve framed it as being best for them, too.

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Make it a conversation

Contrary to what you’ve heard about providing solutions, not problems–you don’t need to come in with all the answers. You do need to avoid nagging and making this all about you. Once you frame your concerns correctly, and use data to validate an asking price or counter offer, you might be surprised about what they will suggest. Be ready to share the things that matter to you, monetary and non-monetary, and be ready to trade. Back to trading values, negotiation is not about one person getting and one losing–it’s about trading items of unequal value. You might want a higher salary to factor in commuting and dog walking costs. If they aren’t able to increase your salary, perhaps they’ll let you work from home a 3 days a week or maybe there is a commuter benefit. Come ready with data to support the number you’re asking for, be gracious and be flexible. Again, you don’t want either party to feel wronged. 

3. It’s not all numbers

Room to grow

I’ve talked a lot about numbers and salary but I want to highlight that a job’s value shouldn’t be determined solely on money. Money give us freedom and the means to impact causes we care about, and that is very important, but not everything. Think about what else would help you grow your career in the longer term–mentorship, the ability to switch competencies, the chance to lead a team or a promotion in title. Your next job may not be perfect, but it should be a few stepping stones toward your ultimate goal.

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If you know you’re seeking to grow within the company, make a point during the interview process to ask about potential for growth (but acknowledge you’re focused on the job you’re being hired for) and for examples of people who have moved teams or been promoted. If this is important to the company, they’ll love to share their success stories.

Development & Perks

Digging further into growth opportunities, see if there are opportunities to develop yourself beyond team or title changes. Can and will your leader mentor you? What are your teammates background, can you learn from them? This might be baked into your role (I must be hungry), but some companies will pay for you to attend conferences, educational seminars and networking events to develop your skills. Does your role involve public speaking? Professional coaching would be a great development opportunity. These most certainly can be seen as additional value to your overall compensation because they provide substantial value to you as a person, that you don’t have to pay for.

As for perks, factor in other things that are important to you, whether that’s work from home flexibility, free meals or commuter benefits. On the flip side of that, understand when you are being underpaid (below market rate) and a company is compensating with free beer and an annual company retreat. These perks might range from useless to nice-to-have to significantly impacting your budget. Know what’s valuable to you and don’t let things that aren’t important to you, dictate your negotiation stance.

Happiness

Lastly, you have to feel happy and ‘whole’ about your decision. A big part of that equation could be who you work with–do you like the people you’re about to spend 40-60+ hours a week with? Just as employers like to ask behavioral questions of their interviewee (“tell me about a time when”), you should do the same. Understand what your boss has done in difficult situations when her team wasn’t pulling weight. Dig into the ‘why’ during your interview process, take note of what’s not said, and above all trust your gut.

After you’ve researched market rate, asked a lot of questions, had open conversations, and counter offered at least once–you should have enough data to make an informed choice. In my experience, you don’t have multiple opportunities to counter offer and you’ve got to trust their word on what they come back to you with. If they meet your counter and nothing sends you red flags, you should take it. If they almost meet your counter, explore trading items of unequal value. If you still don’t feel whole after all is said and done, consider this might not be the right fit and consider if you’re willing to walk away. To keep a positive professional reputation, try to avoid pushing for terms then renegotiating OR pushing for terms (which are met) then walking away.

In the end, know that negotiation is a very valuable skill. If done right, you will not only end up with a bump in salary that could make all the difference in your big picture life goals, but you will also impress your employer. An employee who can hold their ground and persuade with respect and tact is a secret weapon that any employer would love to have on their team-wouldn’t you?

I’d love to know what you think, if you have any questions and if these are working for you–or not! I love seeing people rewarded for hard work and having guts. Negotiating can feel uncomfortable, but remember that greatness lies outside your comfort zone–now go ask for what you’re worth!