Episode 14: Why Not Us?

Karen, Dana, and Laura share their experiences building businesses as women entrepreneurs: “It's like, ‘Well, you can tell me I can't do this, but it looks like I did.’” Plus: Has the legalization of recreational cannabis had an impact on your business?

Episode 14: Why Not Us?

Guests:

Laura Zander is co-founder and CEO of Jimmy Beans Wool.

Dana White is founder and CEO of Paralee Boyd hair salons.

Karen Clark Cole is co-founder and CEO of Blink.

Producer:

Jess Thoubboron is founder of Blank Word Productions.

Episode Highlights:

Dana White: “There are always these stereotypes with women. When she gets upset, it has nothing to do with what just happened. It’s all the baggage that she’s bringing with her.”

Karen Clark Cole: “I feel bad because for many, many years, I was full-on living in a bubble and I had no idea that there were problems. And once I started cluing in, I felt really guilty, like, ‘Wow, was I really living in a bubble?’”

Laura Zander: “My experience now is I have a lot more confidence because I can just tell people to ‘F— off.’ We have a decent sized business. We’ve done pretty well. My business is my confidence…”

Full Episode Transcript:

Loren Feldman:
Let’s meet this week’s 21 Hats Podcast lineup. Back with us today are Karen Clark Cole, who is CEO of Blink UX, a digital research and design firm based in Seattle; Dana White, who is founder of Paralee Boyd, a chain of hair salons based in Detroit; and Laura Zander, who is CEO of Jimmy Beans Wool, a digital version of a neighborhood yarn shop that’s based in Reno, Nevada.

This was bound to happen eventually. This week happens to be the first time we’ve done a 21 Hats where our three panelists happen to be the three women among our five regulars. My first thought was that this would be a great opportunity to talk about the issues that are particular to being a woman entrepreneur. My next thought was, well, maybe we’re past that. Maybe I should treat this just like any other 21 Hats episode.

Karen Clark Cole:
Amen, Loren!

Loren Feldman:
I went back and forth on it and eventually I decided to just throw it all to you and let you guys decide. Are we past this issue? Or is entrepreneurship still a very different experience for women than it is for men? Who wants to go first?

Dana White:
I’ll take a stab at it. I don’t think we’re past this issue at all. I think the only way we will get past it is if women keep making the same strides, as far as what Karen just did and said, “Hey, amen, Loren.” We have to move the group past it. There’s a part of me that’s like, “Oh gosh, as women we have to do more work.” Like, why is it on us? But I think because we have the vision, we’ll be able to do it.

But as it was recently brought up to me about mansplaining, I was wondering, “Why do I always have to wait for whoever I’m talking to to understand that I’m of equal intelligence and that I have to wait for them to get me and get it.” Especially being a minority woman, whoa. So no, we’re not past it, Loren. Not at all.

Loren Feldman:
Can you give us an example? When this issue gets discussed publicly, it tends to focus primarily on what happens when women entrepreneurs try to raise money. But I’m sure that’s not the only time.

Dana White:
Not at all.

Loren Feldman:
I’m wondering, when you talk about being mansplained to, is there a recent experience of that that you might share with us?

Dana White:
That happens probably seven times out of 10. It’s easy to kind of box Paralee Boyd and say, “Okay, hair salon, done,” but as you all know, it’s actually rather different, as far as the Lean Manufacturing component and the data collection, what have you. I found that I have to wait—and I hate to generalize, but I find that most men, when we’re doing an introduction and speaking about my business and what I do, I have to wait for them to get it and get past the box.

It’s only been a couple of occasions where the man didn’t come to the conversation with, “I’m meeting with a black woman, and let me hear what it is.” It happened when I talked to you, Loren. You didn’t come to the table with that. You came and you immediately got it, as well as a few others. But for the majority of the time, oh my goodness. The light goes off and then the conversation goes back and forth, because they realize, “Hey, she’s capable.”

Karen Clark Cole:
You know, when you say the light goes on and they get it, what do you mean by “get it,” specifically?

Dana White:
They take me out of the box.

Karen Clark Cole:
Meaning, they don’t think that you’re the CEO or they’re not sure if you’re the leader, or what do you mean?

Dana White:
You tell them, “I’m the leader, I’m the CEO,” whatever, but they have this perception of a woman-owned hair salon, who she is and—I don’t want to say what her intelligence is—how much does she know about business?

Karen Clark Cole:
I see, so it’s just limited generally, you’re saying.

Dana White:
Yeah, generally, and then I have to go through the motions with them to get them to understand, “Oh, not only is the business different, but because the business is different, she can speak to A,B,C, and D.” Then they start to speak to those things with me. Once they realize that, it can be done, but upon the initial five to 10 minutes, it’s this me waiting for you to catch up. And also me showing you—which I hate that I have to do—that this is a conversation you can have with me about Lean Manufacturing, data, that I’m not just the black female salon owner. I kind of wish that was enough. I kind of wish I didn’t have to show more.

Loren Feldman:
Let me ask you, Dana, is it possible that some of this is just people’s expectations about what a hair salon is?

Dana White:
Exactly.

Laura Zander:
It’s interesting that we’re talking about this right this second because I literally was just sitting downstairs with a guy—I’m at a big knitting show in New York City right now—I’m sitting with a guy who comes from a finance background. He comes from the Arthur Andersen world, a young guy about 30 years old, and he recently bought a knitting subscription business. But before that, he spent a few years working with a beauty subscription business and getting that off the ground. It’s not Ipsy and it’s not Birchbox, but it’s a third tier to that. He said that when he was raising money and trying to get investors for this beauty subscription box, that the men that he would go to—because most of the investors were older men—would just look at him, and they would give their opinion. They’d just be like, “This is ridiculous. This is so dumb, nobody’s gonna want to do this. Blah, blah, blah.” This is this young guy from Miami, and he had to get to a point where he’s like, “Honestly, your opinion doesn’t matter. Go give this box to your wife. Go give it to your daughter. You are not our target market, and you’re not our customer. The economics are here. The business model is here. Quit using your personal experience to make business decisions.”

I mention that because he is just a guy, and he’s talking to guys. I think sometimes, to Loren’s point, and me being in a knitting world, in a creative world, I think sometimes it’s less about who the messenger is. The fact that [for] these people, if these businesses are not within their world and their world of experience, they just don’t get it.

Loren Feldman:
We started this with my asking where we stand on this issue. Are we past it or not? Obviously Dana’s response was a very strong, “No, we are not past it.” How would you answer that, Laura?

Laura Zander:
That’s a good question. It’s not popular to say, but I’ve just never felt it. I’ve never felt discriminated against as a woman. I’ve never felt any barriers as a woman in business. Every once in a while, I’ll have a woman or a man look at me and not understand what I’m saying or be dismissive or be a jerk. But I don’t know, I have not experienced it.

Dana and I have talked about playing rugby and playing basketball. I think part of it is that I just kind of refuse to be intimidated, you know? Even when somebody is a little dismissive or a jerk, I basically either mentally or verbally say, “Okay, let’s take it out on the court and let’s see.” If you can beat me in basketball, then great. I’ll cede your point.

Loren Feldman:
You get to a good point. It’s tricky to tell sometimes where somebody’s coming from. A jerk is a jerk. How do you know why they’re being a jerk?

Laura Zander:
Absolutely, great point.

Dana White:
I agree, but I disagree. I think she’s right. There’s this resolve that you have from your experiences that certain things, you’re just not gonna let happen. Quite frankly, I don’t think any of us would be open if we let the jerks determine the viability of our business. I think for myself, I’m keenly aware when there’s the “I don’t understand,” which is different than the “Okay, I don’t understand and I’m dismissing you because it can only be so much because of who I think you are.” I think it’s there for me.

Laura Zander:
Totally, and that’s why I’m nervous to even answer this, because I’m not dismissing the fact that it’s happening. I have been fortunate and privileged enough to live in a bubble where it hasn’t affected my life and my business, where I’ve been able to say, “Bullshit,” or I’ve been able to say, “You know what, I don’t want to do business with you anymore then.” I have had to do that. But a lot of times, I feel like the people who have not treated me well, sometimes I think it’s less about my gender and it’s more about the fact that they’re just assholes. They’re assholes to everybody. But I think if I look back intellectually and academically, it probably is because I’m a woman and because this is a woman-run industry and so there are these old white males who have these archaic views of how business is done. I’m just naive enough, I guess, or live in this bubble and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Karen Clark Cole:
I have said the exact same thing as Laura. I feel bad because for many, many years, I was full-on living in a bubble and I had no idea that there were problems. And once I started cluing in, I felt really guilty, like, “Wow, was I really living in a bubble?” But it was to my advantage.

Loren Feldman:
What burst your bubble?

Karen Clark Cole:
We started in 2000, so we’ve been around 20 years, and in the early years, I had thought, “Oh yeah, this is awesome. All women start companies and run them and grow them, isn’t it great?” Particularly in the high tech world. But once we started getting more known, probably 10 years ago, I started getting calls gradually and more frequently of, “Wow you guys are doing great. What’s it like to be a woman CEO in a high-tech world when you’re the only one?” First off, they would say, “What’s it like to be a woman CEO in a high-tech world?” And I would say, “Oh, it’s really great. Why are you asking?” And they would say, “Well, you’re the only one,” and I’d be like, “I am not the only one because I just had lunch with several others,” and I would reel off their names. And I said, “When you’re done talking to me, you should call them up because they’re really great.”

I think part of it is awareness. I really believe that you look for evidence to support your beliefs, and if people believe that women aren’t running companies, that’s all they’re going to see. They’re going to see all the cases where men are running companies and they won’t even notice if a woman walks right on by running a company. So my goal in talking to these people, then—and I actually created a whole non-profit events series around it because I became so obsessed with my years of wearing covers on my eyes and not understanding what was really happening—is I became obsessed with pointing out where it’s happening.

It’s like if you say, “Look at all the red cars today.” All of a sudden, all you’re going to see are red cars. It’s the same idea. What I wanted to do is start saying, “Hey, there are actually a lot of women running businesses successfully. Here are some examples. Now start looking for your own.” Then all of a sudden, everybody will start seeing them. We’re already doing it. That’s been my approach.

I, like Laura, had been very fortunate, in that before I started realizing what was going on, it was way too late, like nothing’s going to knock me down. I actually see it as a challenge. My favorite thing to do is sit on an airplane, and if I get—pardon, my father is an old white guy who I love, and they are my biggest supporters, so you should know that I have many, many men who support me personally and lots of other women—but it’s my favorite thing when you get a white guy and we sit down in an airplane, and I look fairly young as well, so by the end of the flight, if I convince him that women can do everything, then my job is done. [Laughter]

Loren Feldman:
Karen, I think all three of you have had the experience of talking to potential investors, but I think you probably have been more aggressive and ambitious about reaching out and considering that a possible option.

Karen Clark Cole:
Only recently. It’s not in my blood.

Loren Feldman:
Well, in the last year or two. What was that experience like for you? Because that is where this issue tends to come up the most.

Karen Clark Cole:
I’ll tell you, it was there a little bit. Like I said, because it’s way too late to get under my skin. I just see that as a challenge. There was one guy who I read the riot act to. I said to him, “I will not do business with you if you’re going to talk to me in that kind of way.” And I hung up the phone and that was it.

Loren Feldman:
What kind of way was he talking to you?

Karen Clark Cole:
Patronizing. I don’t look for this, so I don’t I don’t see it very often. But it was my belief that he was talking to me like that because I was a woman, based on past experiences with him. Like I said, I don’t see this very often because I’m generally not looking for it. But in this case, I was just not going to tolerate it. That kind of thing doesn’t happen very often to me.

Laura Zander:
I think, Karen, you hit on something and said it really well, in terms of you and I are too far along, almost being 20 years into the business. As I’m thinking back through this, when I was only at the three-year mark, or the five-year mark and at less than a million dollars, I didn’t spend a lot of time interfacing with the old white men of the world, if you will, and I’m married to an old white man. I mean, he’s almost 50, so I’ll call him “old.” My experience now [is] I have a lot more confidence because I can just tell people to “F off.” We have a decent sized business. We’ve done pretty well. My business is my confidence, and I can ignore the other part.

Karen Clark Cole:
It’s like, “Well, you can tell me I can’t do this, but it looks like I did.”

Loren Feldman:
Laura, you started this business with your husband. Did you ever have the experience where people assumed that he was the one who was in charge?

Laura Zander:
No, but that’s because he’s never been the public face. Other than his mom. She thinks I do nothing. [Laughter] We’re in the knitting industry, so of course people are going to assume that it’s me.

Dana White:
I’m in the beauty business and people think my boyfriend is the owner all the time, even when we’re doing press. People defer to him all the time.

Karen Clark Cole:
Like when you’re out for dinner, or when?

Dana White:
If we’re anywhere, but it’s the majority of the time if he is standing next to me and we’re talking or the business comes up—especially if he’s in the salon with me—they defer to him. When I was doing the build-out of Paralee Boyd, I literally walked in, and I was at this point where I was like, “I’m done trying to prove and explain to people that I’m the owner.” The subcontractor came in, and I said, “Hi, I’m here for the one o’clock appointment.” And the guy said, “Okay, could you let us know when the owner gets here?”

Karen Clark Cole:
No!

Dana White:
Oh, absolutely. I’m falling back on that conversation because my experience is very different. And so he—

Karen Clark Cole:
Did you fire him on the spot?

Dana White:
He was a sub, so I just said, “Okay, I’ll let you know.” When it got to 1:10 and 1:15, he came up to me. “Who are you?” I said, “I’m Dana.” And he said, “Do you have any idea what time the owner—I’m assuming that’s your boss?” I’m staring at him, and I said, “Well, how can I help you?” He goes, “Well, I’m not sure you can. These are things for the owner to look over.” I said again, “How can I help you?” The fact that I’d already given him my name and I was done trying to convince or prove or show him. You know you have a one o’clock with Dana, who is the owner, but for some reason, in quotes, when I walked in, he assumed I was “the other Dana.”

Laura Zander:
That’s what I was going to say. I never got that people thought my husband was the owner, but everybody has always assumed my employees are the owners, and that I just work there. That’s still the case.

Loren Feldman:
How does that happen?

Laura Zander:
When I started, I was 27. I guess I looked probably more like I was 19 because people thought I was the high school help. My employee was 65. They always just assumed that she owned it and I was a high school help. Even now…

Loren Feldman:
That’s somewhat understandable.

Laura Zander:
It is. You’ve seen how I dress. I wear a t-shirt and shorts and I try to pretend that I’m still in high school. It’s Dazed and Confused and I’m Matthew McConaughey. I don’t dress professionally, and I don’t have business cards. I walk out very casually and people are usually, typically, very surprised. So that doesn’t really faze me, because a little part of that—to Dana, using her example—I do a little bit of that on purpose, because I want to see how people will treat me.

Dana White:
Yes.

Laura Zander:
If they don’t know who I am. And if they treat me like crap, then I don’t want to work with them.

Dana White:
Exactly.

Laura Zander:
I go to events like this. I don’t wear a name tag.

Karen Clark Cole:
Loren, there’s the underdog side of it that works in our favor.

Dana White:
I love it. I do it all the time.

Loren Feldman:
Tell me more.

Dana White:
Even in my salon, I had another woman who, at the time, was my operations manager. She was white, and they’d defer to her. One lady got up when she came in. She overheard another person defer to her. She said, “Oh, this is white-owned?” She was getting ready to walk out. We said, “No, no, no, no, no, she’s the owner.” So when I’m in my salon, I’ll answer the phone. I know I’m the owner every time I pay a bill. [Laughter] I don’t need everybody to know that I’m the owner.

Another little anecdote is that I’m in Michigan. I’ve lived here for years. I was here young and I had a bully who came into the salon. I was behind the desk. A girl from college, she was awful, she came into the salon and she said, “Oh, hi.” And I said, “Hi, how are you?” She said, “Oh, you work here now?” And I said, “I do. How can I help you?” I checked her in and then I left. She said, “Oh is it the end of your shift?” I said, “It is.” I said, “Enjoy your visit.”

Karen Clark Cole:
Oh my god, I love it.

Dana White:
So I left, and she sauntered up to the front desk and she asked the girl at the front desk, “What is it like working with her?” and then asked all these questions. My staff is, under their breath, laughing. And she said, “You mean working for her?” And she said, “What do you mean?” And she said, “Dana, she’s the owner.” The lady was actually upset, like, “Why didn’t she tell me?”

My staff called and told me what it was like after I left, so the next time I saw her, she was nothing but roses and friendly. Then I’m like, “Laura, you showed me who you are the first time. I believe you.” You just like flying beneath the radar because it gives you an idea as to who these people are when they think you’re the receptionist versus the owner.

Laura Zander:
Absolutely, 100%. You nailed it Karen, with the underdog. This is such a great therapy session because I’m realizing it’s not that I haven’t experienced this. It’s that I am narcissistic and arrogant enough to try to spin it so that I’m in control.

Karen Clark Cole:
Yeah, there you go.

Dana White:
Wow, that’s huge.

Karen Clark Cole:
I take secret pleasure in it too.

Dana White:
Oh, absolutely.

Karen Clark Cole:
They see this company kicking butt and then if they find out it’s me later on, I think that’s sort of fun.

Laura Zander:
100%. There’s nothing more fun to me. Really.

Dana White:
Especially the ones who treated you like you are the help.

Laura Zander:
Dana, we talked about this. It’s always rugby and basketball for me. The bottom line is, at the end of the day, let’s go out to the basketball court and let’s see what it looks like. Don’t pretend like you’re smarter than I am. Don’t pretend like you’ve got more power than me, because when it comes right down to it… yeah, anyway.

Karen Clark Cole:
Good to know! I’m not gonna mess with Laura or Dana!

Dana White:
That’s hilarious.

Loren Feldman:
The other issue that people talk about a lot is whether or not there’s something of a confidence gap between men entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs—

Karen Clark Cole:
Loren, you can’t actually ask that question after the conversation we just had, can you?

Loren Feldman:
Sure I can! The context that it comes up in is explaining why there aren’t more women-owned businesses that crack a million dollars in revenue. It leads to a discussion about, “Well, women just aren’t as ambitious as men, maybe they don’t have the confidence. They don’t fake it until they make it. They don’t push as hard for growth.” I’m interested in this because there’s an aspect of this that rarely gets discussed, which I think is kind of important. Some of those men who are pushing harder and more aggressively are making huge mistakes.

To some extent, it’s the finance issue, the venture capital issue. I’m not a big fan of venture capital. We always see those statistics about the percentage of venture capital that goes to women entrepreneurs, and it’s a tiny percentage. It’s ridiculous. But I also think venture capital, in my opinion, destroys as many businesses as it helps. Maybe more. So I’m sitting here thinking, “Yeah, women have the same right to destroy their businesses that men do, and they should have access to venture capital.” But on the other hand, that isn’t necessarily the smartest way to build a business. Pushing crazily for growth isn’t necessarily the smartest way to run the business. With all of that in mind, I’m curious how you guys think about that.

Dana White:
I think it’s a societal thing. I’ll expand by saying I had a fellow business owner. She was very excited about expansion, opening up a second and third location. She got her funding, everything was intact. Then at the last minute, she changed her mind. When I asked her, I said, “Hey, what happened?” And I expected it to be, “You know what, I looked at the workload and it was just going to be too much. It was happening too fast.” No. Her response was, “My husband, basically, is not handling this growth well, and if I do this, I will lose my marriage.” That was her quote to me.

Loren Feldman:
Wait, explain that.

Karen Clark Cole:
Did you say to her, “I’m sorry to see your marriage go”?

Dana White:
No, no, not at all, because she was really upset about it and—

Loren Feldman:
I want to make sure I’m clear. Her husband was resentful of her success. Is that what you’re saying?

Dana White:
To an extent. What I’m saying is—and I had this conversation again a couple days ago with another business owner—some of the women married to men who married them when they were the restaurant chef, not the restaurant owner. The nail tech versus the nail tech business owner. You know what I mean?

So they’re okay when you’re going to work every day putting on people’s makeup, doing people’s nails. But when you become the CEO or the leader or the owner and founder of something, there’s a growth that these women have experienced. I know I’ve experienced it. In these instances, these husbands were not ready to stay married to that woman.

This is the young lady I talked to earlier this week—she just opened a location, her husband—his needs are tertiary. They have kids and it’s the business. Now he’s tertiary because she has this booming business that requires her to be there more and she hasn’t gotten to that point in her business where she has structured it to hand certain things off, which is fine. That’s part of your growth. But when you’re asking about women and the confidence thing, I think that can be an individually based thing, based on your history and your baggage, or whatever. Your growth in business can be lonely, and some women may choose to not be lonely and keep the people around them who are more comfortable with them being the nail tech versus the CEO.

Loren Feldman:
Well, that’s depressing.

Dana White:
I’m so sorry! [Laughter]

Laura Zander:
I think that’s very astute. Doug and I, we started the business together. He still had a different job for a few years. We’ve had this conversation many, many times. It’s so funny on the tertiary, because Doug says that he’s fifth. He comes after my iPhone. [Laughter] There’s Huck first, then the iPhone, then the business, then the two dogs, and then comes Doug.

In our lives together, knowing or guessing that we have another 50 years, at this period in time, we have to focus on those things and dedicate our time to those things. He said, “One of the smartest things that’s really stuck with me, [is] our relationship between the two of us has never changed. In 20 years, what has changed is the outside world and what we’re working on, but the unit between us is still there. It’s just that we’re having to spend time on other things.”

I feel for us, we’re very, very lucky in that we’re able to have a conversation and say, “Okay, we’re not having date night this year.. This is just not the year to do it. For us to build the life together that we want to build, this is what needs our attention. Are you good with that?”

We had to have this conversation with my son as well before this new acquisition. We’re like, “This is a family decision. It means I’m going to be gone five days a week for months. Are we all good with that?” And Huck said, “Yes, I want new Legos.” We’ve all got a vested interest, and we all opted in.

Loren Feldman:
Karen, I took your point before when you said I’m clearly talking to three women who have confidence, and I also know that you are not someone who has shied away from trying to build your business ambitiously. But you’ve also talked to a lot of other women business owners. Do you think women in general tend to shy away from that kind of ambitious growth?

Karen Clark Cole:
We used to have a problem where women weren’t starting businesses. The council for women in business produces a lot of data each year about research about women entrepreneurs. Now the research is showing that there are more women starting businesses, but few of them are growing them.

I’ve changed my messaging and a lot of my outreach when I’m speaking, talking, mentoring, to encourage women to grow their businesses. I really try to highlight what I’ve done and how I did it and really encourage women, “This is what it looks like.” It’s no harder than starting a business. In fact, I think it’s easier. Starting the business is the hard part.

Again, for me, I didn’t really have a lot of women business owners who I talked to, honestly. I have a lot of friends who are leaders in companies or own businesses, just throughout my years of being in business. To me, I try not to differentiate: man, woman, black, white, old, young, I don’t care. I just get inspiration from wherever I need it. If there’s somebody who’s doing something that I think is inspiring, I don’t care who or what it is. I try to find mentors in anybody. They may or may not even know me, and most of the time they don’t.

I know it’s really important, particularly for girls, to see their role models looking like them, and I’m not undervaluing that at all. I think it’s really important and we need more of that. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean you can’t have mentors who don’t look like you. I have looked at other business owners who have grown their businesses and said, “Hey, why not me?” I take a lot of inspiration from Russell Wilson, actually, the Seahawks quarterback. He’s my hero. I’m like, “Yeah, why not? Let’s go.”

Loren Feldman:
Why is he your hero?

Karen Clark Cole:
Because he has a whole foundation. The name of it is Why Not Me? The idea is, somebody’s got to do it. Why not me? Why not? I think that about our company all the time. Look, somebody’s got to be the world’s greatest UX firm. Why not us? I just can’t find a good reason why not.

Loren Feldman:
That’s a great answer. Do any of you ever get tired of being the boss making decisions?

Karen Clark Cole:
Yes!

Dana White:
Absolutely!

Karen Clark Cole:
I don’t think that’s a woman or man thing, is it? Or maybe it is.

Laura Zander:
I just had coffee this morning with a brand manager of a brand we carry and he said, “Okay, well where do you want to sit?” And I’m like, “David, can you please just be my boss for like an hour? Just an hour? Like, can you just tell me where to sit and you tell me what to eat? I would be so stoked.”

Dana White:
Yeah, that’s it.

Loren Feldman:
I bet there is a male/female thing a little bit there.

Karen Clark Cole:
Interesting research project.

Laura Zander:
Well, to be fair, I love the fact that I have the choice to sometimes not want to be the boss. I think if we’re really going to dig deep, do I ever not want to be the boss? Probably not. I just happen to have the privilege and the choice to be able to say, “Hey David, boss me around!” [Laughter]

Loren Feldman:
You’re allowed to be tired one day. You’re allowed to feel like you’ve had enough.

Karen Clark Cole:
But you were the boss to decide that you wanted to get bossed around. That’s the important thing. It’s your decision.

Laura Zander:
Yes, it’s the choice. I probably don’t ever get tired of being the boss. I probably, really desperately love it.

Dana White:
I don’t get tired enough to not do it, but there are days where, “Honey, where do you want for dinner?” Not another choice. You decide. Where are we going? You decide.

They found that people who make a lot of decisions have a uniform in their clothing because it’s one less decision they have to make today.

Karen Clark Cole:
Isn’t that what Obama said?

Dana White:
Obama said it, Steve Jobs said it, Mark Zuckerberg said it, Dr. Dre. We wear the same thing because it’s just one less decision I have to make today. I think that’s a version of just not wanting to be the boss. I think being the boss is making decisions.

Karen Clark Cole:
One of the things I’ll tell you is in terms of being within the company, I have often said that I think because I’m a woman leader, that I get less leeway to be mad.

Dana White:
Oh, yeah.

Loren Feldman:
That’s so interesting.

Karen Clark Cole:
If I’m having a rough day and I’m not my best self, and I’m short or I get upset or mad about something, or mad at somebody, I think the impact that has on others around me is far greater than if I were a man. That is something that I really believe.

Dana White:
I think it might be because people want to give you permission to be upset, and if they haven’t given you permission to be upset, it’s jarring to them.

Karen Clark Cole:
I’m not sure about that because these are people who have known me for a while, but I’m a “bitch” if I freak out. I don’t think you hear that about too many men leaders if they are rightly upset about something. These are things that are legitimate. It’s not crazy business. This is: the numbers aren’t right, or somebody screwed up, and there’s really a problem. I take that stuff seriously.

Part of it is, for me, part of my persona is warm and caring. I think people expect that more from a woman. That’s why they like to have women in the room, because they listen better, it’s known that they can be more warm and more caring. This is why you need diversity, right? We need an equal, balanced room. It’s not all women and not all men. You need balance so that we get all kinds of types of personalities, moods, temperaments, these kinds of things.

But I think people expect that more from me because they see it, and then when they see the other side, they’re like, “Oh, that’s not what we expect.”

Dana White:
I don’t have permission to be upset. Even as a leader, I don’t have permission.

Loren Feldman:
What do you mean by that?

Dana White:
There are always these stereotypes with women. When she gets upset, it has nothing to do with what just happened. It’s all the baggage that she’s bringing with her. It’s probably a boyfriend argument or something. That’s why I really do get upset, because I don’t want to do the work of being validated, and I haven’t gotten to a point where I don’t care. Because if I’m upset, it’s because something’s not happening that I need to happen. I need you to care so we can get it done.

I have found that it’s easier to get upset when I have the permission of people who know that I’m upset when they agree that I should be upset. When they don’t agree, it can be dismissed, and not so much with the people who work with me. I don’t really get upset like that, but when you’re talking to a lender, or if you’re talking to somebody in your administrative or contract work, when you’re upset, I feel like I need their permission. Once they agree with me, then we make the changes that we do. But if they don’t agree with me, even though I’m rightly upset, it just changes for me.

Loren Feldman:
How do you deal with it? How does that feel?

Dana White:
Like I said, I don’t get upset, and if I do, I deal with it on my own. I don’t express it to them. When I do express it, it comes in the form of questions, again, trying to get you to see where this is a problem. Then they acknowledge it and they move on. There is no ownership of it outside of acknowledging it, where it’s just different on my end. I’ve seen with women, when men are upset with women, they’re not only supposed to acknowledge it, they’re supposed to own it and make it better.

I don’t get upset outwardly. Not a lot makes me upset. There are a couple times where I’m like, “You know what? I totally would have said this differently. I totally would have expressed myself differently if I felt I was in a space where being upset was okay.” Not okay because I was blowing up for no reason. It was obvious I should have been upset, but because we just don’t want to deal with that, we don’t want to look at that right now—

Karen Clark Cole:
I think it’s impressive that you can maintain your cool like that.

Dana White:
Honestly Karen, look at me. I have no choice. I have to maintain my cool. Can you imagine? The complex of the angry black woman, it’s always illegitimized, it’s never validated, people don’t really want to hear you. I have no choice but to find something to do with it so we can get something done.

Karen Clark Cole:
I don’t think anybody wants to have anybody walking around being angry all the time. I think you’re far more effective if you can keep your cool. I think it’s excellent that you’re able to do that. I wish that I could do it better.

Loren Feldman:
All right, I want to move on to another topic. As I started last week, every week, I want to ask you a question that Laura actually suggested, which is, what’s the worst thing that happened in your business this week? Laura, let me start with you, since you suggested the question.

Laura Zander:
Thanks a lot! What’s the worst thing that happened in our business this week? I would say that I am trying to figure out how to bring two teams together that work in different states that have a lot of overlapping responsibilities and skills. That’s kind of a nebulous answer, but team dynamics and trying to figure out who does what, and trying to introduce everybody and get everybody on the same page. There’s a lot of friction as we figure this out. I personally think that it’s just going to take time.

Loren Feldman:
Was there a particular problem that you can share with us, not pointing fingers, but giving us a sense of where this is an issue?

Laura Zander:
Yeah, we have a couple of different websites, and with one of the websites, we are asking that any updates to the site be run through the other team for second eyes, for a variety of reasons. Some updates were made to the site without running it through anybody. The updates were not updates that we would have—and I hate to use the word approve—but they’re updates that we would have liked to have discussed before they went up. And so once we found out they were up, then we had a whole conversation about it. Then of course, feelings get hurt, blah, blah, blah.

Loren Feldman:
I hope the answer to this question is never doing this podcast. Dana, how about you? What’s the worst thing that happened to your business this week?

Dana White:
No, not at all. This is by far the slowest week of the year when you’re looking year over year. This has been a tough week and we’re counting down the hours to this impending snowstorm here in Michigan that’s going to start tonight and go through Sunday morning, which is always our busiest time—the weekend. The hardest thing this week was watching those numbers. Man, it’s tough.

Loren Feldman:
What do you do during a slow week? Do you try to make use of it in some way?

Dana White:
We scale down our staff. We focus on training. We get a lot of admin stuff caught up on, but we’re also just getting ready for when it gets busier, and some of the changes we want to make and stuff. It’s productive, but it’s not revenue generating directly.

Loren Feldman:
Of course. Karen, how about you?

Karen Clark Cole:
Well, Loren, I’m sad for you, but I’m happy for me to report that nothing bad happened. It was a great week.

Loren Feldman:
I don’t believe it.

Karen Clark Cole:
Nothing, not even one thing. I can’t even make anything up.

Loren Feldman:
Really?

Karen Clark Cole:
It doesn’t hurt that I’m actually not at work. [Laughter]

Loren Feldman:
Let’s remind our listeners you’re on sabbatical, out of the office through the end of the month, right?

Karen Clark Cole:
I am in touch! This week I actually worked more than I have the entire sabbatical because I’m getting ready to go back. We’re working on my reentry plan. I had a nice all-day meeting with my chief culture officer on Monday walking through my plan of attack. And then I had a great half-day meeting with my COO yesterday and the same thing. They couldn’t even tell me anything bad that’s going on at the office.

So, I’m happy. I’m super excited. I go back the week after next, and I think I’m actually ready. I gotta have a little weekend in Mexico first, though.

Laura Zander:
Who invited her? Did you invite her, Loren? [Laughter]

Loren Feldman:
Good question.

Karen Clark Cole:
You two know a little bit of what happened to me last year, that I deserve it. Come on!

Laura Zander:
Yeah, I know. But you’re still making me look bad.

Loren Feldman:
All right, last question. I want to ask you about an item that we covered recently in the 21 Hats Morning Report that I found kind of intriguing. In Illinois, they just legalized recreational use of cannabis, and it seems to have thrown a lot of employers there. It’s interesting. There seems to be some confusion in the sense that recreational cannabis is now legal, but it’s also legal to fire an employee who is using cannabis during work hours. There seems to be some confusion about that.

I’m curious about all of you. Has the change in laws had any impact on your businesses? Have you ever done drug testing? Would you ever do drug testing? How do each of you look at this? Laura, why don’t you go first?

Laura Zander:
It’s funny that you say that because my general manager just told me that in Nevada, it is now illegal to fire an employee for having marijuana in their system. I would assume that it’s not legal for people to smoke pot or use cannabis during work hours in the same way that you’re not supposed to drink alcohol or anything that’s mind altering during work hours.

I’ll tell you one thing. From a recruiting standpoint, we got a lot of people who would love to move to Nevada and come work for us because it is legal. When you’re working with a bunch of creatives, I’m not sure that that’s a bad thing. But from a productivity standpoint, and from a warehouse standpoint, and from the other employees, it doesn’t affect us. I mean, if it makes people’s lives better on the weekend, and that’s what they choose to do instead of drinking, sounds great to me.

Loren Feldman:
So I assume you don’t do any drug testing of employees or potential employees?

Laura Zander:
No, we have great people, though.

Loren Feldman:
Dana, how about you?

Dana White:
No drug testing at Paralee Boyd. Michigan just legalized recreational marijuana, and even before then, I’m with Laura. What you do in your spare time is up to you. If it’s impairing your ability to work, that’ll come out just by keeping up quality standards in the salon. We’ve had a couple of employees who’ve come in smelling of marijuana and they’ve been sent home, because in the beauty business, nobody wants to smell that while you’re doing their hair, so we’ve asked them to go change and come back. We’ve not done drug testing.

Loren Feldman:
You need to tell them about edibles, Dana.

Dana White:
Well vaping is huge here, but the policy at Paralee Boyd is no consumption at all. I don’t want anybody to get hurt. We’re using scissors sometimes, hot irons, and such.

Loren Feldman:
Karen?

Karen Clark Cole:
In Washington, it’s been legal for a long time. We’ve had no problems, and we only ever drug test when a client requires it. It wouldn’t be a requirement of a specific person per se, but it would be requiring that the team working on their project has to have been drug tested. There’s probably some mechanical reason, something that we’re doing that would be dangerous, I guess. I’m not sure why they would require it.

Loren Feldman:
Yeah, that’s kind of hard to imagine. Would this be employees who would be working on the client’s premises?

Karen Clark Cole:
Yes.

Loren Feldman:
I see.

Karen Clark Cole:
It could just be that they have a strict policy and that has to trickle down to us. It’s very rare, though.

Loren Feldman:
Has that ever caused a problem for you?

Karen Clark Cole:
No, no problems.

Laura Zander:
You know, Loren, can you ask the same question when William is on the phone?

Loren Feldman:
Sure.

Laura Zander:
I’d be really interested to hear his answer, as a pastor recruiting guy from Texas.

Loren Feldman:
That’s a great thought. I will do that.

As for today, we are out of time. My thanks to Karen Clark Cole, my thanks to Dana White, and my thanks to Laura Zander. Appreciate your taking the time.

Dana White:
Thank you!

Laura Zander:
Thank you!

Karen Clark Cole:
Have a great day.