Wonder Woman in Business, Wendy Toth


Wendy Toth

One day, I was on a plane to Boston and I sat next to a most remarkable woman named, "Wendy Toth" from Belmont, CA. Wendy was a C-suiter in tech in the communications realm so we had plenty to talk about. However, Wendy and I connected on a much deeper level. I felt as if I had known her for many lifetimes. She is a strong, sensitive, take-no-BS, kind of woman. She is a lover to her sculpture artist husband and friend to her sports racer son. She is a best friend to few and a good friend to many. She and I got off that plane never having met before but having decided to dine together at Legal Seafoods on Boston Harbor. Mike was already in Boston so he met us for dinner and we enjoyed one of the most memorable evenings ever. After Boston, Wendy changed positions and is now with Amazon. Though we have not kept in touch, I still feel her friendship. 

Well, while in Healdsburg, Wendy Toth "followed" me on Twitter. I immediately sent her a picture of Mike waving at her and this message:

"Omg! We thought you were out of our lives. We miss you! We have to get together! Follow @mikefutrell too!"

As I explored her profile on Twitter, I saw:
Wendy Toth 
Writer & Editor. Content Director. Editor-in-Chief @PowerSuiting Contributor to NY Times, NBC, PetCoach and more.

I quickly realized it was not the same Wendy Toth

After I realized, I messaged to explain my mistake. We had a good laugh and then continued to chat. This Wendy Toth is as exciting as any and I am now thrilled to interview her on my "Wonder Women in Business" podcast. She is delightful, smart, kind, funny, and has terrific content. Follow her if you're on Twitter: @bestWendy and tell her @susfree sent you. ;-)

It's a small world and we should welcome new people, places and things into our heads and hearts. That, and "Wendy Toths" across the nation, coast-to-coast, are pretty cool people!

Today, I had an incredible conversation with the East Coast Wendy Toth!

Wendy is a writer, editor, and mom of two boys, with a focus on making life more fulfilling for families. For the last 15 years she has held staff and freelance positions at some of this country’s top publications. She’s been a staffer at Parents Magazine, NBC, PetSmart and most recently Happy Wellness Life. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Weight Watchers Magazine, Esperanza, and many more. Because she loves her work so much, she’s obsessed with helping others find career fulfillment, and writes about it regularly at PowerSuiting.com.

In the podcast, Wendy speaks about her proudest professional accomplishment (to date, as she is young and is sure to have many more) and she mentioned having been published in the New York Times. I asked her if I could share the piece, “No, You Can’t Run With Me” and she said yes so enjoy. She also mentioned one of her inspirational mentors as Susan Shapiro, an award-winning writing professor, freelances for the NY Times, NY Magazine, WSJ, Washington Post, L.A. Times, Elle & Oprah.com. She's the bestselling author/coauthor of 12 books. I thought I might share her site here as well: SusanShapiro.net for those aspiring writers who are reading this!

Contact Wendy:

Website: PowerSuiting.com http://www.powersuiting.com/

Portfolio Site: WendyToth.com https://www.wendytoth.com/

Twitter: @PowerSuiting https://twitter.com/PowerSuiting

Twitter: @BestWendy https://twitter.com/BestWendy



“Top Billing” for Women Lawyers

FOR MANY WOMEN, the word, “negotiation” summons up images of something formal and structured: world leaders trying to end a regional conflict, corporate boards agreeing to the details of a severance package with a departing CEO, someone in a procurement office working out the terms of a contract with a supplier, lawyers winning at all costs, in trial. They may also think of hardball tactics: such as those times when a lawyer feigns anger to intimidate the other side, snapping a briefcase shut and perhaps walking out of the meeting.

Many see negotiation as a form of combat, a competitive, often hostile interaction in which each side tries to beat the other or wear them down into submission. In TV movies, ruthless characters shake their fists and threaten their rivals. On the evening news, labor leaders and management representatives deliver ultimatums. Foreign diplomats sit silently, unmoving behind long tables. No wonder so many women avoid negotiating.

Everything about that type of win-lose bargaining seems unpleasant, and women are smart enough to know not to behave in this way with someone with whom we have an ongoing relationship. Fortunate for us, principled – rather than positional -- negotiation rarely takes place under such circumstances. It’s least effective when conducted as a battle or a contest, and in most cases zero-sum games can be avoided. Negotiation is not exclusive to lawyers, labor leaders and diplomats, and it’s not an advanced skill used only for business in the boardroom. The ability to engage in principled negotiation is not a gift we are born with or a rare talent. Put simply, negotiation is a tool that works to change the status quo when more than one decision maker is involved. Changing the status quo can mean relating to your current client that you now bill at $900/hour instead of $800/hour. Negotiating can even mean asking your managing partner for a transfer to a different office so you can follow your partner to his or her new job.

The minor negotiations involve the same steps as the major ones, and in all cases employing hardball, win-lose tactics are usually the worst way to get the results. The most successful negotiations result in both parties feeling good about the exchange. These negotiations are the ones where both parties reach agreements that benefit both sides without strong-arm tactics at play or raising their voices. Instead, both parties, start with finding common ground, ask a lot of questions, listen carefully, share information, and try to understand both points of view. They enjoy the challenge of finding ways to satisfy each other’s interests and try to weave a solution that leaves no one feeling angry or disappointed.

Taking this approach to negotiating is probably something you already do every day. You talk to your managing partner about promoting an associate to partner because she is great at asking powerful questions that reveal meaningful information then framing the narrative around it -- and the clients love that. You discuss with a client how to add value to the relationship through in-house training, sitting in on shareholder calls, offering CLEs, using technology that streamlines the legal operations processes, saving time (which translates to saving the client money in a billable hour world). Another example of negotiations you regularly do might be that you ask a colleague to help out on a challenging case. You even work out a plan with your siblings to celebrate your father’s eightieth birthday.

Asking questions, revealing new information, validating what you may already know, and working things out are all steps in negotiating, and they’re all skills that many women already possess. Every negotiation also takes place within a relationship, a relationship in which each party has something of value to offer. Negotiating well involves understanding the nature of the relationship between you and the other party and accurately estimating the value on each side—what you both “bring to the table.” It usually takes some research to obtain this information (research such as a client needs assessment or client interview, if you will) but if you learn a few basic principles, plan carefully, and practice, you can become an effective negotiator pretty quickly.

Preparing for Opening Night

There are many tools on the market, likely in your firm already, that can assist in every client negotiation, attracting new business and expanding current client relationships. You must engage in researching the client beforehand. It is quite a mistake to simply go armed with a PowerPoint all about your pedigree and your firm’s rankings. Instead, ask open-ended questions using - How, What, Why? Listen more than talk. According to the ACC Value Challenge, you should listen 85% of the time and spend 15% of the time asking questions or follow-up questions and re-phrasing the client’s responses.

Learning Your Lines

Here are some examples:

  • In talking to my clients in your industry, I'm struck by a couple of particular issues with which they are grappling. These include: [give examples]. How would these resonate with you and your management?

  • How is your organization reacting to ___________? (a recent, important development in this client's industry or function)

  • How are you handling _________? (new competition, low-cost imports, a new regulatory framework, etc.)

  • Is there is a particular competitor you admire and why?

  • Can you tell me what your biggest priorities are for this year?

  • What are your most significant opportunities for growth over the next several years?

  • What exactly do you mean when you say _______________? (“risk-averse,” “dysfunctional,” “challenging,” etc.)

The foundation for a meaningful client negotiation is built through your preparation in advance of the client meeting. Outside of a company’s website and their annual reports, using tools, such as the following, will ease any anxiety you may otherwise have:

  • Monitor Suite - An easy-to-use business development service that aggregates legal information, sophisticated functionality, real-time filtering, company data and docket coverage into one intuitive platform.

  • Lex Machina - A legal analytics platform that initially covered Intellectual Property, but has since expanded to other practice areas. It mines data about judges, lawyers, parties and patents to inform lawyers’ litigation strategy.

  • Manzama - An intelligence tool, a search engine that allows each user to create a personalized profile to stay up to date with what matters to them, simplifying the process of finding powerful insights efficiently. Manzama searches a broad range of business and legal news sources, and can integrate a firm’s proprietary subscriptions.

  • ALM Legal Intelligence - ALM Legal Intelligence offers detailed business information and competitive intelligence about the legal industry to top U.S. and international law firms and their clients. ALM Legal Intelligence survey results are featured in American Lawyer Daily, another ALM publication.

Setting the Stage

Once you know what you want, negotiate to get it. You need to do some preliminary research: How much are you worth and why? How much bargaining power do you really have? And how do things stand on the client’s side of the table? Numerous external factors may influence the course of your negotiation, such as your employer’s financial stability or strategic plans, or your firm’s system for evaluating your work. The more you can learn about the context within which you’ll be making your ask and the personalities of the players, the better off you’ll be, improving your negotiating position and arguing persuasively for your point of view. The first step is to identify any relevant relationship factors that may influence the outcome -- assessing the environment.

Show Time

You wouldn’t want to negotiate the same way with your partner as you would with a client. To gauge your situation accurately, ask yourself: The number of parties is the number of “sides” in the negotiation. The situation becomes more complex if others join the negotiation. The complexity comes not simply from the fact that each of you may bring different goals to the negotiation but also from the fact that certain parties may form coalitions or alliances in order to increase leverage at the negotiating table. The same is true in more small-scale negotiations. If you are negotiating your rates with the client and the client says their goal is to lower legal expenses, in no way must this mean discounting your rate.

What’s the Nature of Your Relationship? Think of the relationship dimension of negotiations as a continuum. Most client negotiations take place with someone whom you can expect to see again, someone with whom you have a continuing relationship. The nature of your trusted advisor relationship with that existing client will have a huge impact because it will determine the amount of information you have about the other side, the level of trust you share, and the potential for a continued partnership with the client. In addition, the outcome of that negotiation will influence your future interactions. It may enhance or damage your reputation, and can potentially set a precedent for later engagements with this client.

Take a Bow

The organizational culture that pervades today’s law firms promotes practitioner behavior. The transition from a practice of law to a business of law remains critical for the life of law firms today. Negotiating long-term trusted advisor relationships rather than pushing your legal services matter-to-matter and relying on random acts of marketing, will pay off in the long run – for you and your client. Engaging in deep and meaningful research and fair and principled negotiations rather than simply the traditional marketing mix, will ensure the client can relate to you, know, like and trust you – and agree that negotiating with you in as much in their best interests as it is in yours. Without a client-centric negotiations, relying on effective communication practices, firms will lose clients, firms will lose natural rainmakers, and firms will ultimately lose market share.

A Star is Born

Evolutionary change will and should continue, and lawyers practicing principled negotiations will have a far greater impact ensuring long-term client relationships and more business for the firm by becoming the trusted advisors. It is with the help of these negotiation practices and research tools that firms will be able to make the transition from a practice of law to a business of law. Business of law management practices will result in greater results, attracting new business and expanding client relationships.

Article originally published on California Lawyers Association website.


Susan C. Freeman

About the Author
Susan Freeman is the Senior Vice President of Marketing & Business Development for Jaffe Public Relations. Susan brings more than 20 years of marketing, business development and relationship sales experience to Jaffe. At Jaffe, Susan helps professional services firms communicate effectively to develop relationships that result in new business. She teaches a combination of hard skills and soft skills; the IQ and EQ needed to be successful. Her training programs, which include seminars, webinars, and one-on-one coaching, enable professionals to use client-centric insights to assess needs and identify solutions that meet strategic business goals. Susan’s programs apply insights from Myers-Briggs, used to determine preferred communication styles, overlaid with an understanding of innate gender-specific strengths and opportunities related to communication. Programs include Gender Bias & Gender-based Communication, Pitching v. Proposing & Procurement’s Role, Building Reputation v. Building Relationships, and Client Service as a Business Development Strategy. Her background also includes marketing, business development and client service management positions in law firms and with legal services providers. Susan earned her Master’s degree in Communications from Hawaii Pacific University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Journalism from Louisiana State University.”

Don't Keep Calm, Go Change the World!

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Men often find it hard to understand women, specifically, how they behave, their attitudes, their creativity, their feelings unless, like my husband, Mike, they have been influenced all their lives by women. We are wired differently, we lead differently and we make decisions differently. Our communication styles and personalities differ, as well. Great women support men and show them how to be successful communicators when dealing with other women. Great leaders, regardless of gender, make it a point to listen, learn, and then and only then, take action.

Some women are highly collaborative and are still masterful leaders. We enjoy team leadership and our own space and time. I march to the beat of my own drum and I am fine with that, I learned long ago that other people’s opinions of me are none of my business. Mike knows I am a strategist and problem solver, especially where others have failed. I prefer to be preventive, but sometimes that is not always an option. Most women leaders don’t quit until the job is done. Wise women are knowledge seekers, forever learners.

Women leaders enjoy good challenges – and seek to find meaning and purpose from each circumstance they face and opportunity they are given. They like to see and understand the connectivity. They want all the facts before making decisions. Competitiveness amongst themselves may often seek validation — an identity that matters and a voice that is heard. Successful, secure, mature women empower one another, yet they never rely on favors. Period. Women leaders earn respect and truly believe they can influence their own advancement by serving others — yes, by serving others. It is my belief that being personally fulfilled comes from living in service to others.

Collaborative team players — and often team leaders — they also seek to prove their value and self-worth by exceeding performance expectations — looking for respect more than recognition. Yep, the most successful women leaders don’t seek to become the star of the show — but they enable others to create a great show — influencing positive outcomes with maximum impact! That’s the ticket!

I will tell you this: Women understand survival, renewal, and reinvention. This woman most certainly personifies survival, renewal, and reinvention and I am not afraid to fight for what I believe in or stand for; doing more with less is simply a matter of knowing how to be strategic. Part of my strategy has been compassion. Yes, that’s right, compassion. Compassion as a strategy. Amazing concept, eh?

According to Glen Llopis, leadership expert: “Women often have strong leadership traits that go unnoticed or undervalued in a man’s world. Insecure people fear these traits, some being the following: 1. Opportunity-driven; 2. Strategic; 3. Passionate; 4. Entrepreneurial; 5. Purposeful and Meaningful; and 6. Traditions and Family”

Whether at home or at work, I am often the glue that keeps things together — ask James, ask Mike. I will take charge before circumstances force my hand and whether recognized for it or not, I give a good dose of preventive meds stat! All too often, Mike calls me in after someone else has waited too late to be as effective on an initiative or has gone too fast, too far down the wrong path, or is charged with a task they have no tools to complete, and so on. (sigh). My boys also know, women in general, are usually the ones to protect family — like a mama bear.

To the great women in my personal and professional life from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to Boston to London to Honolulu to the Bay Area, thank you for the opportunity to be inspired and mentored by your leadership (you know who you are). I’ve read many things about women in the workplace and their lack of advancement into senior executive roles and in the boardroom, and all I can say is “Women, next time any man tells you to calm down… DON’T KEEP CALM, GO CHANGE THE WORLD.”

If You Want to Be a Speaker, Hone your Pitch!

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Cindy Ashton writes: If you want to be a speaker, you’ll need to hone your pitch for the various associations hosting. Here are some great guidelines:

1. Who is your market (corporate is too broad for example but business development in legal is more specific)?

2. What is your point of view? What do you have to say that is radically different than other speakers in your topic and market? (And remember, it is NOT your story. It has to be a specific deliverable you can give to the audience that addresses their needs)

3. What are your 3 signature talk titles and description and for WHO (it needs to be specific and most speakers say anyone)

4. Prep your 300 word bio, 100 word bio and 100 word introduction

5. Have at least 2 high resolution pictures (one headshot, one in action)

6. A list of previous clients (choose your top 10 most recognizable ones)

7. A list of your top 5-10 media you have done

8. Your speaker reel

9. A video of you speaking continuously for at least 5-10 minutes. They need to see how you carry yourself in a longer clip

10. Testimonials