This past year women have taken a hit in the business world. So many have backed away from the workforce to handle things at home. But even during a pandemic, women can have it all with the right work-life harmony in place.

About the Interview

In this episode of Hilary Topper on Air, Hilary speaks with Shani Godwin, CEO of Communiqué USA, Inc., and provider of The Joy EconomicsSM Coaching Program.

Shani will discuss how she thinks women can have it all using her personal journey as a highly successful entrepreneur and how she was able to scale her business to over $1M. She will talk about the lessons she’s learned along the way and the fact that she was able to grow her company by 300% only after starting to work a little less and letting go of all of the stress. She also speaks about how she believes women CEOs can make more money while also saving more personal time for themselves, for family, and for those things that matter most. She will inspire other leaders on how women can have it all.

About Shani Godwin

An accomplished entrepreneur, author, blogger, podcaster, and speaker, Shani Godwin is also known as Chief Joy Officer has over 17 years of experience leading her high-growth marketing firm, Communiqué USA. She is also an expert at helping small businesses take the guesswork out of marketing, telling their story, and growing their businesses the right way.

Passionate about work/life integration, Shani and her Communiqué USA team have been providing marketing project relief and support to stressed out, overworked small businesses and marketing departments around the country including Chick-fil-A, Inc., Cox Enterprises, Communicorp, Party City of Atlanta, Inc., Georgia Power, and Safeco Insurance Companies among others.

Under Shani’s leadership, Communiqué also created Joy EconomicsSM, a corporate platform for helping its key stakeholders and communities find better ways to live, work and play by using joy as its currency. This approach has helped Communiqué grow by nearly 300 percent and includes company policies and programs that free its staff to enjoy life as much as work. Joy Economics: Creating Better Way to Life Work and Play also uses a client service approach that delivers expert marketing relief to teams, and a Joy Economics national speaker series to empower others to transact joy.

Shani is a graduate of Goldman Sachs’s 10,000 Small Businesses Program, Leadership Atlanta Class of 2016, and Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business’s High Performing Minority Business Program. Shani has been featured in media nationwide including Essence Magazine, Forbes.com, and The Huffington Post.  She graduated from Hampton University with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications/Advertising and Mercer University where she earned a Master of Business Administration in Marketing.

About Communiqué USA

Communiqué USA is an 18-year-old marketing and communications firm designed to help small businesses take the guesswork out of marketing, tell their stories, and grow their businesses the right way. With work/life integration being key to the company’s success,

Communiqué also created Joy EconomicsSM, a corporate platform for helping its key stakeholders and communities find better ways to live, work and play by using the currency of joy. For Hilary Topper on Air listeners, Shani is offering a free joy assessment (valued at $475) where you can talk about stressors in your life and how you can turn things around. Register at https://shanigodwin.com/ or connect with her via YouTube, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

Podcast Transcription

Hilary – This past year, women have taken a hit in the business world. So many have backed away from the workforce to handle things at home. But what if I were to tell you that women really can have it all without killing themselves in the process? I’m Hilary topper. And this is Hilary topper on air. Today I have the great pleasure of speaking with Shani Godwin, who is the CEO of  Communiqué USA, Inc. and the provider of the joy economics coaching program. So Shani Welcome to the show. And tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and Communiqué USA, Inc.

Shani – Awesome. Thank you so much, Hilary for having me. I am so excited about our time together here today. For me, the story of  Communiqué USA, Inc. and starting my business actually spans almost two decades. And it’s so bizarre for me to even say that we’re going to celebrate 19 years in business later this year. And as I thank you, thank you, as I reflect over that time I go, Wow. I started the business at 27 when it was the year after 09/11, literally a year later after 09/11. And then we had to kind of paddle and pivot our way through the recession of 2007 and 2008. And then now, you know the pandemic hit last year. And so when I think back over the years and the lessons learned, they are limitless.

Communiqué USA, Inc. is a marketing communications firm. We are based in the Atlanta area, our services and our target audiences have shifted as the economy has shifted from time to time. But we’ve remained very true to our core, which is helping companies create great content, so that people and business owners, as I say can find their peeps. And so for me, joy economics is really a concept that is near and dear to my heart. And the pandemic allowed and offered me an amazing opportunity to figure out a way to bring the spirit of joy economics in the ability and teaching philosophies around how women-owned businesses can be successful, how they can hit those revenue goals, but how they can do it in a way that is uniquely them and incongruence and in alignment with who they are as a woman.

And so for you to understand where all of that comes from. I have to take you back to when I started  Communiqué USA, Inc. . I was 27 I was married at the time I was sitting in corporate America and I could not fathom how I would be able to be the kind of wife and eventually mother that I’d hoped to be with only, you know, two weeks of vacation, you know, very demanding job, very demanding boss. And so even at a young age, I had the vision to start a business that really aligned with the best parts of me as a woman. And throughout the years what I didn’t realize in growing and scaling the business over the million-dollar mark, which is important because it’s important not to brag, but to celebrate anytime we as women make big accomplishments, what I didn’t realize is that only 2% of women will ever go over the million-dollar mark. And when I look at women of color like me, the average woman of color generates 25 to 50,000 in business. And so instead of celebrating I actually found myself in programs trying to earn more, get more traction to grow.

That led me to awful, tell people the Epiphany night where I woke up at three in the morning, successful by the world standards over the million-dollar mark to having done all the things that people said would make me happy and successful. I also, at that place, had failed in my marriage. My marriage ended abruptly. I had a diagnosis of depression that I was having to manage, my dad had died, I’d gone through a lot of personal loss on the way to that million-dollar mark.

This all culminated with me at 3 am realizing that I was successful at achieving, again, the things that people said should make me happy. But I was miserable. And I had to really stop crying and take an assessment of how I got there. And I realized, I’ve been chasing a standard of success that, while important, was not congruent with who I was as a woman. And, when I rolled the reel back to when I started the business, I really wanted to be in business so that I could have a life that I loved. And at that moment, I decided that I would redefine success for myself and I came to easily see that I was happier when I was able to be fulfilled and use the business as a means to create balance and ability to be where I needed to be. The daughter, I needed to be the friend, I needed to be the partner, I needed to be in a relationship. And, when those things were in balance, joy came back to me, and then I showed back up in my business in a way that not only made me happier but made me way more productive. And then, I would be able to attract the very income that I’ve been chasing. So I’ll put a pin in it there. But that’s kind of all the different moving parts summarized into two, one quick little story for you.

Hilary – It’s an awesome story. Thank you for sharing that. You know, as you alluded to when you started the business, it was 9/11. And things were not good economically.

Shani – No.

Hilary  – And we have gone through so many highs and lows, especially this year, which was brutal for women, entrepreneurs who had families. So there was so much stress. Can you tell us what you’re seeing as it pertains to this?

Shani – Yeah, I’m glad you asked me that question. I just did a chat, my first clubhouse chat last week on the topic of winning like a woman and how do we lead with feminine power. I wanted to talk about feminine power with women because I think we are led to believe that power. And in order to be powerful, and use our power, as I say, use your superpowers for good, it has to look very masculine. And so many of us grew up in corporate America before we started our businesses, and the way that you got ahead in corporate America was to mimic masculine leadership traits.

When I really started to unpack for myself, who was I as a woman, and who was I as a leader and how did I bring the best of myself, to my business in and out every day, it really started to look softer and more collaborative. And so things like empathy, how do I use empathy in business to connect with my customers and clients? How do I use emotional intelligence? How do I use things like silence, knowing when to speak, and knowing when to think and listen deeply and actively. And again, I think when we start to unravel the narratives that we have to be a certain way to be successful, it allows us the immense amount of freedom to really just show up as ourselves in our business.

Hilary – So let’s talk about the work-life balance. You know, with so many people working at home, it seems like everyone’s working 24/7 or they’re working crazy hours.

Shani – Yes.

Hilary – How can this help someone succeed?

 Shani – When I created joy economics, I had that epiphany in the middle of the night. And then I sketched out like a business plan at 3 am around it. And really, that led me to start doing a lot of research on the cost of stress on businesses. I like to share with people before the pandemic, before there was ever a COVID-19 there was stress, right? There was stress in our lives and stress was costing the US economy in terms of corporate losses $360 billion a year. And can you believe that like that’s a lot of money.

And so you know, a lot of people, I tell people, yeah, it’s, it sounds good. It feels good, but joy economics is literally built on real research and stats and figures. And so when you take like where we were before the pandemic, and then you now put us in homes, resuming 24 hours a day It feels like and zoom fatigue is real and all of that I think one of the simplest things we can do is just pay attention to our own tank and our own energy source. And so I’ve learned, I’ve kind of gone around in circles in my head about the whole concept of balance. And I think balance is a little misleading. What I like to advocate and think about much more is work-life harmony, like how do I create harmony in my life between the parts of me that are working to produce an outcome in my personal life? How do I create harmony in my work, so that I’m able to be and serve my total life at the highest level.

When I think like that, I don’t want to say I am right there with every other woman right now in the pandemic, because like two weeks ago, I was like, I am working way too much like, this is not going to be sustainable. When we get out of the house again, that’s what we’re doing. So for me, one of the things I called up a girlfriend, and I was like, Hey, you know, I’m back on the hamster wheel a little bit. I’m zooming 456 times a day, I’m feeling my energy starting to get really low, I can’t be my best and give my life my clients, my friends, my family, my niece, nephew, God, daughter, I can’t give them the best of me if I’m on E, right? So, they need to get my overflow, which implies that I need to be full and whole. And we talked, I said, help me figure out how I need to balance this back out for myself.

It was the simplest answer, when we finished the conversation, it was like, I need to go outside, I just need to go outside. And it doesn’t mean that I have to be doing anything. And so, if I’m in Atlanta, and spring is on the way, so is the pollen, I’m going to just start going out, going for walks going to a park. Honestly, even if I have my computer to be out and be connected to people to nature to life, outside of the four walls of my condo is going to fill my tank up, right? So that’s the way that I can create more harmony ballots, whatever you want to call it in my life, that is going to then serve my business better because stress does create havoc in our lives. And that having bleeds back into your business, so in your employees too right? So if everyone’s stressed out, or these little stress balls run in a business, and we’re not giving ourselves the business, or anyone the best parts of us.

Hilary – So, so true. I love that I think that’s awesome that you’re going to do that. Now, I want to turn this around to the success that you’ve had because you have had amazing success in your career. What advice would you give other women business executives and entrepreneurs that are looking to scale their businesses to say a six-figure level?

Shani – Sure. Oh, this could be a whole day-long podcast, but I’ll keep it simple. These are just some of the lessons I’ve learned. The first one I would say is to celebrate the now. Right? So we do this thing where we project out futuristically where we want to be and we drive ourselves to the future. But the reality is that the present gift is the now. And so one of the things I have learned to do is to celebrate the journey, trust the process and celebrate the little milestones along the way. And I got there because, Hilary, when I made it over the seven-figure mark as I said, I was unhappy. Everyone was telling me I was supposed to be happy. And I was so confused. Because everyone was like, I’m so proud of you, you should be so happy. And, on the inside, I was miserable.

I would look back at business plans and ideas I had when I was a $100,000 business,  $250,000 business and I realized, no, I wasn’t that thing yet. But I had a lot of fun in the beginning. And so if you’re not present, you can miss the moments that matter and everything builds cumulatively. So, celebrate the small wins. And then when you get to the big win where you’re ultimately going, you’ll appreciate it in a very different way.

Another thing I would say is to realize that you effectively, growth and scaling a business is much more about trusting and building operations systems and a team that will do the work for you than it is about you doing all of the work, like the fastest way to burn yourself out is to play all the parts in the band. I tell people, your job is really to be the conductor if we’re an orchestra, and you’re creating a beautiful piece of music or melody, you can’t conduct the orchestra, jump over into the flute section, to do the flu, jump over into the cello, you know, cello, as you can do it, but it’s not gonna sound good, like good music. And so our job is to really be the conductor, and to really effectively orchestrate a beautiful melody, which requires us to be very clear on our vision. And be very clear on who we put on our team, making sure the vision is communicated clearly, making sure we’re clear on who our customers are, making sure that you’re leading at maximum capacity. And, when you’re running around playing all the roles in your business, you’re operating at your lowest common denominator, not your highest.

So I have a rule. When something comes across my desk, I always ask myself “Am I the only person who can solve this problem?”. And if I’m not, then it needs to be delegated out, it needs to go to the person most equipped on my team to solve that problem. And that preserves my energy, right? And now, if I’m operating from a full tank, I’m able to give my business, my clients, all the people who depend on me outside of work the best of me, because I’m not spreading myself too thin, pouring myself out in all the places. Behind that is a lot of mindset stuff that we, as women, get bogged down in a lot of obligatory things, things we think we’re supposed to do. It’s just a lot of stuff like behind the scenes mentally messing us up. But those are some of the ugly.

Hilary – Yeah, I mean, it’s a real control factor, and you need to sometimes let go of certain things, right?

Shani – Yeah, you have to let go and trust. No woman, man, anybody makes it to the top alone. They don’t. I was thinking about it. I don’t know if I should even say this. I just watched the Megan Markel interview last night, and I was thinking this morning about heavies. I think they said that interview heavy is the head that wears the crown, it’s not gonna be easy to grow and scale. And so you’ve got to put systems in place so that that crown doesn’t get too heavy, you know,

Hilary – So true. So before we move on, I just have to say that I am so appreciative of our sponsors, and I want to take a minute and thank them, please support our sponsors and tell them that you heard about them on Hilary Topper on air. Special thanks to The Buck Dallas Law Group, The Russo Law Group, The Profit Express, Pop International Galleries, and Gold, Benes, LLP. Now, back to you Shani, we’re talking about how women can have it all, achieve that highly coveted work-life balance, and be successful personally and professionally. Can you talk to me about toxic relationships? What advice do you have? How can these types of relationships negatively affect your success? Even when you don’t even realize that?

Shani – Yeah, have you read the book? Hilary, have you read the book for the Four Agreements?

Hilary – No, I never did.

Shani – The book “The Four Agreements”, it’s one of my favorite books. It’s Don Miguel Ruiz. And, basically, it’s the easiest way for me to answer this question. The book talks about the fact that whenever we are letting people influence, speak to us, share things positively or negatively, it is only when we agree consciously or subconsciously with the thought that they’re sharing that we agree with it. And once we agree with that person’s thought or energy, then effectively our movements or reactions are a reflection of this agreement we’ve made. So let’s take it back to toxic people. And I mean toxic people show up in all forms, they can be a spouse, a partner, it can be a client, oh my gosh, we can talk forever about toxic clients. It can be family members.

One of the easiest ways is, I’ve become very self-aware, physically, mentally, emotionally. And so those people that create stress like you know them, because you’re doing fine, you’re having a great day, everything’s coming up roses in one of these people floats in your life. And when they leave, you feel stressed, anxious, depressed, whatever the negative thing is they’ve deposited, I pay a lot of attention to how people make me feel, intuitively. And I’ve learned, by developing it, to trust my instinct and intuition. But when it comes to toxic people, I have dealt with toxic people so often in life, I’ve gotten kind of good at exterminating them, I kind of use this, back to the orchestra analogy, I use this a lot, I kind of created this image for myself, in my mind that it’s the Shani show. The stage is my life, and I get to choose let into the auditorium of my life in the roulette game myself, I don’t owe anyone anything, and nobody owes me anything. And when I created that rule for myself, I was able to start maneuvering toxic relationships a lot better, because I was holding on to a lot of relationships because of what I felt was an obligation, or “Oh, I’ve known this person for 20 years”. And it was just a lot of duty-type stuff that I created for myself that was keeping me trapped. And so, what I do, and this is I’m letting y’all into my little secret, what I do is, I go, Okay, this is the auditorium, I get to decide who are the people I want close to me, clients, friends, family members, whatever they get to be in my orchestra pit. And here’s the key, anyone can get moved around the auditorium at any point, and I want to move them around based on how they’re making me feel if they’re adding to or taking from my life. And so if someone in that orchestra pit starts acting toxic, and really getting in the way of me, seeing myself properly, me feeling good about myself, me feeling positive about my dreams and my goals, then they got to go. So they might get moved to the balcony, they might get put outside on the street for a while and have to just look at the marquee, save a shoddy show for the street.

Hilary – That ‘s awesome.

Shani – Yeah, that helps me a lot. Because, otherwise, I was keeping a lot of people close to me, didn’t necessarily mean me harm, intentionally, but we’re saying damaging things. And we have to realize that, most of the time, when people are talking to us, they are talking about themselves and projecting that onto us. So if someone’s telling you, you can’t do something, I’m not saying don’t believe them. But ask yourself, like, examine the source, has this person done the thing that you want to do? Are they speaking from experience, that’s the type of person I want to listen to. It’s not necessarily the person who has never done it who’s afraid to show up in their lives who spouts all this negativity toward me. And that’s just a very watered-down example. But I think it’s up to us to realize when we are off-kilter when there are people in our space that are bringing toxic energy to us. And, as businesswomen, you have to do the big girl thing. And that sometimes means walking away, terminating, creating distance, so that you can keep yourself safe. And realizing where you making agreements with people and things that are not serving you.

Hilary – I love that. That is awesome. Thank you. Really, that was really an awesome way to talk about it. Now, let’s turn this a little bit. And this is my last little bit. I want to talk a little bit about storytelling. And also for example, for myself, I find that in my blog, New York lifestyle blog, when I talk about things that happened to me during life with other employees or with business etiquette, more and more people become engaged with that. Why do you think it’s so powerful to have storytelling?

Shani – Storytelling is like the language of life to me. And people, you don’t have to be a great writer to be a great storyteller. And the reality Hilary is that story allows people to see. If you tell me a great story and I identify it with it, yes, you’re a great storyteller. But the reason I identified with it is because I’m able to see myself in your story. When we get into marketing, and when we talk about how do we use our stories, in marketing, to connect with customers more easily, to find our peeps, as I say, the people who want to do business with you organically, naturally, and that so much of what we do in our joy economics program is helping you root out and find the stories so that we can turn them into marketing, intellectual capital for you. And, again, it becomes easier for you to show up and get your job done. So you can go have a life you love. It’s because story is one of the easiest, most natural, longest-standing ways that we create connection, we create community, we can heal each other with our stories, we’re able to liberate each other with our stories.

When we don’t share our stories, it leaves everyone very isolated and siloed feeling like they’re alone. And, as soon as you share, you realize there are all kinds of people who can relate. They’re all kinds of people who need your services, your products, but it’s up to us to curate and cultivate those stories. And then we’re good at communicating and helping turn those again into an intellectual property that you can turn around and use in your marketing. So now you’re not out there spending money, time, energy, trying to create something based on what someone else is doing that you think might work for you. You’re using your natural gifts, your natural talents, your natural stories, the best parts of you. And when we allow those to be illuminated and shine, people who identify with you and see themselves in your story are like hey, I like her. I want to get to know her. I want to do business with her.

Hilary – Absolutely that’s awesome. Well, Shani let people know how they can get in touch with you and  Communiqué USA, Inc., and where you’re located and all that.

Shani – Absolutely! So thank you so, much Hilary I have so enjoyed this time. I love having heartfelt conversations like this. I am pretty easy to get to and you can find me online at shanigodwin.com. I’d also like to offer any of your listeners who would like a free joy assessment with me. I’m offering a 45-minute free joy assessment where we can talk about what are the things that are stressing you out? And what are some ideas that we can put in place to make you happy and hold on that’s a U$497 value gift from me to your listeners. You can go to shanigodwin.com and sign up for that and I’d also love it if you could pop over to YouTube. I do a weekly lesson each week with three tips on YouTube at Shani Godwin and you can follow me on Instagram @iamshanigodwin and link in with me on LinkedIn. So all things Johnny Godwin leads you back to Shani.

Hilary – That is awesome. And I’ll be following you, Shani is awesome. So I want to thank you so much for being on the show. This was so insightful and I just know so many people will learn so much from it and so much from you. So thank you. I also want to thank our sponsors, the Russo Law Group, The Profit Express, Pop International Galleries, Gold, Benes, LLP, and the Pegalis Law Group. And last but not least, I want to thank you our listeners for tuning in each week. If you want more information on this show or any other show, visit our website hilarytopperonair.com. Or you can find us on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Apple podcasts, Amazon Alexa, you name it. We’re out there, have a great week and we’ll see you next time.