We all have a fierce, focused, and fearless lioness within … and a choice of whether we harness that majestic animal within to step into inspired leadership.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who describes herself as a Lioness Leader.
Chairidee Smith, also known as Ms. Mogul®, is a global speaker, the founder and CEO of MoguLife Real Estate®, MoguL-U Real Estate Academy®, Mommies Creating Economies®, Global Center for Women’s Leadership, Girls Global Leadership Day, and Create Your Own Economy® movement. There is nothing that stops this girl and today we talk about how to summon that inner lioness and lead without guilt, apology or tradeoff.
Chairidee Smith says she found her inner lioness “under duress.” She grew up in the South where ladies were quiet and genteel, wore pearls, high heels and tight girdles and kept quiet. Chairidee says God has a sense of humor because she is an ambitious (yes, ambitious is a GOOD word) black woman who was determined to make it big in corporate America.
She says “adversity is God’s university” – and most certainly the confidence, tenacity and inspiration of the lioness leader.
Today on Wings, Chairidee shares how she transcended what she describes as a stifling experience in corporate America and emerged as a successful entrepreneur and the recipient of many awards, including the Women of Legacy Award from Powerful Women International, the Lady Godiva Community Leader Award, as well as various commendations from mayors and state elected officials, as well as Keys To The City awards.
We talk how to leverage adversity, how to embrace our power without apology, and why magic happens despite us … First…
And you’ll want to take out your phone and download the Podopolo app too as you listen to this episode, so you can join the conversation with me and Chairidee. Please share what you’ve done to overcome adversity in your life – and how you leverage your intuition and empathy as a strength in business…
I’m so excited to introduce you to Chairidee Smith aka Ms. Mogul® … Chairidee is a force of nature. In addition to all her businesses, she sits on the Education and Community Outreach Committees of Houston Black Real Estate Association, Women’s Council, and National Association of Real Estate Brokers, promoting education and equity in real estate ownership. She was also the former Public Policy Director of the Houston chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Her book, The Roar of a Woman was featured inHouston’s #Me Too movement, where she continues to be a catalyst of defining moments and voice for women’s leadership expansion. She is passionate to empower the possibilities of women globally.
Chairidee launches her new book, Create Your Own Economy, this fall in conjunction with her new wealth and real estate investing program, Ultimate Wealth Elevation System: Ms. Mogul’s® 5 Steps to Own and Leverage Real Estate to Build Wealth in live and digital formats.
Let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Chairidee Smith.
Melinda Wittstock: Chairidee, welcome to Wings.
Chairidee Smith: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Melinda. I’m so excited to be with you. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation for some time.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, me too. I think you’re very special, and anyone who talks about being a lioness leader is good in my book, and I want you to explain about that. What is a lioness leader?
Chairidee Smith: Let me speak from my understanding and from my experience. A lioness leader is a woman who is fearless, focused, determined, even predatory, and I think we as women shy away from that word, but we’re even predatory. A lioness does not feed her cubs. She does not maintain her status unless she’s constantly acquiring. We’ll put it in business terminology, and she’s acquiring acquisitions. We’ll call it death in the jungle, but the point being is that she’s constantly moving and providing for those who are around her. Whether it’s protection, whether it’s sustenance, whether it’s elevation in rank, she’s providing that.
So, for me, a lioness leader is someone who is, yes, very strong, very focused, very determined, but also someone who is very cognizant about who’s depending upon her, who’s in the team, who needs her right now, and how can she nurture and protect while moving all of this forward simultaneously. So, a lioness leader, Melinda, is a woman who’s extremely multi-dimensional. She’s mastered multitasking, but she’s quite the leader, and she sits in that that space without intimidation, without fear, just fully occupying that space.
Melinda Wittstock: I love that. What is it that stops women from stepping into their full lioness? I mean, I see a lot of women apologizing for their success rather than really embodying it.
Chairidee Smith: Yeah, and that makes me quite sad. I think what keeps a lot of women from embracing their inner lioness is the same with anything else, Melinda, it’s mindset. When we have not fully bought into our own power, we’re easily dethroned. We’re easily intimidated, and instead of really leaning in, we do this what I call the two-step dance, right? Two steps in, one step out, and we’re not standing flat footed there, and I guarantee you if I had the opportunity to speak to a leader who was experiencing that double-mindedness is what I call it, somewhere along the line, I’ll excavate she has not fully embraced her power, and we have to deal with that.
The environment right now, Melinda, is so ripe for women leaders, and here’s what I mean by that. We are in my humble opinion instinctive, intuitive, caring, nurturing, and we have the God-given ability to fully master intellect and emotion simultaneously, not saying that men don’t. I’ve never been a man. I don’t know.
Melinda Wittstock: I think we’re better at it.
Chairidee Smith: Yeah, that part, and so for so long, so my matriculation in leadership started, of course, in corporate America. So, there was always this idea of not embracing EQ, all IQ. It was all head knowledge. It was the stats, and sometimes it felt like I had to put on this pseudo-masculinity in order to execute power. It wasn’t until I fully understood the brilliance of EQ, the brilliance of my own voice, and being able to move fluidly in and out of EQ and IQ being fully present at the table that I started to embrace the lioness.
So, we see now in the current economic social political climate, Melinda, the pickings are ripe for women who have a message of strength, who are focused to know why they were born, why they’re in the world. You can find anywhere in the globe, and you can find a field to work in, and what I mean by a field is a place of influence. There is no lack of opportunity now. So, for all of those women who have said there isn’t the place for that, I would really beg to differ. I would actually take them back to their rediscovery. Have you fully embraced your full lioness? This is something I’m really passionate about, Melinda, because I feel we haven’t seen really the full brilliance, the full execution of brilliance, let me say it that way, of women leaders. I don’t think we’ve seen it yet.
We’ve seen some women who are cracking at the ceiling of that, but I’m looking for that woman, and maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s you, and so many times we think the person we’re looking for we’re actually that person. That’s a whole another conversation, but I feel like there is still the next evolutionary process that women leaders have to fully embrace. We’re still evolving. We’re getting there, but to be fully planted in that space spiritually, intellectually, with acumen, with power, with voice, with EQ, with IQ, with economic power as well, we’re still waiting in my opinion for that voice, and I’m signing up, and I hope everyone who’s listening is signing up for that job to be-
Melinda Wittstock: Well, oh my goodness. You’re speaking to my personal choir here. I completely agree.
Chairidee Smith: Come on.
Melinda Wittstock: I completely agree with you, and what I found is interesting, I held a retreat last year, and one of the themes of it, it was for women with six, seven, eight, nine-figure businesses even, and we were talking about what it takes for women to play bigger in exactly the context that you’re talking about, and there’d be a fraction of a second where you’d see in their eyes a look of dread the moment you said the words “play bigger,” because to the woman, and the definition of playing bigger was that she somehow had to do more. She was already burning out. She was already on this hustle and this grind and already spread too thin and all this kind of stuff and this fear of playing bigger.
What do you think that fear actually is? What’s at the root of that? I mean, because variously, it seems like it could be like, “Oh my God. Does that mean I have to do more? I’m already doing too much.” I think it’s deeper than that. What do you think?
Chairidee Smith: I think it’s the fear of being authentic and failing in that authenticity. I think it’s-
Melinda Wittstock: Because it becomes personal?
Chairidee Smith: … that, and it’s not about the people we’re serving. We turn all of that in, and we forget it’s just about serving at a higher level, Melinda. That’s all this is. Leveraging who’s around you to serve at a higher level, and when we don’t make it about us, and we really make it about being whatever that moment calls for, we can abandon all of the fear of failure and the fear of rejection and the fear of criticism, and we can finally put to rest, and I would say rest in peace to that B-I-T-C-H. Put to rest that voice that’s constantly criticizing and thinking, “I have to work to be valued, I have to work to be appreciated, and I have to go into this grind.”
I feel like the grind is still steeped into, “I have not embraced my authentic self yet,” because when we fully embrace ourselves, Melinda, this thing becomes easy.
Melinda Wittstock: It does. I found that myself where I really transitioned from that hustle and grind sort of thing because I think at the root of that was ‘I’m not valuable enough’, or ‘I’m not enough.’ I have to prove myself, prove myself, prove myself. The minute I rejected that and got into much more of a flow state, in my case, I live very much by inspiration, and that guides the to-do list, if you will. It’s an inspiration list. The more I moved into that and focusing, doubling down on my own unique strengths, just really stepping into self-acceptance, and like you say, service to others, creating value for others. Then the magic started to happen like even despite me. Do you know what I mean?
Chairidee Smith: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: It doesn’t really feel necessarily because of me. It’s that I feel like more like a channel, if you will.
Chairidee Smith: I have to jump in there because you said something genius, and I’m not sure you’re aware of it because you went right over that statement.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay. What was it?
Chairidee Smith: I want to shine a light on that statement because it was genius. You said, “The magic happens despite me.”
Melinda Wittstock: Yes.
Chairidee Smith: That’s because it takes on a life of its own.
Melinda Wittstock: It does. It does when you trust, when you get into that like, “I’m just going to accept myself.” Whatever I perceive my flaws to be or all the things that inner bully voice, all of that, you retire all that, and you’re just here with a mission, a purpose, doubling down on what you love, and of service. Then everything seems to line up. There’s kind of a providence about that that I’ve learned.
Chairidee Smith: I wholly lean on that providence. I call him God. Now, people can call him whatever they want to because that’s a relationship, but Melinda, when I fully step into that God part of me, I find that there’s a tandem and a synergy and a rhythm success takes on, right? I dance with success.
Chairidee Smith: There’s a dance that we can do with leadership and with service where the angst is taken out, and there’s a rhythm then that comes into success, and those who are around you can put their hands on the pulse of that, and then they join the chorus, if you will. I have a musical background, so musical analogies come easy as well. So, it becomes then a chorus where other voices are added, and other harmonies are added, and then we get this agreement with what success is, and everyone finds their place there. It’s not until we try to own the process to the point that we micromanage it, Melinda, that it becomes hard.
When we empower our leaders, our downlines, our board of directors, our children, our husbands, our wives, whoever we are, when we empower other people to step into their own power, it takes so much of the responsibility off of us. It’s when we think that we have to show up with all the answers, and no one else is genius at the table but us that we have all of that angst and the burden and the weight of that. Not so the genius is employing and inspiring other people to then employ their genius, right? To move the momentum of this thing.
So, what I find is that when we empower others, and you said something else. When we just accept ourselves and we quiet the bullying, I agree with you, but then let’s transform that voice to the voice of power. Have you seen The Lion King by the way, Melinda?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Many years ago, but yes.
Chairidee Smith: Okay, so let me just qualify this by saying I am an eternal fan, and when the movie came out in 1994, and I promise you I’m not on a rant. I’m going somewhere with this. I based my book The Roar of a Woman off of my experience with the movie and the play, but essentially when Simba goes to Pride Rock at the very end of the movie or the play, and he ascends Pride Rock. If you remember, he lets out this roar. It’s a guttural, ancient, animal-like, well, because he is an animal, roar, but it’s when he did that, he empowered the environment to produce what he wanted to.
If you remember, when he let out that roar, all of the lionesses then echoed the roar, and I’m not saying by any means we have to have a lion in order to roar first. That’s a different conversation, but the point I’m making is that the environment heard the call to action, and the environment responded with what the leader said. So, when we empower our environments to come alive, to be fully engaged, to employ who they are, then order just comes, right?
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chairidee Smith: It’s not just depending upon us anymore. That genius, that power is now going throughout the ranks, and then we create something spectacular, but if we’re only looking at our narrow perspective, we miss the opportunity to create rather something bigger.
Melinda Wittstock: Very, very true. I mean, there’s a certain bravery about being willing to roar courage. So, the lioness. Do we all have an inner lioness within us? Are we all born? Is it innate to us or is it a skill or is it a bit of both?
Chairidee Smith: We’re at that nature versus nurture conversation again, but I would say it’s in you. It just has to be cultivated. I would say every woman, every girl on the planet has that part of them that is fearless, but it’s not until we cultivate, and we speak to that part of us, and we train and we coach, and we refine that part of us that we fully get the magnitude of it. It’s just like putting a seed in the ground, Melinda. Every environment, all equal, if you put a seed in dirt, and you never water it, you never give it sunshine. You never prune it. You never expect it to grow. Then you have nothing. You just have a seed that will eventually die in that environment.
But when you have a seed in that environment where there’s an ecosystem of expectation of growth… I don’t know about you, but I’m getting chills. Maybe it’s just for me.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s true though. You’re right. I mean, so we have this inherent nature-
Chairidee Smith: We do.
Melinda Wittstock: … but it needs also to be nurtured. So, there’s a duality in this, and I think that’s true. I think we all have entrepreneurship within us. I think we all have leadership within us. We all have these things much like an acorn becomes a mighty oak. It has the blueprint within it. So, we have this blueprint within ourselves. However, the societal aspect, like just how women are socialized and how as young girls, we’re taught in school and the differences. Women are taught all sorts of things that make us fearful of failure that lead to this perfectionism, which actually holds us back. So many things like that in our school system.
So, as a result, as young adults and as older women, there’s a lot of self-belief, and a lot of it’s subconscious but has to be let go.
Chairidee Smith: Oh, God. Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: I mean, I’ve come to the conclusion with entrepreneurship that, yeah, if you want therapy, become an entrepreneur. It’s true, but to succeed, you really do have to let go of a lot of subconscious drivers. Just literally let them go and embrace failure as feedback and all of these things and really get closer to that divine download in inspiration. Is this something that you’ve always known or was this something that… How did you nurture your lioness?
Chairidee Smith: So, that’s a really loaded question, right? My lioness evolved under duress, and I’ll qualify what I mean by that. I didn’t grow up being encouraged in my strength. So, I grew up in the South where ladies were quiet and genteel, wore pearls, high heels, tight girdles, and were very, very quiet, and it’s funny. God has a sense of humor because I was born into that environment, and that just wasn’t me at my core. There was always something in me that wanted to be heard, experienced and actualized, and growing up in a very conservative Southern home, and a very conservative religious home on top of that, and then getting married to a man who did not understand who I am, and on top of that, being a woman of color and ambitious in corporate America, and with a killer instinct. None of that was embraced, Melinda.
Melinda Wittstock: I can only imagine. I mean, I’m ticking off the things, right?
Chairidee Smith: Okay. I hashtag none.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, the impediments or the walls, I guess, that are put in our way. When we have the courage and the drive to overcome those, often those challenges are what make us. I mean, it’s like sometimes people talk about it as the refiner’s fire that we walk through all this-
Chairidee Smith: [crosstalk 00:19:36].
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, like we have to walk through all this stuff and all these challenges to be able to really find our purpose. It would be easier and nicer if we didn’t have to, but I find it almost impossible. In the 500 and more interviews I’ve done on this podcast, I have yet to meet a successful woman entrepreneur who has not overcome some sort of deep personal challenge or something, something that seemed insurmountable, and she found a way and then gained her confidence, her voice, and I guess her lioness nature to succeed.
Chairidee Smith: Absolutely, absolutely, and to your point, it’s exactly that. Adversity is God’s university. So, if anybody wants to coin that, go ahead. Just give me intellectual property-
Melinda Wittstock: I love it.
Chairidee Smith: Yeah, but adversity really is God’s university, and when you really want to find out how resourceful, how determined, how called, how destined, how empowered you are, overcome adversity, and it lets you know instinctively and inherently what you’re made of, and I would say to any woman who’s experienced extreme losses in business or in life, embrace all of that. Hear me when I tell you it is gasoline for your fire. It is absolutely fuel for your fire, and if you would sit down some of the most successful people, if they would really, really tell you the back story, Melinda, some of us would be like, “Oh my God. I’d never follow her anyway.” You mean to tell me she went through this, this, and this? But that’s someone who does not fully understand what they’re looking at.
When you see a woman or a leader who has overcome its extreme adversities, that’s someone to really pay attention to because you’ll learn the lessons of tenacity. You’ll learn the lessons of perseverance. You’ll learn the lessons of creativity and thinking. Forget outside the box. You have no box, so you have to create the structure, right?
Melinda Wittstock: Oh gosh. I know that in a deeply personal way from my own life and so many challenges. I love that though. Adversity is God’s university. That bears repeating. I mean, what a beautiful way to say it. I mentor a lot of entrepreneurs and work with a lot of entrepreneurs who I’m constantly saying, “Look, you need to embrace the failure.” The failure is actually the sweet spot. It’s that moment where you’re learning. It’s the input to help you get into alignment, to help you find your true purpose, to really strengthen you, as you say, get that kind of tenacity or the resilience right, and actually the earned confidence and do big things in the world.
So, tell me about your life in corporate America and what that was like especially as an African-American. I just want you to be really authentically open here because so many people… Right now, in our time, there are so many people who are really openly wanting to understand and understand better. What was it was like?
Chairidee Smith: It was stifling, and it was stifling in every sense of the word. So, first of all, corporate America really isn’t made for entrepreneurs. I didn’t know-
Melinda Wittstock: I know. Let me just say that I am unhirable, so I totally understand.
Chairidee Smith: That because I always feel like I can find a better way. So, because corporate America was already this box of predestined, pre-planned, cookie-cutter methodologies that I didn’t subscribe to. I couldn’t embrace, but I had not embraced entrepreneurship at the time. So, that was stifling to see processes and logistics not work well and then to see people in organizations, and I knew they didn’t fit. I knew because I’d had conversations with these people. I knew they didn’t fit where they were and to go and speak to executive management at the time and say, “Hey, I think we need to do some shifting here,” and come in with my brilliant ideas and all of my charts and my procedures and to have them tell me, “You’re not paid to do that. You’re not paid to think like that.”
I’m in management though. What they were telling me is, “I don’t see you as a leader. You don’t have a voice here,” and I’m in upper management, but executive management said, “You’re not paid to think like that.” So, I always wondered, “Is it because of the packaging?” We’ll get into the packaging. Wearing relaxed and permed hair to make myself more palatable, and I hated it. I would so much rather my coily, pretty wavy hair right now. So, it was those things having to fit within these definitions of my identity that I did not define. I think that fully surmises my experience in corporate America. I was told that if I wanted to take care of my family, essentially, if I wanted to maintain my comfortable standard of living, if I wanted to drive what I was driving and live where I wanted to live, I had to toe the line and get in line and by no means were those words said to me.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, but they were said. I mean-
Chairidee Smith: They were said-
Melinda Wittstock: … they were said.
Chairidee Smith: … and they were understood. So, I-
Melinda Wittstock: The toughest thing is the subtle. I mean, I know it didn’t-
Chairidee Smith: Oh, that covert.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, I know it didn’t feel subtle to you because it’s not, but it’s not openly said, and that’s the toughest thing. I think that’s the toughest thing for women. I think it’s the toughest thing for African Americans as well because there’s all this… Gosh. It’s like we’re talking about subconscious mindset and things that hold people back. So, there’s a subconscious mindset there too.
Chairidee Smith: Oh, absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: And a lot of a lot of people aren’t even aware that they’re carrying it.
Chairidee Smith: That bears another discussion, really getting to know people. I had a conversation with Connie Benjamin. I think-
Melinda Wittstock: I love Connie. Yeah, she was on my podcast recently.
Chairidee Smith: Yes, so sending a big shout-out to Connie. Love Connie. So, we had the opportunity to first meet over the phone without seeing each other, and I talked about this in our time together and because we were not introduced to each other with the physical packaging, we just met each other over the phone. We had an opportunity to connect at a really deep level, and I guess that’s why we’re doing the podcast this way too, right?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, we met through Connie who has to be the number one connector.
Chairidee Smith: She is, but there was a genius in that because we had the opportunity to connect soul to soul, woman to woman, leader to leader, and then when we finally saw each other, it was like, “So, are you the sister from another mister?” Because we were so connected in how we just thought about life and how we approach things. So, I go back to say this. When we have the opportunity to have connections and conversations without fear of reprisals, so much of this will be dealt with, but to go back to your comment about African Americans and the subtlety of it, it’s understanding even before you go into corporate America, Melinda, that I have to be versed and fluent in two languages, right?
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Chairidee Smith: Huh?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, right. I’m agreeing with you.
Chairidee Smith: Yeah, yes. It’s the subtleties and the nuances of culture and corporate culture and what all that means and how do I then align that with where I want to go and my ambition, and is there a ladder at all, or is that just a painting on the wall and there really is no ladder? So, it’s that, and it’s the narcissism of that that is so demeaning, and it’s so crippling if you allow it to be. So, I have to say that for me, it was really coming back and having time alone with myself and God and talking literally and audibly to myself many times, Melinda, to ensure that that poison didn’t take root in my heart.
So, when you tell me I don’t have a voice in this situation that I don’t internalize that and then embrace silence in every other place of my life, right?
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness. This reminds me of something. I’m going to tell you a brief story. My daughter, she’s 17. She’s a singer, songwriter, and recording artist, and she is working with the most amazing studio engineer, sound recording mixer who’s supremely talented. He’s an African American. Her stylist is an African American. Everyone she’s working with is an African American, It’s wonderful how this is has manifested, and she on the Fourth of July said to everybody, “Hey, look. It’s Fourth of July. We’re only going to buy from black-owned business,” and everybody in the room said, “I don’t know anybody who has a black-owned business.”
Chairidee Smith: Oh my-
Melinda Wittstock: My daughter was just stunned like, “What? It’s even worse than I thought.” I mean, because she’s quite an activist as well, but it was telling, and Flight, her producer, was like, “Look, so many African Americans cancel themselves out of the race before they even start,” because of what you’re describing is that internalization. I think a lot of women do that too.
Chairidee Smith: Oh God, yeah, yeah, without a doubt, without a doubt, and we have to be so intentional as I would even say… This is going to sound arrogant, but I’m okay. I can sit in my own skin. As now a woman who’s well past her 40s, and I’m looking closer to 50 than I am 40. Now becoming a sage and becoming a mature woman, it’s imperative that we take time particularly with women our age and with younger women to ensure that that does not take root, and I’m going to say regardless of race because we need the partnership to scale, okay?
Melinda Wittstock: We do, absolutely.
Chairidee Smith: We need the partnership to scale. So, it’s incumbent upon us who have bought those tough lessons, who have the war wounds to now earn the respect of having this conversation that we then be responsible with it and say, “How about this? Let me take you out for a cup of coffee.” In some cases, we can’t go out, but let’s have a virtual coffee, and let me just divest myself of what this looks like and the lessons I’ve learned, and how I can help you then get 10 years down the road where it took me 20 years. Let’s expedite your process. I don’t want you to experience all of that.
Now, some lessons you need because again, you have to earn your place in leadership, but that internalizing of toxicity, nobody needs that to be a leader. So, when you get all that out-
Melinda Wittstock: This is why I think entrepreneurs have such a profound opportunity right now to remake so much of what’s wrong with society. So, if you’re a startup founder, how to create from the outset a diverse culture that’s going to attract… If you’re a white founder, how are you going to attract African American talent? How are you going to culture and nurture and understand, and I know so many people in the entrepreneurial community who are going through this right now and really looking at their team and thinking, “Oh my God. We’re all white, and we don’t want this,” and why? What’s going on here? What advice do you have?
I’m sure you’re asked this a lot. Chairidee Smith: No, seriously. Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: … to learn this with humility. I mean, because it needs to be learned.
Chairidee Smith: I think it’s going to take bravery. So, if you’re asking what advice would I give?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Chairidee Smith: Bravery. Be brave. You said something again, and I don’t know if you fully realize the genius of that statement either, but I’m going to bring it back to you because I thought it was genius.
Melinda Wittstock: You’re so sweet.
Chairidee Smith: Thank you. Entrepreneurs have the opportunity now to rewrite so many societal wrongs.
Melinda Wittstock: Everything. Fix broken institutions.
Chairidee Smith: Come on. Come on. We have the opportunity now to create our culture. So, if you want a socially conscious component to your business, you create that, and you be intentional about that. You seek out the best talent. I’ve never been a proponent of just giving an opportunity for the sake of meeting a status quo. I’m saying seek out the best talent out there, bring them to the table, and say, “Let’s cultivate. Let’s understand, but before we work on business, how’s your family? How are you? What’s your story?”
Jeff Hoffman, CEO of priceline.com, had the opportunity for him on James Dently’s podcast. He talks about all of the lives that he touches, and this man is a multi-billionaire, but he spends time in dirt huts in Kenya learning about people and then taking their brilliant ideas and funding them. So, he made a statement. There isn’t a lack of intelligence. There’s a lack of opportunity. So, I would say then for all of my allies who are people of other races, look for the best in every population and actively seek them out, and let’s not come into the conversation with arrogance, and I will say as an African-American woman, it’s easy for me, and I had to do the same thing, Melinda. I had to look at my workforce.
My God. We’re like 85% sisters in here. What do I need to do to diversify? Because it’s so easy to come for the scales to be tipped in the wrong direction. We’re looking for balance here. Nobody is looking for a status quo. So, I would say if anything, be brave, ask the question, and then be open to the answer that you receive and then have a tangible way to walk out those solutions. It does nothing to blow up social media with socially acceptable colloquialisms. I’m not looking for a hashtag. What I’m looking for is a movement. What I’m looking for is workforce diversification. That is not a hashtag.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. Exactly, right. Oh my goodness. It’s so true. I’m on my fifth company right now, and we made a conscious decision to get this right from the outset. So, looking at our hiring policies, our job descriptions, our website, all our communication. Does it speak to people? Does an African-American or a Hispanic American or an Asian American or a LGBTQ person or a person with disability, do they feel comfortable? Would they see themselves in our organization, first of all, and really looking at that? Then, also, you can set the intention to have a really truly diverse team. You obviously want A players, the right people doing the things and all of that, but then once hired, how do you create the culture and the systems where you’re bringing together people who have diverse experiences and how do you create that wonderful culture whereby people really… everybody grows.
Chairidee Smith: It’s mutual respect, Melinda.
Melinda Wittstock: It is.
Chairidee Smith: You can bring a bunch of geniuses to the table, but if they don’t come to the table with the understanding that everything from the ground up is built from mutual respect, you’ll still have chaos. What we’re looking for, Melinda, is not utopia. This is achievable. This is doable if we come to the table with mutual respect understanding that our strength really is in our diversity, and I know that sounds like a Kumbaya lyric, but there is such truth there. We have strength in diversity. There is such strength and genius in diversified perspectives.
When we’re able to see this one thing from a multiplicity of angles, then we know how to address it, but if we only have one perspective working at the table, then we’re working with limitations.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, absolutely.
Chairidee Smith: But we don’t want that.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly, right. I think this is so true. So, when we think about women, and what you were saying about our ability to combine our empathy, our intuition, and all of those what were called soft skills, I think they’re very powerful skills, but anyway those skills with our intellect and with our ability to get things done and multitask. I mean, women have so many advantages actually in the business world if we leverage them, but that intuition and that empathy allows us, I think, to create the kind of inclusive and diverse cultures that are nurturing but still drive results in business terms.
Chairidee Smith: Without a doubt.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s our time right now to step up. I really believe it. I think when we think of coronavirus, I believe that this virus has a message-
Chairidee Smith: Come on.
Melinda Wittstock: … for all of us, okay? So, here’s what I think about it. I think, number one, it’s shining a light on everything that’s wrong-
Chairidee Smith: Oh, God.
Melinda Wittstock: … with our society and like light on it, and we’re all aware of that from whatever perspective we’re coming from. I mean, broken institutions, broken systems, inequities. I mean, so many different things, right? A lot of stuff that needs to be fixed. It’s also saying, “Slow down. Look within. Figure out if you’re not in alignment right now. Figure out how to get into alignment.” There was this massive pattern interrupt, the shutdown, which was I think a wonderful opportunity for a pattern interrupt. When you change your habits, you can become mentally and emotionally and spiritually more open to thinking differently, and I’ve seen a real difference from how people have reacted to this pandemic.
There have been people who are a little bit more on the conscious side who’ve really seen it as that opportunity for growth and thinking anew and like, “How as entrepreneurs can we really step in and solve these massive societal problems with our businesses and what can we do?” Then other people have doubled down, like wanting to go back to the way it was because they’re in such crippling fear, and there’s such a division as a result, but I think that message is an interesting one because I keep going back to… This is my particular meme that I say all the time. When the lesson is learned, the experience is no longer necessary, right?
Chairidee Smith: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more with you there, and for me, it’s been about recalibration. Absolutely becoming recalibrated. I think it goes past even realignment. It’s going back to square one and redefining, “What works, we’ll keep that. If it doesn’t work… ” There is such chaos in the environment now. You can throw dust in the air, and no one will look sideways at you. There is the opportunity, as you said, to get it right, to recalibrate. So, going back to the discussion about EQ and IQ and meeting the needs of our constituents, our customers, when you have EQ married to IQ, there is fluidity there. There’s the opportunity for genius to really happen.
When we’re only used to solving problems in a one-dimensional way, we lose the opportunity to find out what else we’re capable of, and we’re finding out that one size doesn’t fit all, and I’m capable of creating a multiplicity of sizes. We lose that opportunity when we refuse to adjust to the moment. So, I think again in this time, it’s so important that we get this right. I don’t think historically we’re going to get another opportunity like this, and if we do, I don’t think we’ll have the impact. I think there’ll be just much more chaos.
For some reason, I’m really embracing this moment because I feel like it was divine alignment. We were due for as the market has a correction, right? When the market just keeps going and then it burst, we call that a correction. This has been our correction in the market where we get a chance to stop and have these deep, profound, intuitive conversations, and people are more inclined to listen now because we’re less busy with things that don’t matter. We’re trying to save lives with COVID-19. We’re trying to create new normals in our home where some of us are not accustomed to working in homes, and how do we balance the needs of our families with the needs of our customers with our own personal mental health?
All of this is happening now, and it’s causing us to just say, “Stop. Wait.” Let’s find out what’s not right and what’s broken, and then let’s address that now in an open and honest and transparent way, and those things that are working, God almighty, let’s increase that. Let’s really focus on that.” We didn’t have the opportunity to see how well that was working until now, but it’s going to take a leader that’s really in tune to the moment, that’s really got his or her hands on the pulse of the moment to see these opportunities because they really are once in a lifetime, Melinda. We’re not going to get this kind of conversation and collaboration I think in this form anytime soon. So, we better darn well maximize this moment, as T. D. Jakes says, and get this thing right.
Melinda Wittstock: Gosh. I so resonate with that. It’s funny. I have a friend who’s a numerologist. I’m actually helping her launch her podcast, and she did some research into what coronavirus and COVID-19 actually means, and I forget which one is which, but one of them literally translates into “success through the cooperation of others.”
Chairidee Smith: I could not agree more.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s what it means, and that’s the lesson.
Chairidee Smith: Embracing, yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: I mean, I really think that is, and you see people because that’s the only way we get through this, and insofar as we’re not cooperating that it seems to be making it linger. It’s fascinating to me to watch this. So, I’m really excited to talk to you about your new book that’s coming out. You’ve got a new book coming out called Create Your Own Economy. I love the title of that book. I think it’s awesome, and you of course… I mean, you’re a wealth-building and real estate kind of mogul. You’re a Ms. Mogul, right? You know how to build wealth and attain financial freedom and much more besides, and tell me a little bit about that book, Create Your Own Economy because there’s a lot of people out there right now who have been displaced economically, and there’s opportunity in that with the right mindset, but what are the steps that they take? Like how to step into creating your own economy?
Chairidee Smith: I could not have predicted that this book would be so timely. I could not have predicted any of this. It was just me being sensitive to the moving of my spirit and what I felt was divine providence from God to write it and to begin writing it.
Melinda Wittstock: He knew the timing.
Chairidee Smith: I know, right? Touché. Touché, Melinda. Touché. So, I could not have predicted though, but to your point, he did, and I’m just glad that I’m not so stuck in my way of thinking that I don’t listen to that still small voice-
Melinda Wittstock: Here’s the thing. As you listen, when we all get these divine downloads as I call them and the secret to success is actually hearing them, creating the space and quietness in our minds to hear them, but then to take immediate massive action on those. Trust them, go for it, and you did that.
Chairidee Smith: Because there is an energy that is created around that voice. Most entrepreneurs get 17… I heard this from Dr. Dennis Kimbro who is just a master at wealth psychology, and he said that most entrepreneurs would get at least 17 business ideas in one year that would set them free economically, that would totally liberate them financially. The issue is they don’t act. That’s the issue. They don’t act. You think it’s a small idea, or it’s insignificant, but it’s that one little thing that could be absolute genius, and that’s what sparred the writing of Create Your Own Economy.
I never liked depending on anyone else for my financial wellbeing or for my security, and I learned that the hard way in divorce.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, yeah. Me too. I’ve done that. Well, that’s on this podcast. I’ve heard that story already, but yes. Oh my goodness. Haven’t we all? Man.
Chairidee Smith: Yes, so because I did not have the luxury of falling back on a trust fund at the time or mommy’s money or daddy’s money, I had to go and find out what was I missing and how to create my own. I didn’t want to be defined or limited by someone else’s definition of my possibility. So, I started to excavate what is economy, what is GDP, and what are the components of a successful economy? I started to then structure my business and my philosophy around that as I understood it, and I started to duplicate that and show other women how to duplicate that.
In COVID-19, so first of all, let’s just deal with what’s happening with PPP situation with unemployment insurance and all that is still happening with the CARES acted. Are we going to get a second stimulus and what have you? I have been less focused on that, Melinda, and I’ve been more focused on scaling my business. So, how do I create my own economy? It’s first of all mindset. Understand the components of an economy. What service, what need do you have supply for? Have a problem, feel a need, you’ll always be profitable. So, that was the main attraction for me with real estate, and I thought about it. I said, “Everyone is going to always need somewhere to live, and we’re not making any more land,” last I heard.
I need to start occupying the lioness share of real estate and land because I feel a need with a service. It’s a tangible asset. I learned how to diversify the income and the profitability of that, and then I started to scale. So, for me, it was a sense of security knowing that was in my lap. I got to define how I scaled, how I moved, and then how I could have the impact that I wanted to on my community and those around me. So, real estate was really easy, and then when you started to talk about tax benefits and write-offs, and it just made good sense to me.
So, in this environment, I would challenge anyone who’s thinking about creating your own economy, who’s fearful, who may have been lost in unemployment or didn’t find a job or whatever the issue is, find a problem to solve, and here is my advice. Don’t let pride get in your way. Feel a need. Businesses historically have been founded in economic downturns. If you look at the Great Depression forward, if you look at the great crash of 2008 through 2000, and I’m going to call it ’12 because that was still crashing. Forget 2008. I just bumped along there for a minute just trying to get my bearings because that bubble, the mortgage bubble hit my business so hard. I didn’t fully understand how to diversify my business.
So, for those, let’s just say… This is going to sound absurd, but go with me. Let’s say that there’s a pizza delivery person who lost their job, and they can’t go into the business now to make pizzas. Did you learn anything about the recipes? Did you learn anything about logistics? Did you learn anything about management? How did you feel about your manager when you were working there? So, I would then say start making what you’re good at. You already have a skill set. Find a way to monetize what you’re already good at. Evidently, there’s a need for it, otherwise the business wouldn’t exist that you were working for.
Find a way to monetize it. Find a way to monetize your skill set and then create systems around that monetization. I love real estate. So, it wasn’t just about… Oh, here’s another tidbit. Oh my God. Create experiences for your customers. Entrepreneurs now, Melinda, who are creating experiences and not just chasing dollars are finding themselves in a place of scaling. I’m speaking from personal experience. When I send my clients or my buyers a gift card, true story, and say, “Hey, here… ” Chili’s. My kids love Chili’s. So, shout-out to Chili’s. So, send gift cards to your clients, $20, $50, whatever you want to send out, right?
Tell them, “I’m thinking about you. I know that you’re working right now, or you’re at home, and you can’t get away, or you can’t cook dinner. Here is a gift card. Have dinner on me. I’m thinking about you.” That has nothing to do with real estate, but if I tell you I’ve gotten so many referrals from businesses, from repeat clients…creating experiences, memorable experiences for my clients. Dr. Dennis Kimbro says that Bill Gates and the homeless man on the corner has the same opportunity. Both of them can wow the customer. This is going to sound arrogant, but hear me what I’m really saying. If you’re going to panhandle, give an experience. You don’t know the person who’s giving you extra change just might be the person who would hire you to be over their customer service or logistics. The point is create experiences for people. When you make memorable experiences for your customers, they’re loyal to you. There is no amount of money in my opinion, Melinda, that you can invest in lead generation that will duplicate the return on investment than a satisfied client. You can’t. I mean, yes, you can get leads, and you can get funnels, but when it comes to customer loyalty, that only comes with experience.
Find a way to serve at a higher level. You hear me say that time and time and time again. Right now, we can’t afford to take our clients for granted. They have options right now because people are vying for their attention. You can’t take your clients for granted, so you have to create these experiences for your clients that then produces the economy you’re looking for. So, if you want a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, give multi-million dollar service, not only with a smile. Anticipate the need before it happens. Have logistics in play now to anticipate the need to meet the need before they know they have a need.
This is a quote that I said on another podcast, Melinda. It’s not about giving 100% anymore because everybody’s doing that. Everybody’s giving 100%. Give a thousand. Give 1,000%, everything you can to make that experience for your client memorable, and when you do that, you have the opportunity to have a client for a lifetime, and it’s working. We’re scaling. We’re not laying off anybody, right? It’s because we know what our brand is. We meet the needs of our clients, and we are relentless in doing that.
Melinda Wittstock: I love that. I mean, I’ve built a whole business around the idea of gamification. My podcasting network is all about rewarding and recognizing people for contributing to conversations around podcasts and really structurally creating that reward and recognition system for people. So, in everything that we do, I mean, even our team, our clients, all of it. It’s so important to do that to pay it forward and especially as women. When we’re connecting other women to other women or buying from women-owned businesses or opening doors meaningfully, getting beyond just platitudes, but really paying it forward, magic happens. What we give comes back to us in bigger than… Right? I mean, it’s so important.
So, Chairidee, I feel I could talk to you for hours, so you will have to come back on the podcast after your book launches because there’s so much more to talk to you about, but in the meantime, I want to make sure that people know how to find you and work with you, connect with you in any and all ways.
Chairidee Smith: Thank you for that, and I would love to come back because I just feel like we were just scratching the surface, right?
Melinda Wittstock: I know. Right. There’s so much more to talk about. I do have repeat guests, and I’d love to have you come back.
Chairidee Smith: It’d be my honor. Folks can get in contact with me a few ways. So, I’m all over social media. Chairidee Smith, Ms. Mogul or Global Mogul. You can find me either there. Also, I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram. I really love hanging out on Facebook and LinkedIn. So, that’s probably the best way you can find me on social media. My website is mommiescreatingeconomies.com. M-O-M-M-I-E-S. Mommies Creating Economies with an ies because we know how to diversify dot-com. Then you can also text me. Text MOGULU, M-O-G-U-L-U, MOGULU to 26786. That’s a great way to become a part of the community and just send me a message, and I’d be happy. Email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s another great way to get in contact with me.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful. Well, I want to thank you so much for such a lovely conversation and putting on your wings and flying with us.
Chairidee Smith: Oh my, it has been, as Les Brown says, it’s been my plum pleasing pleasure.
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