The Value Of Time And Money, with Cali Yost
Episode 6: The Value Of Time And Money, with Cali Yost
Cali Yost has been an entrepreneur since before it was in vogue. Her professional mission has been to bring flexibility into the workplace and she has built a successful career and personal brand by following it. In this episode she shares her career journey, tips for achieving a flexible work arrangement, and how taking risks paid off for her.
00:12 Sallie Krawcheck: Hello all, it's Sallie Krawcheck from the Ellevate Network. Joining me is Kristy Wallace, the President of Ellevate Network, here from our world headquarters. How are you Kristy?
00:23 Kristy Wallace: I'm doing fantastic, how are you Sallie?
00:25 SK: Fantastic, why? Did the kids sleep through the night last night?
00:27 KW: They did.
00:28 KW: They did, and we have a lovely day here in New York.
00:31 SK: It's beautiful, it's really, really great. I think we've got one of my favorite, so far, podcasts. Today we have Cali Yost. This might not be a name that you're familiar with yet, but Cali was an entrepreneur before most folks really knew what an entrepreneur was, and I think has done a terrific job building a business that is all about flexible work, and helping companies put in place a flexible work strategy. Plus of course, there seems to be a theme here, she's an author of Tweak It and of Work+Life. So she has made herself an entrepreneur with a life mission of bringing flexibility to the rest of us. Kristy, every week we poll the Ellevate Network, our thousands and thousands of professional women in the US and throughout the world. And we have talked to them about perks that their companies could offer. Tell us what they said is the most valuable perk.
01:37 KW: The most valuable perk, 40% of our women said flex hours and ability to work from home.
01:43 SK: There we go.
01:44 KW: There you go. 20% also valued 401K with company matching. 11% valued childcare. And I think all of these are important. 10% in office gym and 7% education reimbursement.
02:00 SK: Here's the interesting thing to me about this, so the flex hours which is 40% said, "That's what I value the most," versus 20% company matching on the 401K. So essentially...
02:14 KW: Time and money.
02:15 SK: Yeah, it's time and money, and value time twice as much as money.
02:19 KW: There you go.
02:20 SK: Right?
02:20 KW: Yeah.
02:21 SK: Okay. The other thing that came up in this conversation is the idea of a professional mission. Do the women of Ellevate Network tell us in our surveys? Do they have a professional mission?
02:34 KW: The majority of women do have a professional mission, about 30% said that mission has changed throughout the course of their career.
02:41 SK: So they've got one, but it shifts and changed?
02:43 KW: Yes. Another 30% say their mission has been very clear and they're on track and following it.
02:49 SK: And then the third answer?
02:53 KW: The other, roughly 30%, they think they have one, it's not so clear or not quite yet but working on it.
03:03 SK: Yeah, only about 16% say no, which is really, really interesting. And then the final poll that we wanted to bring to our listeners' attention is, what is the number one reason women have for accepting a job?
03:17 KW: Meaning and purpose.
03:18 SK: Meaning and purpose.
03:19 KW: Meaning and purpose.
03:20 SK: Meaning and purpose. The one that's so interesting to me is money is number four on the list. It bunches in there with opportunities for career advancement and flexibility but it's meaning and purpose. Alright, well let's see what Cali has to say about flexibility, meaning and purpose.
03:56 SK: Alright, Cali, commercial banker and now entrepreneur. I'd love to hear about your journey.
04:02 Cali Yost: Well, I started in the Bank of New York's management training program right out of college and was at Bank of New York for seven years, it's the best job I ever hated.
04:13 CY: I should never ever have been a commercial banker, but what it did do is... As these bank training programs do, they bring in a 22 and then you're managing people at 24 with no experience. And it was in that job that I first became aware of the need for flexibility in the workplace as a manager.
04:35 SK: Even at 24?
04:36 CY: Yeah, because... Now remember, I'm 24 so I don't know how things are supposed to work. I have all these people older than I am having kids, and it was men and women by the way, and one didn't wanna come in all the time, one guy wanted to have more time at home. And to me, as a banker, and you know this, your money is as green as my money, it's really the relationship with the banker that has the power in that institution. And so to me, I thought, "Well, the customers don't care, so let's see, could they work a reduced schedule? Could they work remotely?" Now remember, this is back in 1990, there wasn't even email, everybody was still getting those pink slips and the leadership thought I was insane.
05:22 CY: The leadership just thought I was off my rocker, but I knew this was gonna be important. For some reason, I just knew. And I started to save all these articles, I had a binder of probably seven inches thick in my desk at one point and I just decided, "You know what, this is the future, I know it is, and I'm gonna go to business school, and I'm gonna get the credential that every CEO is gonna respect and can't blow me off that I don't know what I'm talking about." And so I walked into Columbia Business School in 1993 and announced, "I'm gonna be a work flexibility consultant." And people thought I was crazy, but let's give Columbia Business School our mutual alma mater a ton of credit, I got nothing but support, nothing. Professors, except for one executive and residents who pulled me aside and said, "You really know this is not actually a job, right?" And I said, "Oh, no it will be." And he said, "Oh, okay."
06:15 CY: And lucky, the stars aligned and I got one of the two jobs that existed at that time when I got out. That's how it all began.
06:23 SK: So take us forward to today?
06:25 CY: Well, what happened was, I'm at Families and Work Institute, and I like everybody else, thought that the answer was the top-down, let's put some good policies in place, let's just communicate it and everything's gonna be fine. And I quickly realized the company could say this is what you're doing with a policy, but nobody knew how to do it. And so I became very aware that the culture had to change and people at all levels needed a new set of skills and tools. And I did this big project at a major bank and we discovered, what I thought were those tools for a formal plan. Because we thought that was the answer to "We need a formal plan." And I got no support because everybody in the field, everybody in HR, everybody in organizations were still so wedded to this policy-based approach.
07:16 CY: So I had to go out on my own. It was like, "You know what, I'm gonna do it myself." And I wrote my book, what was that? "Oh, I'm gonna write a book," I don't know anybody, but that was what my first book was, was really this research and what we learned in this bank, and that was "Work+Life: Finding The Fit That's Right For You," I did that. And just started the consulting with that model and how to... Success. But then I discovered it's not the formal plan, it's the day to day. Really that's what most people need, and so I started researching people in organizations I called "The work life fit naturals." These are the people who literally look at you like you're crazy, that this is so hard. And I found them everywhere, they're about 10%-15% of the population and I studied their secrets, thinking it was gonna be super hard, it was actually quite easy, but we're not doing it. So that was my second book "Tweak It."
08:07 CY: Now we have the complete skill set which is the tweaks and the resets, if you need a formal plan it's there, but for most people it's the day to day. And then we added on the team element, how do teams collaborate and then what's the role of the manager, we train that, so it's on all those three levels in terms of the implementation. And that's really been what's caused the, what you've called in the past and others have called, really the guilt-free flexibility because it's just how we're operating and that's really what it takes.
08:34 SK: Right. I have used the term flexibility without shame, because I've found so many women and men at places I've worked would... They wanted access to flexibility but they just felt like it was gonna make 'em look weak in some way, and... I don't know, I probably thought that for a period of time up until my kids had issues and then you say, "There's no weakness here, this is called life," right?
09:00 CY: And it's not just parents and this is what's so important, it's really about everybody. The person... It's funny we're in a project right now and I just did some interviews and I'll tell you, eight out of the 10 people I interviewed, nobody even brought up their children, they were talking about meeting the plumber, or getting their cable fixed and they give you that four-hour period of time. And increasingly it's a productivity issue in terms of organizations with these open office space configurations, people can't get their jobs done, it's very distracting. And so more and more people are saying, "I'll choose to work from home one day, one morning when I have to get something really important done that I don't want to be distracted from." We gotta get away from this, it's about kids and moms, and it's not, and that women need it and moms need it, but really...
09:48 SK: People need it.
09:49 CY: People need it. And it's the way we're already working. We just did a national study that we published in partnership with Citrix and we found that a third of full-time US workers are already saying they're doing most of their work from a remote location. That's a lot of people. And that's full-time US workers, that's a national probability sample of full-time US workers. Everybody will argue with me, "Is that a lot of freelancers?" No it's full time US workers who work for other people who are saying they already do most of their work from a remote location, not on their employer's site." That's a fundamental shift in how we're working, so it's already happening, now how do we make it work for everybody? That's really gotta be where we're taking this.
10:31 SK: And the question is, what if you're looking to accept a job or you're looking to change from one company to another, what do you look for as you assess that company culture and your ability to work in a way that makes sense for you?
10:45 CY: This is what I always say, "You have to first step back and understand where you are in terms of your job search." If you are desperate for a job, you might not want to push that too hard and wait till you get in, okay? That should be said upfront, because you just don't know when you're going through the interview process how the queries on this are gonna be taken, okay. Assuming you're somewhat free to make an informed decision based on information you wanna gather, you really can ask people that you're meeting with, "Just tell me how you work, do you always come into the office, is there some flexibility, how do people typically get their jobs done?" See what they say. And if the answer is, "We're pretty much a you're here all the time culture," then you know probably there isn't a lot of day to day flexibility. If you get the answer, "We don't care what happens, just get your job done," then you wanna dig a little deeper and say, "Okay what does that look like? How do you figure that out?" And you wanna make sure there's ongoing dialogue between managers about expectations and objectives so that's really what you're operating off of.
11:51 CY: You wanna hear that teams are collaborating with each other and there's the technology that allows that to happen, video conferencing, the infrastructure's there to allow that "We don't care where you get your job done to actually work." I would say, ultimately, and you're probably not gonna hear this, but it would be great to hear, "And we train everybody how to do that," 'cause right now you really are flying by the seat of your pants. And so try to get yourself a little information on how to do that well. But that's really how you can go about making that determination.
12:26 SK: That is such great practical advice. As I'm listening to you, I'm starting to think about professional mission. And it's something that I think a lot about and I've had a couple, if not a few different professional missions through my life. And what's really coming through here is your engagement and your passion around this. And it seems like you're so fortunate to have this strong professional mission. Am I reading that correctly?
12:52 CY: I've just always had this really evolving clear vision of where I was supposed to be going with all of this. And I've chosen many, many years ago to honor that, and it's paid off but it's not always been easy. I think when you have a professional mission/obsession/vision, it's easy to doubt it. But I think if you are to follow it through, you ultimately realize that it really will ultimately get you where you're supposed to be. It's not always very clear though, I find, at the time.
13:32 SK: And talk to me about how you've developed it. Do you have advisors you pull on, do you have people you bounce ideas off of? Is this something... Do you drink a glass of wine and work on it? I do, I do.
13:45 CY: I will tell you wine is definitely part of the equation. It really does help. In addition to the wine however, I do actually maintain a pretty rigorous meditation practice. And people often ask me where this all comes from. And so for example, in my meditation practice was where the idea for my first book came from. And it actually came to me in a vision. It was a full formed like, "Okay, here's the structure." And in fact I'm like, "I don't even... Wait, what is that?" You...
14:19 SK: Really?
14:20 CY: Yeah.
14:20 SK: Now was this while you were meditating or was it after?
14:23 CY: No, it's while.
14:24 SK: Really?
14:24 CY: Yeah. And I ignored it 'cause it didn't make any sense. I was like, "I don't know anybody in the book publishing world. I'm not writing a book. No, that's okay, I'm good with that." And it just kept coming back and coming back and coming... I was like, "Alright. Let me write that down."
14:34 SK: I don't think you were focusing on your breath enough. I think you're supposed to... Aren't you supposed to let the thought come through and honor it and...
14:42 CY: I don't think I meditate the right way. I gotta tell you, really when I say meditate, people get this vision of me sitting in some cave somewhere and incense burning, no. Really it's just sitting quietly and just being peaceful and just listening. And I'm a big journal writer. I write in my journal too. Yeah, I am a big believer that if you can get quiet, and you can connect with whatever is coming to you, into your intuition, through logic, what have you, the path will start to become clear. But it's only gonna get you to the next step. And then you've gotta trust that the next step's gonna be there.
15:26 CY: For example, I'm at Columbia Business School, telling everybody I'm being this work flexibility strategy consultant. People looking at me like I have six heads. "Oh, and I wanna work at Families and Work Institute." Nobody knew what that was. Kid you not, one of the guys in my class one day leaned over to me and said, "Oh by the way, you know there's somebody in our class that was an intern at that Kids and Families Institute you wanna work for." What was that? I didn't know anybody there, and all of a sudden there's a woman in our class, and I'm writing her a note. She thought I was crazy. I had a four-page note. Anyway. But it worked, but I had to trust that if I take that step, the next step's gonna come to bare. And I find that having that meditation practice allows that to unfold in a way that I think if I was just operating from my logic, would not.
16:17 SK: Interesting because at that age and stage, and I was there just a couple years before you, I was so nervous. I was too nervous to do that, because it was the idea of closing doors for myself. And that if I had put myself that out there, I couldn't be an investment banker, I couldn't be a commercial banker. But it sounds like you've found the inner confidence to do that.
16:40 CY: But again, I really believed that this is what I was supposed to be doing. And I almost felt like I couldn't not do it. Does that make sense?
16:51 SK: Sure.
16:53 CY: And I kept telling myself, "What's the worst thing that can happen? I don't find a job in this field, and I'm a banker?" I was the President of CWIB, Columbia Women In Business, so I was having investment banks coming to me and saying, "Hey, we'd love to interview you, do you wanna get... " I knew I always had that in my back pocket. I could do that if I needed to. That did help, I always had a plan B, I never was just being crazy. I was married, my husband had a good job. I wasn't being reckless, but I gave myself the room to take the risk. And I wasn't always somebody who was super comfortable with risk either, which was a little bit weird that I was doing this, but I just chose to trust it for a period of time. And then I chose to trust it again, and again and again. And this is where I am.
17:45 SK: Yeah. What I'm hearing is a risk awareness, right? An assessment of risk, "This is plan B. Now I've got the comfort to do it." But opening the channels to hear yourself, for me I don't meditate. I can't possibly. I just cannot. But I have of a lot of creative thoughts when I wake up in the morning, and I think it's the same idea that you let your guard down. And I rushed to the kitchen, brew the coffee and begin madly writing.
18:11 CY: Right. And it's the journaling that I would say brings that out for you which is great.
18:17 SK: Now, what advice would you give for women who are looking to be entrepreneurs? Because there's this entrepreneurial streak that runs through it, speaking of risk, right? What are you telling young women who are thinking about that?
18:28 CY: You can come at it from a lot of different angles, and for me, it was just nobody was doing what I wanted to do, so I was kinda like, "Okay, I got to do it," and really figured it out as I went along. I find that entrepreneurship, surprisingly for me, is really creative. I love the creativity in it, I love the being able to pivot and go after different ideas and a lot of them don't work, but you can then pivot again and you get to partner with all sorts of different people. And it's a much more... Coming from a bank, where it was very, very rigid and you had your process and all... I find it very rewarding. It's scary though.
19:16 SK: It's scary.
19:17 CY: It's scary. It just feels like you're always, again, kinda flying by the seat of your pants, figuring it out as you go. And there are times when you're just like, "Okay, this isn't gonna work. Full on stop, this is gonna not work." But then it always... You figure it out. And I have found it to be very fulfilling and very creative, so if you have a passion, you have a vision... The only thing I will say about women I've noticed is male entrepreneurs that I meet versus women, and I fall into the same trap, I think... Right now I'm possibly, possibly exploring getting funding to scale. And I have this full-on baked idea like, "It's been tested. I have data, success, I have this whole thing." And there are guys out there pitching and getting millions of dollars for stuff that's fantasy. Totally like "Hey, I have this great idea, I don't know if anybody's gonna buy it." And I'm thinking, "Wait, why have I spent all... " Because I had to have it all buttoned up. I had to come in...
20:31 SK: You're a female, you're a female, you're a female, you're a female...
20:34 CY: Okay, I'm gonna stop doing that actually 'cause I... In fact I've even had a time horizon for myself. I'd probably be ready in a couple of years to go out for funding and I'm like "Wait a minute."
20:44 CY: I've been talking to all these dudes that don't even have a product and somebody just gave that guy $5 million. [laughter] Okay, I know tomorrow I could have probably 43 customers and they will buy this and it will be successful. I'm like, "Alright, I'm not waiting anymore." That's the only difference that I would say.
21:00 SK: Good for you. Good for you. Just don't start your pitch with the risks. 'Cause the guys come in with the, "I'm gonna take over the world."
21:07 CY: Right. Exactly.
21:08 SK: And the women, I've helped them prep start with a "This might not work let me tell you the risks," it's like, "No, no, don't do that. Don't do that." That's very exciting. Another topic I wanna hit on which you've been so successful with is thought leadership. Which I think can be particularly important. What'd be important for all of us can be particularly important for entrepreneurs. And it feels like you have really found your way there, so what advice would you give around the topic to our listeners?
21:36 CY: Again, accidental. I wish I could tell you I had some grand amazing strategy behind this. But truly what happened was, I published my first book, came out exactly the day of the first Iraq war was declared, so not a lot of media opportunities to promote the book. In fact I was on one show where it was, My Sisters Left, it was a general talking about the invasion, me talking about Work+Life: Find the Fit That's Right For You and then two Iraqi women. She said it was just the weirdest... [laughter] It just didn't work. Anyway, yeah, it was that bad. Essentially that book did not hit the best seller list. And my agent dropped me and said, "Nobody's gonna publish you now" and I didn't know, so I was like, "Alright, great. I wrote one book.
22:24 SK: Because the first one didn't...
22:26 CY: Didn't succeed. But I thought that was true, like, "Okay, that must be right, 'Cause I don't know." So I thought, "Alright." And at that point I was doing... Somehow I was doing some work with Microsoft. And this woman at Microsoft said, "There's this new thing that we're developing called blogging, you might really like that." And I thought, "Oh hey, I could do that. Alright, let me do that." So I had my own blog built. That's how long that was.
22:51 CY: I had to build it. It's not the most user friendly platform. Anyway, but I just started blogging, my mom read it, she thought it was great. It was my outlet and so I guess I got in kinda early and just started sharing my thoughts. Putting it out there because what I found is if I didn't share it, they would just pile up and just get in my way, so I would just get up, type it out, put it out there. And it got noticed by Fast Company and they were starting their contributor blogs and I got asked to be a contributor, so that's what I did. And from there, then, Forbes approached me said, "Hey, would you write some stuff for us?" and I said "Sure." It was just me, again, I say this truly wishing it was better advice but it's really true, I just followed my gut, my heart. And just took the opportunities as they came and kinda got in early with that.
23:58 SK: Yeah, but I'm hearing something a little bit different here. What I'm hearing from you is you had this overarching idea and an overarching strategy. And that then the tactics were opportunistic, right? As the world was changing because you had this overarching sense of where you wanted to go, you didn't necessarily know you were gonna take that dirt road, versus this stream, versus this river. But that you knew the broad direction, it just seems like you were there and open enough to take the opportunities as they came.
24:33 CY: Yeah, and open to the fact that that strategy was just consistently evolving as I learned more, right? Each stage I just was learning more so the strategy and vision would change, so then the tactics would change, so the strategy... But it was always this evolving process and I think that was important too was leaving myself open to learning. Like I said, I thought the answer was blah blah blah, but then I learned more and I realized it wasn't, so this is where I go. Again, it's just being open to that.
25:00 SK: And sometimes we don't give ourselves that permission to change and learn.
25:02 CY: Yeah.
25:03 SK: Right? And recognize that I've taken many left turns, right turns, change. The issue of diversity wasn't particularly important to me earlier in my life.
25:12 CY: Exactly.
25:12 SK: And then I learned more and I got it.
25:15 CY: Right.
25:16 SK: And do I wish it had been important to me earlier? Sure, but nothing I can do about it. Can't change 28.
25:22 CY: No.
25:23 SK: And 22. I'm now 28 actually.
25:25 CY: Right, I knew that, actually. I did know that. Happy Birthday.
25:28 SK: Thank you.
25:31 SK: Motoring, really just motoring through my 20s at this stage.
25:33 SK: 30, oh the big three-o.
25:35 CY: You're gonna be okay. It's fine when you hit 30, yeah.
25:39 SK: What advice would you give to young women right now, Cali?
25:42 CY: Well, I'd said, "Trust yourself," and Sallie, I know you used the example of you're getting into LinkedIn at the early stages and what that means. I think women tend to second guess ourselves, "Is that right? I don't know. I don't know if that... " Trust yourself, you know, you know what you know. And move with that and don't let the world tell you you're wrong because the world told me, "People aren't gonna really offer flexibility, people have to come in," and I knew, "Hey dudes, the world of work is changing so it didn't matter. It doesn't matter if somebody gives you permission. You're just gonna have it so now what do we do with it." I knew that even though people were telling me, "No." And so you just have to trust yourself.
26:28 SK: And have a glass of wine.
26:29 CY: And drink.
You deserve more.
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