Words Of Wisdom With Dr. Yvonne Williams-McMillan and Erika Danina Williams
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Yvonne Williams-McMillan and Erika Danina Williams, a mother-daughter duo who are founders of Color Your World Personal Development & Coaching LLC. — dedicated to helping busy, professional women sharpen their competitive edge in the global marketplace.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Yvonne: In May of 2016, after almost 20 as a college professor in Chicago, I gave up my tenured post and focused on building up my coaching practice in San Diego.
My days were filled with productive one-on-one sessions with clients but as I began to build my practice I was also approached with opportunities to provide highly-focused, uniquely tailored workshops. When I considered adding this component to the mix, capacity became a major issue. There just wasn’t enough time in the day to do it all. I then, approached my daughter, Erika, to help streamline the business and put a majority of the content online.
She left her job in Investment Management and came on board full-time in the Fall of 2017, bringing profound insight into corporate culture, having personally experienced, and fully understanding, some of the many challenges women face in climbing the corporate ladder. Together, we offer workshops, courses and programs to help women tackle and overcome these challenges so that they can thrive in today’s competitive global marketplace.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
Erika: Mom and I were up against a deadline for a story to share on our website and social media platforms. This was our first foray into video where all of our other posts were written. Always on a shoe-string budget, we blew it all on the half-day rental of a beautiful San Diego Resort Club House that left zero dollars for anything else, namely a videographer. We bought into the notion that we could produce high-quality video ourselves, so we made it a family affair. As we settled in, my daughter got busy setting up the camera and microphone, connecting the 55- inch flat screen TV to use as a teleprompter, and bribing my three-year-old grandson to be very quiet with snacks from the cafe. So far so good!
After a few practice runs and maybe about 20 takes in different areas of the club house we felt we’d found the sweet spot. Mom made it through her part of the script beautifully. As I started to speak, she realized she needed water. Her throat was dry and the room was really warm so she got up from the “set,” scooted over behind me, and walked across the room to retrieve her water bottle. You could clearly hear the sound of her flip-flops when she walked — — plap! plap! plap!
My reaction was “Really, mom??!!!” She looked horrified as she realized that she’d really ruined the take. She sat back down and started laughing. Mind you the camera was still running. But then I started laughing, my daughter joined in and everybody was laughing so hard we were crying. Nobody could get it together after that, so we decided to pack everything up, our time was running out anyway.
That evening, we went over the footage to see if we had anything we could use as promotional material, but every single take was a blooper. You could see our purses, our snacks and drinks, or pieces of equipment in the background, and quite a few featured special toddler cameo appearances by my grandson. All I can say is we learned our lesson. We now understand the need for, and appreciate the work of our videographer, and create home videos when we want to make precious memories!!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Yvonne: The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published a study in January 2017 that stated of the more than 60,000 people employed in management positions in business, professional, and other related occupations in the U. S, about 30,600 or 51.6% are women managers, of which only ¼ or 7,650 are women of color. It also reported that of the more than 1600 Chief Executives of US companies, just about 448 (28%) are women, and again, of that only 58 (or 13%) are women of color
We know these disparities cannot be attributed to a lack of education and preparation, since again according to a 2016 report by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 42% of women ages 25 to 64 in the labor force held a Bachelor’s degree and higher.
Erika: We all know that there are any number of reasons and underlying causes why this disparity persists, but a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) called Against the Odds, reported on a study on the careers of approximately 2,300 alumni of African-American descent who had graduated from Harvard Business School since its founding. The authors cited the key determining factor for African-American Women achieving corporate C-level executive positions or Partner or Managing Director in a partnership, is resilience, which they describe as a culmination of emotional intelligence, authenticity, and agility.
While we agree that “resilience” is very important, we also believe — and teach — that ambition, dogged determination and resilience is only part of the equation. We emphasize that if we want to break through the glass ceiling, we must establish and enact a set of universal principles of leadership daily, including effective interpersonal communication; mastering change; establishing habits and routines; developing courage and confidence; and other skills, competencies, and behaviors.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We are really excited to share that we will be rolling out a set of Leadership courses online over the summer months; and will be posting information about our first annual Women’s Leadership Conference which we hope to host later this Fall. So, stay tuned.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Yvonne: Some years ago, while on vacation in Hawaii, Erika shared a book she’d been given with me written by Joel Osteen, Your Best Life; 7 Steps to Living Up to Your Potential, and I really enjoyed it. I’m not a very religious person, but many of the qualities he discussed resonated with me. At this particular time, I was really grieving. I’d lost my mother and two of my closest childhood friends all within 3 months, and those losses kind of devastated me. Erika and I took this trip so that I could get away, clear my mind, reflect on the past, and just move forward. What I took away from the book, that was important for me at that time, was to let go of emotional wounds so that they don’t fester, and choose to be happy, to enjoy my life and find happiness and joy in it every day. We just cannot wait for everything to be straightened out, for every problem to be solved before we can be happy.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
(1) Yvonne: I really wish someone told me that you really won’t have the freedom to set your own hours and spend more quality time with your family. Business partners, deadlines, and a myriad of other circumstances and situations will dictate your schedule and you must be accommodating.
One example that comes quickly to mind is in scheduling appointments and conference calls. Our accounting firm and marketing agency are on the east coast, our lawyers are in the mid-west, and our clients are on the west coast with us. Erika and I have to be available to work with them when the need arises as their partnership is crucial to our success as a company. As a result, sleeping has turned into napping so that I can work in the wee hours of the night or pre-dawn hours of the morning while the house is quiet. As I get up to make coffee at 3:00am, our Siberian Husky Pup, Maxx looks at me like “Really, mom??!!!”
(2) Yvonne: I wish someone told me that I would be extremely uncomfortable not having control of everything and feeling so vulnerable. I’m slowly coming to terms with putting myself, my ideas, and everything I believe in, and have worked so hard for, out there for everyone to see and comment on.
An example of such is when I started to rebel against the constant social media updates. I was adamant that this would not turn into the Yvonne and Erika show. I had a strict rule, “Not another selfie is to be posted on Instagram!” I wanted our work to speak for itself, and people to opt-in simply because they felt they needed what we had to offer. I had to embrace the idea of being vulnerable by allowing potential followers to get to know me via videos, interviews, social media posts, and the occasional selfie.
(3) Erika: I wish someone would have told me that overcoming the fear of failure would be my biggest motivator and that stepping out of my comfort zone would be the least of my challenges.
When I joined Yvonne on this journey, I knew that I would be stepping out of my comfort zone, primarily in the area of public speaking. However, I did not realize that would just be the start. Running a start-up organization requires the daily communication of a visionary, a strategic planner, a designer, an economist, a financial analyst, etc. I wear so many hats sometimes, my head hurts just thinking about it!
(4) Erika: I wish someone would have told me that it takes a lot of time, money, and effort to make something look effortless; and that you should, whenever possible, hire professionals to help.
One of my favorite teachers in business school said that you have two columns in your career, the learn and earn columns. I would take on assignments or roles that would not necessarily pay me market rates but would give me some invaluable experience that would pay off later. In this venture, where money and time are finite resources, I have found myself ticking off items in the learn column just to save money. Most times, I was in way over my head and spent too much time (and money) trying to get it right. “Teachable Moments” like these make me appreciate the help and advice of an expert even more.
(5) Erika: I wish someone had told me that my main job is, was, and forever will be sales.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Yvonne: I would love to meet Oprah Winfrey. She is an amazing, upbeat, positive woman who has weathered many storms publicly over the years, building her media empire, but she faced them with grace and confidence. She embraced her vulnerability and If there was anything I would or could learn from her, I think that would how to do that.
Erika: I would love to meet Gary Vaynerchuk. Sales is such an important part of my job as I mentioned before, and since reading his books on the topic, especially Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, I believe there is so much more I could learn from him during this meeting. I also believe that with his rich personality always being on display, it would be a lot of fun.