New York Times best-selling author, syndicated daytime talk show host, philanthropist, National Radio Hall of Fame Inductee and fashion designer Wendy Williams has been a fixture in media for the past three decades. Williams's signature style has memorialized her as a true media mogul, joining the ranks of Ellen DeGeneres for the coveted title of top female talk show host.
The Wendy Williams Show first aired in 2008 with a six-week pilot in a few select cities. It quickly became a hit, which subsequently led to syndication in over 50 countries and has been renewed through the year 2020. Williams's show attracts over 2 million viewers, which has made her a fixture in daytime television as she approaches the 1,500 episode mark. Today, she is diversifying her portfolio as a successful entrepreneur with a fashion line on HSN, jewelry collection and custom wig line as well.
I recently sat down with Williams to discuss her journey and advice for women leading at the negotiating table in business. When I asked her about her day, Williams replied, "I am living my best life right now. If it were to end, I could write the book." She reminded me very early in the conversation that women leaders must celebrate their success at every level.
I learned how she knew it was time to transition from the No. 1 spot in urban talk radio in New York City, to making a name for herself in television. "I was very low-key in my transition from radio to television, while booking meetings with influential people. I had to reject many of the initial offers until I found the right fit for me," says Williams.
Here are Williams's top five strategies on negotiating as a business leader:
Do not let anyone change your style.
Williams has a non-negotiable belief about women standing out and dominating their space in the market. She commenced the conversation by acknowledging her unique style of "glamming it up" no matter the occasion. "The difference between our partnership with Debmar-Mercury and the other offers [in the early stages] was everyone else tried to make me wear loafers and flat-front khakis, which has never been my style. I remain firm women must remain authentic." (Debmar-Mercury is the production and distribution company that syndicates The Wendy Williams Show on various cable networks.)
Reject offers that are not authentic.
More than asking for consideration, rejecting opportunities is just as imperative to the process. Throughout our conversation, Williams continued to refer to integrity as the guiding principle of her success. "I have spent the last 33 years in this business building my career on integrity, therefore, I had to reject several lucrative offers along the way that simply did not mirror what I believe," Williams admits. "In the end, it paid off."
Align with great advocates.
Williams works alongside her husband and manager, Kevin Hunter, on the show. Williams says every woman must ask for what they deserve. "Fortunately, my husband is my greatest advocate. He understands the mission and will fight for what is fair for me. Surround yourself with people who will help you fight for your value," Williams says.
Be smart about money very early.
Williams discussed the enormity of her success has been a result of wise financial planning in the early days of her media career. She stated saving and living within your means is extremely important, just in case you do not get everything you asked for. "Saving is what kept me from accepting opportunities that I did not believe in. Now, I do not have to endorse products or accept offers I do not want due to planning early."
Know when it is time to move on.
Williams discussed her transition from radio to television as one filled with numerous private meetings, while continuing to maintain top ratings as a nationally syndicated radio show host. "I never missed a beat, but my influence was catching the attention of important people in media, but I had to keep the conversations very quiet until I knew it was confirmed. You must always know when it is time for the next level of life," Williams says.
Williams is an example of determination and resilience in an industry that has very few women. At 53, she continues to be a leading example of how negotiating adds value at every stage of your business growth. Williams says she wants to bow out of media gracefully when she retires by leveraging all of her wise business investments that she has made over the years, while making room for more women to get into the room. "Nothing beats owning your own destiny."
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