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| 17 minutes read

CMO Series EP137 - Deborah Farone on Why BD Coaching is Essential for Women

In today's competitive landscape, fostering diversity, equity and inclusion isn't just a moral imperative — it's a strategic advantage. 

Fresh off the back of our International Women’s Day episodes released on CMO Series REPRESENTS, today, we’re shining a spotlight on the crucial importance of BD coaching for women. 

Deborah Farone, Founder of Farone Advisors, joins Will Eke on the Passle CMO Series Podcast to share her extensive expertise and discuss the unique challenges women face in honing their BD skills and the transformational impact of tailored coaching programs. 

Deborah and Will explore:

  • Deborah’s career journey and what led to her current role as Founder of Farone Advisors
  • The turning point in Deborah’s career when she recognized the necessity for tailored BD coaching, particularly for women
  • The unique obstacles women encounter in honing their BD abilities, and how the current landscape reflects these challenges
  • The impact on CMOs, BD leaders, and firms if they don't invest in BD coaching for women 
  • Success stories of women who have transformed their BD approach as a result of coaching
  • Recommendations for organizations seeking to enhance the BD skills of their female employees

Will: Welcome to the Passle CMO Series Podcast where we discuss all things marketing and business development. My name is Will Eke and today, in a very special episode, we're gonna be talking about why business development coaching is essential for women. And it is International Women's Day and I've been trying to get our guest on for quite a while. I'm really honored to have her on today. I'm just gonna give a quick intro: in today's competitive landscape, fostering diversity and equity and inclusion isn't just a moral imperative, it's a strategic advantage. Fresh off the back of how we actually launched our International Women's Day episode. Today, we are shining a spotlight on the crucial importance of business development and coaching for women. And as I say, I'm absolutely delighted to have a special guests on today, Deborah Farone.  She was actually mentioned quite a lot on our podcast for people that sort of she inspired, which is great to get her on. She's the founder of Farone Advisors, and also the author of Best Practices in Law for Marketing and Business Development, which I believe has just turned five years old, actually. So Deborah, welcome.

Deborah: It's lovely to be here with you.

Will: Absolutely honored to have you on, and we are gonna sort of pick and unpick your sort of extensive expertise. That's quite sort of unique in terms of how women face these challenges in honing BD skills and how they can have a big impact when it comes to tailoring coaching programs as well in terms of kicking it off, it would be amazing if you could sort of walk us through your career journey. You were in-house before you were CMO at Cravath, obviously, you know, a really high-end law firm in New York. And how did you get to your sort of current role as founder of Farone Advisors?

Deborah: Well, I think of my career in three stages, you know, the first was I worked at Ketchum Communications, which was a wonderful PR and ad agency and it was just a great experience to see how people marketed everything from wine to Hershey's candy bar - there's a chocolate theme running through my conversation as you can tell - to banks and to law firms, it was just a great experience for me so that I was on the agency side and then I was recruited to go in house and I worked at Towers Watson, the management consulting firm helping them market their their various offices. They had 32 around the world and we had to figure out how to do that. which to me was a fascinating job. And then I ended up going to law firm land and I was hired at Debevoise, which is a great firm. And today, just when I see the work that they're doing, I’m in awe, I think they are a group of brilliant lawyers doing really wonderful sophisticated work. I was there for 14 years and then I was recruited to Cravath, and Cravath was a great experience for me learning how to build a department, doing business analysis, strategy, PR, the works, at really the highest level that I could do it at, you know, it was an incredible firm, still is today, obviously. You know, I think number one in prestige for a number of years and when it came time to think about what I was going to do next, I thought I've been at an agency, I've been fortunate enough to be in house at three really wonderful great organizations. And I thought, you know, I'm gonna set up my own shop. I'm gonna see how it is to be a consultant. That's the one thing I haven't tried. And I had been asked by various firms to help them and never could when I was in house. So I decided to launch my own practice and it's been wonderful. I really just, I love it. It combines everything I've learned about over the years and I'm still continuing to learn a great deal.

Will: It's an amazing journey. And I suppose I actually had a great lady on, who's done the same thing and focused more on business development as well in the UK, Susie Pugsley. And she sort of said the same thing in terms of, she went home in house and she liked the fact that then being an advisor externally, you know, you didn't need to pull any punches. There wasn't that sort of political part involved in things like the partnership and stuff. Was there a particular point or sort of turning point in your career when you recognized, you know, this need for a tailored approach to something like business development and helping to sort of coach, particularly women in a law firm or personal service arena?

Deborah: There was a story actually, there's a fantastic lawyer. She was brilliant. She's no longer practicing, but I worked with her many years ago and she was the kind of person who people were really in awe of and a little bit afraid of, she was just super smart and had a rather short temper, but we kind of all understood where that was coming from and she was doing um a lot of really interesting but high pressured work and she called me into her office one day, or I should say I was summoned to her office one day and I remember sitting in a beautiful winged back chair, she was staring at the window and she turned to me and she had tears in her eyes and she said I really need help. I don't know how to develop business. And this was a woman who was at the top of her game. It was just, you know, really well respected, but she had always received business through her partners. You know, she was well known within the firm. She was also well known externally, but she didn't know how to go out and ask for business. And I thought there must be other women out there who are like this. And sure enough, I started to see it time and time again in my career, you know, not only at the places where I worked, but I would hear about it at other firms. And I remember talking to people and talking to other CMOs and saying, who is there out there? Who does this? You know, we really need help for these women? So I just identified that there was a real need for it. And I didn't set out to make that a major part of my practice. Quite frankly, I felt like I wanted to serve all people who needed help and all firms that needed help. And most of my work is on the strategic level, either for practices or for firms that need strategic plans or firms that need marketing departments. But there's a real need for women in business development. And so, it's woven itself into my practice and in a large part, I try to give back as much as I can, whether that's in speaking with women lawyers or coaching with women lawyers or writing about how we can help one another.

Will: Yeah. And it makes perfect sense as well. You know, when you go out on your own and set up a consultancy, you know, I know people that have done it. My wife's done it and actually the first instance is you might have these big grand ideas that you're gonna be all things to all people, but then you do sort of hone in on a certain area, right? So, it sounds like that's exactly what you've done and it's enjoyable to do it as well. What would you say are the sort of unique obstacles that women encounter in honing their business development abilities? And how does that sort of look? What does that look like in the current landscape?

Deborah: Right. Well, you know, I think so much of this is human nature. There's this, I guess you'd call it a theory of homophily, which means, you know, birds of a feather flock together. We tend to like people who are like ourselves. And because of that, we've seen, you know, mainly male general counsel. They're the ones who are getting recruited. Although slowly that's changing, thankfully. We tend to see mainly men as partners that's changing, but it's changing a bit slow. But I think there are some sociological reasons that this has happened. And I think historically, women have not always been invited into the most important of the new business pitches unless if there's a need for diversity from the potential client. And they, you know, particularly say that and I also think because women are not necessarily going to the pitches, they're not getting exposed to the partners who are the big rainmakers. So there are a few exposure issues that I think are coming into play. But we now see enough women fortunately graduating from law school and becoming associates of law firms. So hopefully that will change. But there are obstacles that I think can be overcome. I think there are lots of things that firms can do in terms of training and coaching and recognizing that this is an issue and they can make change. 

Will: I suppose it's a similar thing with lots of the CMOs that we sort of talked to. I think, you know, it's proven that there's probably more female CMOs right? And they're always trying to get the seats at the table. That's the holy grail as well. So I suppose to your point, you know, these obstacles, they're there across, not just the partners but all the way through, in professional service firms.

Deborah: I think that's a very good point and I think that's really true. I think the firms that are functioning the best from my perspective. And I've looked at probably 60 law firms when I wrote my first book and I continue to look at law firms, but the ones that are managed the best usually are involving their c suite people as part of their firm's management and they're not looking at them as separate. They're really involving them and by doing that, they're getting much better work out of them, quite frankly, they're getting more retention and they're much more likely to be able to attract really great talent when they do that. 

Will: And it sort of leads me on to the next question, I suppose, which, you know, there is an impact, especially on the marketing function. What do you see that being for CMOs and BD leaders, if the firms, you know, don't invest in business development coaching for women

Deborah: I think we'll see people leaving, you know, one of the biggest problems firms have right now is attracting him and maintaining their talent. So I think it's gonna just continue, and firms will open themselves up to more troubles. I also think clients are usually the ones to demand change in our profession. And in this case, they're really demanding more as far as diversity. So it's going to have its effect on clients as well. You know, there are firms that are doing great work in this area by training all people by training women. But and having women, you know, have to be a focus of particular programs. But I think by training people early on, firms are doing themselves a service because they're more likely to retain these people, they're more likely to have them develop business later on because they're developing good habits, and good client care techniques early on in their careers. So, you know, I look at firms like Vinson and Elkins, which is doing an amazing job at this. Kirkland Ellis and I think Paul Weiss does a great job at this. They're starting early and I think that that does make a big difference.

Will: Yeah, definitely. And I mean, would you say, or have you got any sort of success stories with women that have transformed the business development approach as a result of coaching, you know, have you got any sort of hard and fast case studies?

Deborah: You know, I've coached a few women. I only take on about 10 coaching clients a year, but I've coached a number of women and I'm finding that teaching them about personal branding, how to realize, you know, everything is your brand and really figuring out what your niche is gonna be, how you wanna be known, how you wanna present yourself in writing. And when you're speaking and when you're presenting an idea internally, personal branding, I've seen a number of women really respond well to it. They're very curious about it, which I think is terrific. Also, women's use of LinkedIn, I think can be really helpful, particularly in key practices where they're looking for referrals from companies.You know, LinkedIn is a great way to reach out not only to the people that you know, but to what we call dormant ties, which are those people who knew you 20 years ago, but you haven't had the chance to talk to them. Those people can be very powerful for business. If they liked you at one point,  they're probably still gonna like you 20 years later.  So dormant ties are something that are very important for people to think about. And I think using social media strategically can really help.

Will: Personal branding, yeah, as you say, is such a big thing. And again, but it's still down to people again, isn't it? So again, with your business development coaching, it's just remembering that we're all human. They do buy from other people, obviously, but to your point, you do remember if someone was kind to you 20 years ago or we know that from the podcast that we've done on International Women's Day. There's people that have really influenced a lot of the women I've spoken to very early on in their careers and they still remember it. We always like to kick off with a nice quick fire round so I'm gonna ask you a few questions if that's all right?

Deborah:  Absolutely. So the first one and I know the answer to it because we were having a lovely conversation off-air on this one. What is your favorite book?

Will: Well, there are actually two and they're both children's books, but I think they had a great influence on me. The first, which is probably not a surprise, is Eloise at the Plaza. I thought that that was a book that inspired creativity and wonder and imagination. And it was set in New York City, which I thought was like The Wizard of Oz kind of life that she had and that was great. That was Kay Thompson, I think, who wrote that. And then of course Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory um by Roald Dahl that had a big influence on my learning how to be imaginative and how to think out of the box. And there's a quote actually that I use at the very beginning of my book, which is, “And above all watch with glittering eyes, the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.”

Will: There we go. My wife actually has a bookmark with that last bit, “Those that don't believe in magic will never find it.” So, yeah, lovely quote. What was your first job, Deborah?

Deborah: My very first job was typing up Rolodex cards for my dad.  I don't know if people who are listening to this will remember Rolodex cards, but they were usually typed up little index cards that fit into a wheelie structure that you would look through. You needed to call someone, it was kind of like what we use as address books on computers, but it was written down, and I think he would give me two cents for every card that I typed without errors. And that was how I learned how to type and that was how I learned how to proofread. 

Will: That's a way to get quick at typing. If you could travel back in time, what period or era would you go back to?

Deborah: I would prefer to travel forward in time because I can't wait to see where technology is going to take us and to see what creative and innovative ideas people come up with in the future. So I'd like to travel a little bit into the future to see what that's like. 

Will: Back to the future. There we go, make a film out of that. What's the one piece of technology that you couldn't live without?

Deborah: Well, if you asked me a few years ago, it might be a different one, but today it's definitely Zoom. Zoom has been incredible in opening up a whole world to people like me who are in the services businesses. You know, I speak at retreats in Singapore and in Africa and all over the world because people won't necessarily have to pay for your airfare, you can do it online. And because of this also, my client list has spread over the continents and I wouldn't be where I was today and happy in doing what I was doing if I couldn't connect with people. So Zoom is definitely my number one.

Will: I think it's the best one on offer as well. Where is your favorite place to visit and why?

Deborah: Oh, my favorite place is Paris. It's everything, it's great food, it's beautiful architecture, it's wonderful people. It's design, it's just an incredible place to be and you just always feel like you're in the middle of a petit four, you know, it's just a pastry laden place and it's just magical.

Will: I thought you were gonna say um the Chocolate Factory. But yeah, but it's very similar. I mean, there's lots of good chocolate in Paris.

Deborah: It is. 

Will: Cool. Okay, thank you for those answers, Deborah. In terms of, amazingly, we're on to the last question and in terms of the last question I was gonna sort of ask for three bits of advice if possible or your top three recommendations. And that's for organizations trying to, you know, trying to enhance the BD skills of their female employees. What would you say are the top three things they should take into account?

Deborah: I think they should show women examples of what they want to have them achieve. I think they, all of us need role models, but lawyers in particular, learn by precedent and role modeling, you know, they wanna know that something is safe and that it's acceptable. So I would have speakers come in um to be able to show them what you can do and show those examples, whether they're from general counsel or women partners within the firm who are doing great things. So that's the first thing I would do. I would also make sure that we're constantly asking women what they need. Women have a very tough time in that they are often asked to serve on every single committee. They're asked to do all kinds of things that take time away from business development. But I think if we start opening up the conversation and asking women what they need, you know, they might tell us that they want to be valued and as far as their time, and maybe they don't want to serve on every committee or feel like there's pressure to do that. So I think that that's another thing that's very important. And I think lastly design programs that are just for individuals. And I really do believe this not just for women but for all diverse peoples. I think we need to realize that people learn differently. And I taught for a number of years at NYU and I taught adults and I saw that there's some people that learn because they're in a group setting. There are others that learn through reading. There are others that learn through examples. There are others that learn through coaching. And I think there needs to be a realization that people learn in different ways, particularly adults. So I think we need to offer them training in a number of different um delivery systems in a way we need to get you into education.

Will: I think you could sort out, especially in the UK, the school system, Deborah. 

Deborah: I love teaching, I love teaching. I did it at night at NYU but I love doing it. 

Will: Doesn't surprise me. Okay, it's been absolutely fascinating having you on. Thank you so much for all that brilliant advice. The podcast I'm sure is gonna get a number of listens as a result of that. Have you got a chocolate ready on a Friday evening?  Have you got a desired chocolate over the weekend?

Deborah: Well, I admit we had a I think it was a bunny or a chocolate rabbit probably from last year that I just found and I just devoured it yesterday. So I might have to give it a couple of days before I indulge next.

Will: Yeah. You're starting Easter early. But actually it was a leftover from last last year.

Deborah: I think so because it was definitely rabbit-shaped.

Will: Great stuff. And when the only other question I was gonna ask is, when's the next book out?

Deborah: Oh, I'm working on it. I would say I'm three-quarters the way done and it's focusing on women and business development. And again, it wasn't set out to be the major part of my practice, but I just see that there's a real need and it's something I feel like if I can help people, I really want to do it. And so I am working on it kind of nights and weekends.

Will: Great stuff. Well, we look forward to seeing that when it comes out. Deborah, thanks again for your time. It's been invaluable and absolute pleasure to have you on.

Deborah: Oh, my pleasure. It was great speaking with you.




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