Clyde's Kelly Hall Shares Tips for Moving from a Big Organization to a Startup and a Framework for Making the Decision
Kelly Hall broke a major rule of negotiation when she was interviewing for her current job at product protection startup Clyde.
She'd gotten an offer to join Clyde as VP of Channel Strategy and wanted to take it, so she went to tell her previous employer she would be resigning. But instead of accepting her resignation, they responded with a surprising counter-offer. She brought it back to her hiring manager at Clyde, who happened to also be the CEO, and waited for his response.
Using a counter-offer to drive up a starting salary is a classic negotiating move, and one that we've encouraged women to consider. But the waiting was getting to Kelly—"I was losing my mind, emotionally," she remembers—so she reached out to her former employer and told them that she couldn't accept their counter, then got back in touch with her future boss and told him what she'd done.
Even though she could've kept negotiating, Kelly wanted to start her new job off with as much transparency as possible. "I believe that honest communication pays higher dividends," she says. "So it was important to me to let him know that I had officially declined the counteroffer."
What are rules good for, anyways? They're guidelines to help you get what you need, and when they work, that's great. But Kelly learned that following her instincts and her values got her to where she needed to be in the end. (Including with her offer: Clyde's CEO came back with what she calls "a very compelling addition to the original offer," even after knowing she'd turned the counter down. She accepted it and joined the team a couple of months ago.)
We sat down with Kelly to talk about her career path, the framework she used when deciding to leave a large, established company to join Clyde (a startup), and her tips for other women who are negotiating job offers with startups.
From startups to major players and back again
Kelly's current role as VP of Channel Strategy at Clyde has her focusing on understanding new verticals and markets, determining how to position the company within them to reach their target market. Though she's excited to be part of a fast-growing team, she acknowledges that for her, having worked for enterprise-level companies helped her to get to this point. "Personally, I think I'm in a better position to be successful because I'm bringing experience into the startup. I don't know that I would've been able to pull this off as my first or second gig; I wouldn't have had the foresight or experience to really shake things up had I made this leap earlier," she explains.
When Kelly kicked off her career in sales, it was with a small company called Hands On Systems that provided billing for mobile carriers right as mobile and internet technology were converging. "It was literally guys in their garage who built this platform," she says. She loved the fast-paced nature of scaling her sales as the market grew.
When that company was acquired by Verisign, she found herself transitioning into a much more structured environment. "It was 'small and scrappy' versus 'large and secure,'" says Kelly. "In a smaller organization, you have the opportunity to touch things more directly, which I love. But there's something to be gained from working at a larger organization that has tremendous resources and support."
Kelly then spent several years working with other big players (Asurion and AmTrust) before she met the Clyde CEO and COO, Brandon Gell and Jereme Holiman, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas this year. She'd been running into issues in her sales cycle and realized she didn't have the resources to solve them. "It started to be apparent that a partnership with Clyde could move forward some of my other deals," she says. Kelly set up a dinner with their team, thinking they could discuss that objective. She walked out of the dinner with a job offer.
Deciding to make the leap: a framework for joining a startup
Kelly didn't take the job immediately. Although she was very interested, she wanted to make sure to do her due diligence. Her process for deciding went as follows:
- First, she checked the financials. She wanted to make sure that the company was well set up financially, so she asked the founders to circle back with her once they'd raised their Series A round of funding.
- Then Kelly asked for investor access, with the goal of understanding their belief in the company. "The bigger the investor, the more open the dialogue, I found," says Kelly, who encourages women considering taking a high-level role at a startup to do the same. "It lends insight from another perspective."
- She also wanted to make sure she liked the people and not just the investors. "I've always prioritized working in a company with people you really like. And that was my experience with the Clyde team," says Kelly, who appreciates the company's focus on creating a positive working environment with a diverse group of employees.
- It was also important for Kelly to understand the role and its growth potential. "A startup gives you an opportunity to do a lot of different things—including stuff you're probably not even qualified for," she says, smiling. "I asked questions around the role itself, but also how I'd interact with other projects because I think it's really important to own your career path."
- Then it was time to listen to her intuition. "It's our greatest ally," she says. "If you listen, the answers are always there." She was excited about the company and their vision and knew it was the right move for her. "It felt like their platform was just coming at the perfect time. This industry needs it."
Before officially accepting the job, Kelly asked herself three questions she'd learned from a previous mentor for how to evaluate a new opportunity:
- "Am I being paid fairly? Am I learning? And am I having fun?"
Clyde seemed like it would check all of those boxes for her, so it was time to move forward—and into that fateful negotiation.
Negotiating salaries at a startup as a woman
To prepare for her salary negotiation, Kelly did start by following the "rules." First, she did her research on what the market range looked like for the role. "Sometimes we miss that step and go in with a growth percentage on top of our previous salary, thinking, 'Oh, if I can just get 10% more than I'm making now, I'll be happy.'" she says. But she wanted to have a solid base rooted in fact, so she came up with a number that she felt represented her worth and the market.
"Then you beef it up a little bit," she says. "Go for it, but don't get too crazy!"
That's the number she went into the negotiations with. As she was working through Clyde's offer, her then-employer's counter, and the final package, she had to consider equity and other benefits, too. "Even though I obviously believe in the vision, my advice is that you can't really bank on equity," she says.
One thing that did stand out to her as a clear pro and added value (beyond salary), was Clyde's open vacation policy. "Early in my career, I was wired to believe that being busy and not taking vacation was a medal of honor. And I learned very quickly that it's just going to burn you out. I really loved that Clyde's policy is to take as much vacation as you'd like as long as you're performing," she says. She was pleased with the company's vacation fund matching, too, where employees can allocate a percentage of their paychecks for vacations, which Clyde matches up to a certain point.
"You have to look at your package from both a financial perspective as well as flexibilities or perks that go a long way in terms of your mental space and happiness in your role," says Kelly.
Even though she was negotiating this particular offer just as the Coronavirus pandemic was beginning, Kelly didn't settle for less than what she thought she deserved. "Barring situations where your livelihood is at risk, you shouldn't lose sight of your worth," she says.
And as we revealed above, it all worked out. She suggests that women looking to join startups follow her same approach—even if it means backing off from some of the traditional ways of negotiating. "In trust-basedrelationships, there's really no negotiation," she says. "If you know your value and your company knows your value, it's really just a discussion on what will make it feel like you're making the right decision."
Kelly's first few weeks with the Clyde team have confirmed to her that she did indeed make the right decision. If you're interested in joining her, follow Clyde's page for updates on open roles.
How Caitlin Boston went from having $62 in her checking account to paying off over $200k in student loans
She started asking friends and colleagues how much they made by throwing out a number and asking "Over or under?" That information led to a 40% pay bump.
Watch her viral video to hear her inspiring story and learn how you can follow her lead and earn your worth!!
The gender pay gap needs to change, but until it does, these tips can help.
You see an ad for your dream job. And by some miracle, you actually have all 20 of the preferred qualifications!
So you hurriedly scroll to the bottom of the publication to see what the salary range and benefits are… only to find that "competitive salary" is all that's listed.
What the heck does competitive salary actually mean?!
Phrases like "competitive salary" and "competitive pay" are often used by employers in job listings, but they can leave candidates scratching their heads. So what do these phrases actually mean?
Competitive Salary Definition:
A salary that is at or above market rate for similar positions and geographical locations.
The Good News: While not quite as transparent as listing a number or a range, if the company has said that they pay a competitive salary, then you can assume that they intend to pay you at or above market rate.
The Bad News: "Competitive" can mean different things to different people. It can vary based on the local market, and with remote jobs, this only gets more confusing.
So, when you see these phrases, your first move should be to use resources like Glassdoor, Payscale, and Github to research the market rate for the role (I'll talk more about this later). Once you know the average salary for the position in whichever city you're based, you should expect the company to make an offer at or above that level.
If you get an offer and their competitive salary turns out not be as competitive as you expected, you can share your research and tell them you were expecting something a bit higher.
Remember, companies have access to the same resources you do - and many, many more! So they know very well what is "competitive" and what is not.
If they ask you what your salary expectations are, they are likely hoping that you are expecting less than market rate - or that at a minimum, you don't want much more than it. (If you need help answering the ever-tricky salary expectations question, check out these expert tips.)
So, the real question becomes, once a company does actually give you a number - whether or not they said upfront that they consider it to be competitive - what do you do if it's not?
How To Negotiate a Competitive Salary
There's no doubt that salary negotiation can be uncomfortable - but if you don't ask for what you deserve, you'll never get it.
For women in particular, this can be challenging, because we've been conditioned to be agreeable, and to trust that we've been offered what we deserve. But companies don't want to pay you more than they have to, so you need to be your own advocate. No one else will. The men are asking for more, and you should too.
In these situations, it's crucial that you know your own worth - a modest account of your accomplishments won't get you to the number you deserve. (If you don't yet know the importance of valuing yourself, just check out this story about a designer who was underselling herself by 50k!!)
And if that's not enough to convince you to ask for what your worth, consider the fact that your negotiation today will not only impact your current role, but your entire career earnings trajectory (AND the trajectory of women to come after you, lateral to you, and across the industry).
With a little research, role-playing, and honest communication, you'll be ready to negotiate the salary you deserve.
1. Remind Yourself of Your Value
Have you self-assessed recently? Taking time to reflect on your achievements will help you evaluate your current worth and bring an undeniable strength to your interview. I find that muting the hustle and bustle by stepping into nature with paper and pen helps me to recognize my achievements. From there, my self-confidence and self-respect grows and I can start outlining a game plan to reach my desired salary.
I've achieved XYZ. Here is where I've seen success. Add numbers to back it up. Voilà.
2. Research the market.
First, investigate your field's competitive salaries online. Some of our current partners at PowerToFly use platforms like GitLab's Compensation Calculator to adjust their salaries based on the role, experience, and location. Resources like Payscale, Glassdoor, and Comparably are also great for checking salary ranges.
But don't just rely on the internet - ask 5 friends in similar roles/industries/locations what their compensation package looks like. DO NOT JUST ASK WOMEN! If you truly want to understand what a competitive salary is for your position, you need to understand what other people are making - this includes equity, benefits, bonuses, and other forms of compensation. Don't let the taboo topic of money keep you from earning your worth!
3. Watch how your favorite thought leaders present themselves and mimic them - practice makes perfect.
Research how some of your favorite thought-leaders and innovators present themselves in public so you can adopt some of their presentation skills. TedTalks are a good example. There's a reason these people are chosen as speakers - they have charisma! Have some fun and mimic your gurus as you practice presenting yourself and lead to your competitive salary ask. Now is the time to practice your ask word for word, citing why you deserve this compensation. Role-playing with friends and colleagues is crucial for practicing different scenarios and practicing authentic answers. Don't forget to ask for feedback!
You've done your research. You know what the market rate is, what number you're looking for, and what your walkaway is. The worst that can happen is they say no.
Why Asking Matters and How To Do It The Right Way
"How much do you want?" can feel like a trick question when you're negotiating salary.
The first time I was asked this question, I had no idea what to say. I just knew that what I'd been offered wasn't enough. Having relocated from the U.S. to Argentina just a month prior, I was still learning the market and was worried about having my offer rescinded if I asked for too much. Knowledge is power in a negotiation, and in my ignorance of local norms and rates, I found myself feeling powerless and frustrated.
The hiring manager seized on my silence and asked me another question: "What's the minimum you'd accept?" Not knowing how to stall for more time, I blurted out my actual minimum. He flashed a toothy grin and said, "Done." I knew then and there that I'd gone way too low - his smile said it all.
I broke two cardinal rules of negotiation that day:
1) Think about the number you want and ask for more
2) Know your value in the market
I went home kicking myself for flubbing the negotiation and not asking for what I really wanted/deserved.
Some research has shown that women are much less likely to negotiate salary than men; an oft-cited study of MBA grads from Carnegie Mellon showed that only 7% percent of women negotiated their initial salary offers as compared to 57% percent of men. Other more recent data has shown that women do now negotiate at the same rate as men. Either way, the reality remains that as women, we are often socialized to be agreeable (see point 2 below)... and negotiating feels like the opposite of people pleasing, so it can be tough to do. All the same, it's of vital importance that we keep having these conversations.
When we don't negotiate, what's holding us back?
- We (erroneously) believe that what we've been offered is what we deserve - Economist and negotiation expert Linda Babcock said it best, "Women tend to assume that they will be recognized and rewarded for working hard and doing a good job. Unlike men, they haven't been taught that they can ask for more."
- We've been socialized to be agreeable, and we face backlash when we aren't - As women, we're taught to go with the flow and please others. And for the first half of our lives -- in school and at home -- we're rewarded for this with good grades and encouraging words from our parents and teachers. But patting us on the back for being agreeable doesn't do us any favors once we enter the workplace, where the results-oriented culture means that if you don't speak up for yourself and make your achievements known, then no one else will. Unfortunately, when we do speak up for ourselves, we're often penalized for being too assertive.
Why is this a problem?
- Experts believe that women's reluctance to ask for more, and the double bind they face when they do, are major contributors to the persistence of the gender pay gap.
- Future salaries are largely dependent upon previous earnings, so what may only be a few thousand dollars annually when you're starting out quickly compounds with each raise, salary-based bonus, or job switch (when you're often asked how much you were making). Some experts estimate that women can lose as much as 1.5 million dollars over the course of their careers as a result of not asking.
Try these expert tactics to make sure you come out on top
Although gender stereotypes can contribute to our reluctance to negotiate, there's no reason to let them prevent us from going to the table.
At PowerToFly, we sat down with lawyer and negotiation expert Nicole Page to get the inside scoop on how women can gain the confidence to be their own advocates and come out on top of any negotiation. She's successfully helped hundreds of clients get better offers and was kind enough to share her wisdom.
Keep these tips handy so that the next time you're considering a job offer, you don't make the same mistakes I did.
Hungry for even more negotiation skills? Check out our full interview with Nicole here, as well as our more recent chat and learn with another lawyer and negotiation pro, Anica John, where she addresses how you can answer the dreaded, "What are your salary expectations?" question.