Building your team can often be a daunting task. You want to make sure that the right legal documents are in place to protect you and your company. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Angela Reddock-Wright who not only helps you with just that, she is also a very inspiring woman in her own right.
StilettoGal: What inspired you to be in your field?
Angela: When I was a kid growing up in Compton, I had the opportunity to speak a lot at my church, Citizens of Zion, and to participate in oratorical and other public speaking contests through various organizations. As such, people often told me that I should think about becoming a lawyer. The thought, which had become ingrained in my mind, was solidified when I attended Amherst College and was assigned an alumni mentor who was an attorney in Los Angeles. Through my relationship with this attorney, and others that developed during my time at Amherst, I decided that becoming a lawyer was indeed the career for me.
From my days of walking the picket lines as a young child with my grandmother, Fleeta Gills, who was a convalescent home worker in Birmingham, Alabama, I have always had a sense of right and wrong and wanting to be a part of working towards justice for all. So in many respects, I believe that the great opportunity I have had to be a lawyer for more than 20 years, is a tribute to the morals, values and sense of justice instilled in me as a young child by my family, church, and community. I believe I am simply carrying a torch that was lit well before I was ever born.
SG: How have you differentiated yourself in a male dominated industry?
ARW: I’ve differentiated myself in a male dominated industry by simply being myself. Of course, I am intimately familiar with the myriad of issues women face in a male-dominated world - and in our corporate and professional industries - the numbers speak for themselves. However, the way I have dealt with this is by working hard, trying to be the best that I can be, and seeking to add value in everything that I do. I also believe that we, as women, have unique perspectives that we bring to the table, so I never leave my identity as a woman at the door. I am a woman and I own it with my entire being. There is a reason God made me a woman and I never apologize for it. I love Maya Angelou's famous words which state, "I'm a woman, Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that's me."
SG: Who inspires you and why?
ARW: The women in my family inspire me. I have been blessed to have several examples of strong and enduring women on both the maternal and paternal sides of my family. (1) In particular, I admire my mom, who not only raised me as a single mother, but who distinguished herself in her own life and career, now serving as the President of the California State Baptist Women's Convention; (2) I admire my Aunt Nadine, who is both a great leader and has the great ability to motivate and galvanize practically anyone around a vision; (3) I admire my maternal grandmother, Fleeta, who passed away several years ago. She was the first to instill in me a sense of justice and truth as she advocated for rights for herself and her fellow convalescent home workers; (4) I admire my paternal grandmother, Sadie, who, despite having a stroke and being wheelchair bound since the age of 40, has always had a positive and enduring spirit; (5) I admire my aunts, Deborah, Toni, and Vicki, who have dedicated their lives to taking care of my grandmother, Sadie, and who are accomplished women in their own right. These women, and so many others, have helped to shape the woman that I am today.
SG: What are 3 tips you can give to women in business either starting out in their career or looking to start their own business?
I have the following 3 tips for women starting their own business:
- WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN: Take the time to write a business plan and to update it regularly as your business grows and evolves. If done correctly, it should be the roadmap, defining your business and reflecting the strategies you will use to grow your business.
- HAVE A SPONSOR: Find someone who has a vested interest in you and your business, and who will take proactive steps to assist you in growing and developing your business (e.g. will make introductions to potential customers, financiers, other resources, etc.).
- HAVE AN “A-LIST” TEAM: In order to build the right foundation for your business, it is important to have a trusted lawyer and accountant. When resources permit, you should build your team up with great employees. These employees should enjoy coming to work and feel passionately about your company’s mission and values. I am a firm believer that we should hire people who are smarter than us and that we should not be afraid to let those individuals flourish - they will be your greatest asset.
SG: What are some challenges you have had to overcome and how did you overcome them?
ARW: One challenge that I have had to overcome is fighting to have a seat at the table. I know we, as women, have been challenged by Sheryl Sandberg to “Lean In.” However, before we can “lean in,” we first must have a seat at the tables of power and the tables where decisions are made and where deals are brokered. In my professional life, I have had to work harder, shine brighter, and endure longer to have the same opportunities for advancement and promotion as my male counterparts. Of course, this story is not unique to me – we all face it. One of the ways I have dealt with it is by surrounding myself with other strong women who face similar issues. We meet together regularly and keep each other encouraged and inspired to keep doing what we do.
In business, one challenge I had when I first opened my own law firm was overstaffing and starting out with too much overhead. At one point, I felt as though I were working for everyone on my staff and to cover all of my overhead, and not for myself. This was quite frustrating and caused me to feel unfulfilled in my business. After several years of working at this level, one day I had an “aha” moment and decided that I needed to make a change. I reversed the order of things. I downsized and trimmed my overhead, where necessary, and decided to make working for myself the priority. I made a minimum salary and benefits commitment to myself and decided that I would not staff up or increase my overhead until my business was performing consistently at a certain level. This was the best decision I ever made. I no longer felt resentful and became more fulfilled in my work. I am now at the place where I know that in order to go to the next level, I will need to make an investment in having quality staff and make smart increases in my overhead, that support the bottom line. I feel more comfortable making these investments now that I have a model in place for managing and growing my business.
SG: How do you define success?
ARW: I define success as doing what you love and are passionate about - and if you are able to make a living from it, all the better. As I have gotten older, I’ve realized, more and more, that in addition to excelling in my career and professional life, success to me means spending quality time with family and friends, nurturing these relationships, giving back to my community, and doing other things that I love and enjoy.
SG: What kind of shoe are you and why?
ARW: I am a 3 inch, leopard-print pump. Perhaps because I am only 5'3 1/2 tall, I rarely enjoy wearing low heel pumps or flats. I much prefer heels! While there are many types of heels from which to choose, my favorite is a traditional, sleek pump. They’re so versatile. You can wear them with a nice dress, pantsuit or jeans. And if the pump has a cool or funky print or pattern, all the better! In my 3-inch leopard-print pump, I feel stylish and fierce, like I can conquer the world. I have my mom, Wilma, to thank for buying me this particular pair of heels; she has always been my #1 stylist and fashionista, among many other things.