An accomplished entrepreneur, author, blogger, podcaster and speaker, Shani Godwin also known as Chief Joy Officer has over 17 years of experience leading her high-growth marketing firm, Communiqué USA. She is also an expert at helping small businesses take the guesswork out of marketing, telling their story and growing their businesses the right way.
Passionate about work/life integration, Shani and her Communiqué USA team have been providing marketing project relief and support to stressed out, overworked small businesses and marketing departments around the country including Chick-fil-A, Inc., Cox Enterprises, Communicorp, Party City of Atlanta, Inc., Georgia Power and Safeco Insurance Companies among others.
Under Shani’s leadership, Communiqué also created Joy EconomicsSM, a corporate platform for helping its key stakeholders and communities find better ways to live, work and play by using joy as its currency. This approach has helped Communiqué grow by nearly 300 percent and includes company policies and programs that free its staff to enjoy life as much as work. Joy Economics: Creating Better Way to Life Work and Play also uses a client service approach that delivers expert marketing relief to teams; and a Joy Economics national speaker series to empower others to transact joy.
Shani is a graduate of Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Small Businesses Program, Leadership Atlanta Class of 2016 and Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business’s High Performing Minority Business Program. Shani has been featured in media nationwide including Essence Magazine, Forbes.com and The Huffington Post. She graduated from Hampton University with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications/Advertising and Mercer University where she earned a Master of Business Administration in Marketing.
Connect with Shani on LinkedIn and Facebook.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- About Shani and Communiqué USA
- How Shani scaled to a million after enduring a lot of stress
- How stress turned the company around into using the currency of Joy
- Can Joy really help you connect more
- How to find more Joy in your business
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC Open for Business, and this is going to be a good one. Today, we have with us Shani Godwin with Communique USA. Welcome.
Shani Godwin: [00:00:30] Hey, Lee. How are you? I’m so happy to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:33] Well, I am excited that you’re here. Before we get too far into things, tell us a little bit about Communique USA. How are you serving folks?
Shani Godwin: [00:00:41] How are we serving folks? We’re doing all kinds of things to get through this pandemic, but we are a traditional marketing communications firm. So, I tell people we specialize in helping you get your message out so that it connects and resonates with your ideal customer. I’d tell people, help you find your peeps and they want to do business with you.
Shani Godwin: [00:01:02] So, we do that in a variety of ways for our corporates. We do a lot of staff augmentation for stressed out marketing departments. And for our smaller businesses, we offer some coaching services and we also offer creative services support to be extra arms and legs to help them get their materials and content right and ready to go, and so that it connects and gets those dollars churning in.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:25] Now, what’s your back story? How did you get involved in this business?
Shani Godwin: [00:01:28] I am an old school advertising girl. So, I got my start way back in the early 90’s. I can’t believe it’s that long ago. I tell people I started working professionally at J. Walter Thompson, a big ad agency, the year that email came out. And I remember because all of my friends had just gotten out of college and we were all emailing each other. It was like a big deal.
Shani Godwin: [00:01:55] But I started out in traditional advertising in agency world. And then, transitioned pretty early in my career over to the corporate side, and worked at companies like Chick-fil-A and BellSouth before starting Communique a year after 9/11. And really just wanted to step out on my own and really help small businesses and corporations create great content. Which was interesting because, at that time, in marketing and advertising, content wasn’t the driver as it is now. Content drives everything in the marketing world.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:27] So, now, did something kind of trigger that move to being an entrepreneur or was that something that was always kind of on the back burner?
Shani Godwin: [00:02:37] Yeah. It’s funny, we do this vision and values presentation for new employees. And one of the questions we asked is, Is the entrepreneurial spirit infused into your DNA or is it developed? And for me, I think it was in my DNA. I remember being a little girl, seven years old, second grade, making makeshift pom-poms out of sticks and construction paper that I glued together and selling them in my classroom, in Miss Vandenbergh’s second grade. So, I think it was always there.
Shani Godwin: [00:03:08] I’ve also always been a writer at heart. And me going into corporate was more of a structured answer to my mom’s call for me to figure out a real way to make money writing. And so, I kind of went that route and learned what I could. I learned strategy, but I was always, always writing for people behind the scenes, on the sidelines. Helping people, even with my employers, figuring out ways to not send the writing projects to the creative department so that I could write them myself.
Shani Godwin: [00:03:40] And so, I just really wanted to be able to have gotten married at the time. I had been married pretty for a few years, two or three years. And I just couldn’t envision how I would be able to have a family and stay in the corporate world and do work that I loved that created a lot of joy for me. But that also allowed me to be present in my life the way that I would want to be for my family. And so, when I added it all up, for me, it made sense to step out on my own. Which, a year after 9/11, most people that was, like, absolutely insane. But I was 27, so I was like, “What? I can do it.” You know, if you are in your young 20s, you’re like, “What? I can do it.”
Lee Kantor: [00:04:22] Now, you used the word joy and I’m sure that’s not an accident. Why did that word kind of become like a true north for you and your firm and kind of your vision?
Shani Godwin: [00:04:33] Yeah. I think as I’ve gotten older and I’ve started to look back over my life, I think I am a seeker and someone who’s always seeking. And what I came to realize is that, what I was really seeking were two fundamental things, love – probably three, love, peace, and joy. And if I have those things in my life, no matter what else is happening, then I’m happy.
Shani Godwin: [00:04:58] And so, when we started to grow and scale at Communique, I was blessed to be able to do amazing programs because of the work of GWBC and being involved as a WBE. We’re able to go to talk and then we went to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. And if you go to these programs and you do what you learn, you start to scale and grow. And when we made it over the million dollar mark, I was miffed in shock because I didn’t find happiness at the top of the climb. I found more work, more stress. And in that way, I was very disillusioned, isolated, and unhappy.
Shani Godwin: [00:05:36] And so, it was in that Goldman Sachs program where I was working on yet another growth plan that I found myself up, stressed out after 14 hour days, working on this growth plan, crying at 3:00 a.m. because I was successful and had made this two percent goal of being a woman on business over the million dollar mark. But I felt utterly alone. I felt our growth was fast and hard. It took its toll on me. It took its toll on lots of relationships, friendships. I broke up with my boyfriend at the time.
Shani Godwin: [00:06:07] And I found myself crying and realized that true north, for me personally, needed to be joy. And that there was joy along the climb to the million dollars. And I was so focused on getting to the top that I missed those joyful moments. And so, what I had to do then was recreate, re-invision, restructure my business, realign myself with the parts of the business that created joy for me. And then, find good, good people who were infused by joy for the areas that I wasn’t strong and to come alongside me so that we could build it back better.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:43] Now, I think that’s an important lesson for our listeners about – I think it’s a saying that Stephen Covey talks about – you’re climbing the ladder of success, but you better make sure it’s on the right building because you’re so heads down on the goal and you think that goal is going to be the answer to all of your challenges and problems that will solve everything. And then, you get there and you realize that it isn’t some kind of magic genie lamp that you rub it in, then all the problems go away. That the problems are still there. When you made that kind of mental shift and looked inward, did something happen? Did your business change now? Were you attracting a different kind of maybe employee, a different kind of client?
Shani Godwin: [00:07:33] Yeah. It’s a good question to ask. So, again, to take you back into the story. I was in the middle of needing to create a growth plan, which meant I was literally in a program to figure out how to grow more, how to gain more income, more traction, more revenue. And that was the very thing that was making me sick and tired. And so, when I came up with this epiphany at 3:00 a.m., what I realized was, I would call it Joy Economics. And being the marketer and the business owner I am, I laughed because I didn’t sketch out a business model for the next two hours that morning that made me happy.
Shani Godwin: [00:08:10] So, we trademarked Joy Economics in 2017. We started a podcast, was our first foray. And I spent most of the next two years really focused heavily on operationalizing the organization. And taking myself out of the areas of the business that I felt that I was supposed to – and if you could see me I’m air quoting supposed – “supposed” to be doing because I’m the CEO. And really aligning myself with my natural gifts, my unique abilities in the areas of the business that I was best created to serve.
Shani Godwin: [00:08:45] And so, for me, that meant finding an operations manager. I was doing all the operations. That’s not my gift. I’m a writer. I’m a creative. I’m a visionary. I was getting just creamed with H.R. issues and legal meetings and it was sucking the life and joy out of me. And that’s no shade to people who love that work. But what I sought out to do is figure out what did I love in my business. And I had to basically extract myself from all of the day-to-day things that were creating unhappiness and really realign myself with the areas of the business that only I wanted to do.
Shani Godwin: [00:09:24] I also took about a 14 month sabbatical in there, which sounds crazy, but it was really necessary because I was so burned out and so unhappy. And when I did that, I saw that my organization would and did rise to the occasion. And I was able to also see where I was putting out extra effort, energy, and where I didn’t need to if I trusted my team, got the right people on my team, and realigned the work for not just myself, but for everyone. And joy centers is what we say. Where do you center yourself in your business so that it creates maximum joy for you and everyone else? When you find their joy center, everyone else is functioning at top functionality, which then drives the revenue back in a positive direction.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:15] Now, in order to pull that off, it takes a lot of kind of self-awareness. It takes a lot of vulnerability, humbleness, and the ability to delegate and really not micromanage. So, this isn’t something that, “Oh, that sounds good. Let’s do that.” And, you know, this is a difficult task, especially for leaders who are used to doing things a certain way.
Shani Godwin: [00:10:43] Yes. Yeah. It wasn’t easy. It was scary. Like I said, I worked myself to burnout so I didn’t have a choice but to take a break. And so, the original plan was to take a 90 day sabbatical. And what I did was connect everybody’s goals to each other. So, all the goals for each of the departments were interconnected. So, no one department could fail. Each department and leader was dependent on the other person on the team, so that they couldn’t break it. And not only did they not break it, but they rose to the challenge.
Shani Godwin: [00:11:20] So much so that after 90 days, when I was rested and was able to clearly, like, fill my tank back up, I could kind of see more clearly where I was going to be able to add the most value to the organization. And because they stepped it up, that showed me I was way micromanaging and taking on too much. And I learned so much about myself as a leader. Like, your people want to step up. They want to take on more. They want to show you what they can do. But they’re never going to do it if you’re hoarding all of the work.
Shani Godwin: [00:11:51] And so, with that, they gave me the permission and ability to step away for a year to create another business that’s a publishing company that helps people write, and it really fills my tank creatively. And then, I stepped back in and was able to go from there. And so, here we are, five years out – actually, four years out from when I first had that epiphany. We’ve operationalized. We created the podcast. And, now, at the top of the pandemic, because of some fluctuations in our business, we’ve now been able to create a six month coaching program for women entrepreneurs who want to do the same.
Shani Godwin: [00:12:29] And so, it’s been a really cool journey, but it didn’t happen overnight. And it did require a lot of conversations, a lot of vulnerability, a lot of self-awareness, and just honest conversations with me, myself, and I about what I wanted and didn’t want. And not allowing myself to shame myself for the answers that bubbled up.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:49] Now, who are the perfect candidate for that coaching class?
Shani Godwin: [00:12:55] We are ideally looking for women entrepreneurs who are at that tipping point where they’re ready to scale. Typically, about that 250,000 plus mark where you’re ready, you can see where you want to go, but you’re stressed because you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to really grow that capacity and get you there.
Shani Godwin: [00:13:16] And so, the Joy Economics Coaching Program, our approach is a six month program and it’s a marketing and operations accelerator, with a heavy emphasis on marketing. We build your business model around you and put you squarely in the center of it. And we bring into our coaching program a lot of tools that help create that self-awareness. And we take all those lessons we learned and we’ve repackaged it into a six month program. That’s really pretty doggone powerful, if I may say so myself, and life changing for so many of the women who get to go through it.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:57] Now, does it use that currency of joy as part of it?
Shani Godwin: [00:14:01] Absolutely. Yeah, because here’s the thing. Like, we’re all working ourselves a lot of times to exhaustion and success is a very elusive thing. Like, one of the first questions we ask is, On a scale of one to ten, how happy are you as a CEO, but as a woman overall, as a wife, as a partner, as a friend, as a daughter, as a sister, as a mother? How are you firing on all cylinders? And a lot of people will rate themselves high, eight or nine, and say, “Oh, life’s great.”
Shani Godwin: [00:14:37] But when you start to dig beneath the surface, you’ve got kids who wish mom would be able to have some time for games and movies. Partners who are holding it down for us at home and who want more of our time. And so, when we really begin to interrogate their reality, they start to see where the success is coming at a personal price. And so, currency of joy is – and that’s where the program starts off – about figuring out who are you as a woman first, how does this business need to serve you overall. And a business, to me, should be a means to an end, not the end.
Shani Godwin: [00:15:17] And then, from there, once we know what your unique gifts are, your unique talents, your unique abilities, and what those stories are that you have, we can create social content, amazing content for your website, all your materials. And it all thrives off of you as the personal brand behind the business. And once you’re there in the center and the business is serving you and you’re also happier because you’re burning less calories to run the business and you’re trusting kind of the rhythm of collaboration and you’re always in your true north and in your true center, your joy center.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:59] Now, is there any advice or any tips you would give maybe women or entrepreneurs as a whole to grow their business, you know, without kind of that stress? Is there anything they could be doing, any low hanging fruit for them right now?
Shani Godwin: [00:16:13] Yeah. It’s so funny, I get asked this question a lot. I have a lot of nonconventional ideas when it comes to business. And I am not your average business owner. I’ve been able to be very successful and I do the things that I preach. My first low hanging fruit for all women entrepreneurs is to really, really consider what are the boundaries. What are the boundaries that you need to have in your daily business practice so that it preserves the life that you want to have, the life that you are working the business so hard to have.
Shani Godwin: [00:16:49] And so, I’m fresh off of a ten-day vacation to St. Croix, so awesome because I hadn’t been anywhere since the top of COVID. And so, today is first day back in the office. For me, boundaries look like no working. My team completely knows not to contact me. If they do contact me, they get redirected to wait until I come back. I do not engage. But I also give them permission when I leave to trust themselves and make the best decisions that they feel are the right decisions, and that I’ll support them when I come back.
Shani Godwin: [00:17:26] So, boundaries are really important. I also don’t engage and our team does not engage in email on the evenings or on the weekends because rest, sleep, all of those things are as essential to good leadership as any other any other thing that you do. And we live in a culture that thinks working more is the hallmark for success. And what I found, a lot of times you can work less, but if you’re working on the right things, you get better results. So, that would be a big one that I would say, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:59] Now, you mentioned earlier the importance of GWBC and the growth of your firm. For women who aren’t familiar with GWBC or for folks that maybe are members but aren’t leveraging all the superpowers that GWBC brings to the table, can you talk about how to kind of get the most out of your membership?
Shani Godwin: [00:18:23] Absolutely. So, GWBC, I would not be here without GWBC. I got certified in 2012, so coming up on a decade ago. And the best way – I mean, you’re going to hear it over and over – is to really get engaged. But I want to kind of make that real for people. One of the biggest questions I get is, “Well, are you getting anything from it? Is this worth the money?” And the question isn’t are you getting anything from it? For me, it’s what am I putting into it.
Shani Godwin: [00:18:53] And so, I would not have been able to grow or scale over the million dollar mark without the resources, the tools, the support of the network. Again, these opportunities to go spend a week at Dartmouth, Ivy League College, learning from the best and brightest professors, seeing my business differently. All of that came through connections at GWBC. Georgia Power sent me to Tuck, and so they paid for it. That’s like a $10,000 scholarship. And if I hadn’t been engaged, connected, going to events, participating, I would have missed the opportunity when they were looking for a small business that they could send to the program. The same thing with Goldman Sachs, one of the WBEs reached out to me and asked if she could nominate me.
Shani Godwin: [00:19:40] And so, engagement doesn’t have to look any other way than how you would naturally get involved. But you do have to get involved. And we recently picked up a three year contract with Federal Reserve during the pandemic at a very much needed time. And that was a phone call that came in because their buyer was looking through WBENC link. And we happen to be in the space. So, you have to show up. You have to get engaged. People have to know your name. It’s not pay your money, get certified, and let the windfall come to you. You have to do the work, but the work is worth it.
Shani Godwin: [00:20:18] And I remember having a conversation with Roz Lewis when I joined. We were right around $300,000 and I was like, “I want to get over that million dollar mark.” And she was like, “Let’s get you involved.” And I’ve been fortunate to be very plugged in and involved and have met some amazing women who supported and nurtured me. And literally given me their seat at the table time and time again. So, they’re a big part of my story and journey.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:43] And then, I think one of the best parts, the folks that do get involved and that do see the benefits are the first to turn around and help the next person in line.
Shani Godwin: [00:20:54] Yeah. That’s why I said they have given me their seat at the table. I remember my first national conference – I’m going to shout out this person because she’s like a WBENC mama to me – Marlene Kelly with Exhibits South took me by the hand and she had a seat at Accenture’s table. Accenture was the lead sponsor that year. They table right up front. And she literally, literally gave me her seat. And I just was blown away. She was like, “I know them. You need to know them. Here, you take my seat.” And that was my very first WBENC. And she literally, Lee, grabbed me by the hand and pulled me across the room. So, I say it figuratively, but also literally. I’ve had that happen time and time again. Just the collaboration, the nurturing, the care. It’s awesome.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:40] Yeah. Then, now, it’s your turn to be doing that for other folks. And you’re doing that through your memberships and your coaching and to lift up more people that are deserving and that are just learning how to do this. And sometimes you need help, but sometimes you need a helper. And you need that person to kind of physically take you by the hand and sit you down and say you should meet this person.
Shani Godwin: [00:22:07] You should meet this person. You should know these things. You should be thinking about these things. You need to be in the room. And I’m grateful for an organization that has nurtured me in that way.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:19] Now, in your business, do you have a sweet spot of your ideal customer? Because you mentioned companies now of all different sizes, from enterprise all the way down to the person just starting out.
Shani Godwin: [00:22:32] Yeah. We’ve really divided the business into two areas. A small business division, which we call creative services. And the coaching program is in that space. And then, with the corporates, we still are heavily engaged, staffing, their marketing departments, and corporate communications team with communications talent. So, for companies like Federal Reserve, Chic-fil-A, Cox, we camp out more on that side of the house.
Shani Godwin: [00:22:57] And then, for the smaller businesses, we meet them where they are and help them create their brand stories, their marketing messages, their social currency, social content, their website content. And then, our coaching program provides a lot of those deliverables on top of really centering them and anchoring them in the center of their business. And wrapping those content deliverables around the story of who they are as the owner, so that people can connect more easily with them when they see their messages out in the marketplace that makes people want to identify and connect and work with them.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:33] So, now, at this stage of your career, what brings you more joy, landing that big corporate account or having the light bulb turn on, on one of your coaching clients?
Shani Godwin: [00:23:45] Honestly, you know, it’s funny because next year we’ll be – believe it or not – hitting our 20 year mark. In the pandemic, I heard someone say that COVID was the great clarifier. Meaning, it has clarified so much for all of us. Coaching was something that I never saw coming, and the pandemic just really offered that opportunity up. We started at the top of the pandemic. We had a huge hit from the corporate side, and we rolled up our sleeves and started on a mission to help save 5,000 small businesses because that’s where the need was.
Shani Godwin: [00:24:19] And it was just an unexpected blessing that came our way. I won’t lie. It is a doggone good feeling to take all of what you’ve been through that you suffered through and to be able to pour it back into someone and see a life get changed right before your eyes. It’s pretty rewarding. But we also try to deliver the same level of joy for our corporate clients. So, we camp out a little bit in the middle there. But I love all of the work. I know what brings me joy is really being able to pour back into people and to take what I’ve learned and to be able to make a difference.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:53] Well, congratulations on all the success. The impact is real.
Shani Godwin: [00:24:58] Thank you. It’s been fun.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:58] Now, if somebody wants to learn more and connect with you or somebody on your team, what’s the website?
Shani Godwin: [00:25:06] I’m actually going to send you to my personal website where you can connect with all things related to me. So, that is shanigodwin.com, S-H-A-N-I Godwin, G-O-D-W-I-N.com. There you can connect with me and Communique. We also have some writing programs and you can check out our podcast. And I’m also on Instagram, @iamshanigodwin. And of course, you can LinkedIn in with me at Shani Godwin.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:34] Good stuff. Well, again, congratulations on all the success. Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are doing such important work and we appreciate you.
Shani Godwin: [00:25:43] Thank you, Lee. It’s always a pleasure.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:45] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We will see you all next time on GWBC Open for Business.
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