This is the first guest I’ve had that really combined my ‘old’ career and my current entrepreneur life together! Debi Yadegari is the Founder and CEO of Villyge, which is an employer-paid benefit that sets families up for success and helps employees to thrive. I was excited to chat with her and as we got further into the convo I was continually impressed and in awe of her!
Debi starts by telling me about her first career path, as a big time lawyer! She had always wanted the big family and up until a co-worker said otherwise, she thought she could have them both! After getting pregnant with her first, she found out first hand that there was not enough support for working parents (insert light bulb moment)! After having her next 3 kiddos in 5 years (yeah you read that right!), she started to dive into supporting working moms through corporate lactation support. As she started listening to her clients and their needs, the business started to expand their offerings.
Debi gets super honest about the change in perspective she’s been forced to have through being an entrepreneur. We also chat about how their business is a little different than most as their end use is not always the one making the financial decisions. Finally, she talks about something that so few business owners do — hiring and firing, and the mistakes made along the way! She tells me about the first time she had to fire someone and how it was different than previous roles.
Debi has started such an amazing brand to help working parents and the energy she has is something I need to find a way to bottle and take with me! If you are an employee or head the HR/Benefits dept at a business, you should absolutely listen to this one! Make sure to check out Debi and the Villyge team’s site and Instagram.
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Villyge is an employer-paid benefit that sets families up for success and helps employees thrive through a comprehensive support platform that helps working parents succeed – as parents and as professionals.
Dana: Are you dying at the thought of missing a single one of your babies first would have no idea how you’d give up the security that your nine to five job brings. My name is Dana Graham, and I had no clue how to escape that vicious 40 Hour Workweek cycle either. Until I did. As the wife of a traveling husband and mom of two tiny humans, I made the terrifying and totally bizarre leap from health insurance broker to successful newborn and family photographer, all with the amazing craziness of a two year old and the newborn in tow. But I’m not the only one. I’m so glad you’re joining me as I chat with other moms who took the leap into entrepreneurship and created the ultimate best of both worlds life doing it all amidst the chaos. All right, everybody, welcome back for another episode of amidst the chaos I am here as always with another exciting guest. I feel like I literally say this every single episode that I’m so excited to talk to this person. But what’s interesting about today’s episode is that I am actually sort of bridging my old career and my new career. This is the closest I’ve come to someone that was in my former life and my new life. So I’m super, super excited today. We have Debbie category on She is the founder of Villyge and I’m going to let her tell you kind of what the company is and walk us through her story of Villyge and how it came to be. So Debbie, welcome. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you, Dana. Thank you for having me excited to chat. Yeah, so tell me about Villyge in just a short synopsis so that listeners know kind of what your endgame is of the story and how it came to be.
Debi: Villyge is all about setting working parents up for success. We work with employers, larger companies to support their working parents in achieving their personal family goals, as well as professional success. So we bridge that gap of helping employees be the best parent they can be at home, while maintaining an upward career trajectory. We do this by connecting employees, one on one with career coaches, parenting experts and wellbeing specialists. And then we also dig in with employers to create parent friendly workspaces by talking to them about policies that are necessary. Providing manager and leadership training, building out lactation rooms, and basically handling everything possible that a working parent could need preconception to college, in order to make it win win for the employee and the employer.
Dana: I love this, everything about your company just speaks to me on a personal level and a professional level. And I’m so excited to see where your company goes in terms of longevity and working with these large employers, because I think this is something especially now with COVID kind of wrapping up and parents getting a taste of what it’s like to be home so much more. And now coming back into the workforce and having these employers say, okay, we’re coming back into the office and December like this is really starting to become a reality for a lot of those parents. And I think it’s going to be so interesting to see what you guys can do for all of your clients. And these moms and dads coming back to work after such a crazy kind of year, year and a half that we’ve had this past year. So, Debbie, before we get all in depth of into Villyge and what you guys do and how you’re helping so many people talk to me about how you got here. So let’s go back pre kids, maybe even pre marriage, like talk to me about what your life looked like before Villyge was even a concept and kind of how you got there.
Debi: Sure, if I take you back even before finding my life partner, I would say the absolute beginning step and I didn’t really think about that until now was the commencement speech at my college graduation. I attended Barnard College of Columbia University, you know, all women’s college, we thought we could graduate and rule the world and do absolutely anything. And at that point, kids was the farthest thing from my mind. But I remember the commencement speaker talking about how we are going to face that day when we cannot have it all. And everybody walked out of there upset, like who was this person, she was a renowned New York Times journalist. And we were like that that was the worst speech ever. Fast forward. And I think it was our 15th or 20th reunion. We were all like she had her finger on the pulse. And so I think that was the very first time that it was put out there that I might not be able to have it all. And I’m an only child and I always had grand aspirations of having a large family. But I also went on to law school and I had grand aspirations of having that corner or having the big time career and I got there. I started my career in big Law started at a wall street law firm, I moved in house to an investment bank, which for corporate lawyers considered like the Holy Grail. So I was working for a large global investment bank. And that was the first time that I experienced working parenthood I was pregnant, had an amazing upward career, you know, I was going places doing things. And my pregnancy was like a two by four beside my head. And all of a sudden, everything started to spiral. And I realized, holy cow, you know, my employer does not support working parents, and I’m about to be one. And Fast Forward six months after the birth of my first child, I ended up walking away. And that was something I never in a million years would have thought that I would have done after working so hard to get my career to where it was. And I realized when I looked around, that I wasn’t alone, 43% of working moms and even 33% of working dads, switch employers or leave their employers completely post baby. And that’s interesting. It’s a tremendous number. And that’s when I realized that you know, what something has to change, the system has to change. And like you said, we’re at a critical point right now, as we’re starting to come out of, you know, the pandemic. And we are absolutely at a critical junction of where employers can no longer ignore that their employees are working parents, that their employees that are taking care of elderly that are taking care of their own children that have lives outside of the office. And for the longest time, I think employees tried to hide those lives, but you know, yes, zoom, and all of our cute little zoom bombers over the last month, it’s changed from both the employee perspective, as well as the employer. We are perspective. And this is the point that I wish I was at back when when if I could reverse the years, but we weren’t there yet. So that’s what Villyge started out to do. And that’s what I I, you know, attempted to do was really close that gap. And while the understanding of the need is there, we still have a long way to go. And I’m super proud to be in this space, and super proud of having the pleasure and the opportunity to create change going forward for the next generation of working parents. And, you know, hopefully we will make inroads with today’s generation of working parents as well.
Dana: Yes, I love that. And I think it’s so so interesting that you know, this, this pandemic has brought to life, so many different things. professional level and a personal level and combining the two. But I feel like Ville is at this perfect, perfect point where you are the solution for so many employers because people are going to be demanding normalcy, what the new normal, you know, new normalcy of, hey, we’ve been living this life for 18 months. We have a taste of this. We’ve proved to you that we can make it work. How are you going to show us that you are grateful for what we’ve done in the past 18 months because it’s been really hard for so many and I’m so thrilled that you have company that’s going to be able to walk employers through this change and to really do it right for their employees. So okay, talk to me about how you left your job. So you said Have you had your your first child and you at that point you left Did you totally step away way from LA entirely or did you All the nitty gritty yo I Want it all I know how it was born.
Debi: Yeah so the total total total nitty gritty so when I was pregnant I mean I had, I had like definitely darts flying at me from every which direction, whatever. It was a week before I even announced my pregnancy. Somebody came into my office laughing her head off, say He had to tell me the funniest thing. It’s the biggest joke turned out that article just announced that his wife is pregnant and unbeknownst to me Self, our boss had been using The communal prison. To print all sorts of things about in regards to fertility issues and getting pregnant, and it had been assumed that because I was newly married within the last couple of years That it was mine my stuff that I had been printing to. Oh my god She came in and she was like, Can you believe it? You know so and so announces wife’s pregnant Hahaha I thought it was you but you want to be that Stupid you will never ruin Your career that way. Oh Be willing And I was just like, that was step one, to taking a trip to out the door. Yeah, you know and so, the way I handled then was I kind of joked it off and you know, giggled and didn’t do anything about it much different than I would have responded today or the way probably the average employee would respond. Today when I look back and kind of embarrassed how I handled that, and then you know step two of taking a step out the door is at no point was there like a sit down with like, Alright, you know, what have you been handling over these last several months? What needs to be transitioned, you know, talk to me. Let’s have a review. Let’s gameplan instead it was a conference. About when I come back, maybe Maybe they can make room for me or There would be other positions I could take on. That would allow me to be a mom. It wasn’t necessarily that they were offering me a demotion, but they were offering me an opportunity to be there as a mom and I was like, when I do both and you as an employer like why are you You in the position to be talking to me about these things. Right? That’s what she thinks I started to percolate when I was out on leave, and I was a lawyer right? I’m not like doing face to face sales I’m mostly contract work and deal work and it completely could have been done remote and you know as we Now but back right wasn’t much of a possibility No. When time came back for me to after three months, you know to talk to my boss about Can I work for home sometimes Can I have some flexibility? You know, is there a way to work with my schedule because as you and I know, babies are kind of a week seven to seven sleep seven to seven in the ideal world. You No Yeah, nicely drove the seven, seven and my hours were, you know with the commute I was out of the office. I mean, I was out of the house seven to nine and that was right. That was it. Good day, so is basically willing to you know, get it all up it to see my child on the weekends and that was Isn’t possibility so I took another Three months off and try to figure things out. Then I was just realized I couldn’t Do it and that’s when things really started to percolate. What my next steps would be and Next steps were full throttle motherhood. I had four kids and five years because a personality Do you know, if you’re doing something, you got to do it all the way. Yeah. And then when number four went off to prison School and you know, I shoved him in the door that was almost on the dot the day that I you know launched with this idea And you know, went on to phase two.
Dana: Okay, so You have four kids in starting preschool and above. So you have this eye Be aware Did you eat And think about this. What was something that drew you to this or even knew that This would be something employers were interested And would invest in. I think it’s interesting from your perspective of your employer who clearly didn’t have much interest and I don’t know that, you know, I hate to make your employer The bad guy, right? It was a different time, right? This was not a thing. work life balance was not a hot button topic. You know? It was not a thing. So where did you even come up with that? idea and then have the courage to be like, okay, people will pay us to help them do this.
Debi: Yeah, and you’re right My employer was not a bad guy might be the coolest manager The best manager, the manager that’s probably taught me the most Wasn’t equipped with the skills to support Working here and that’s, you know That’s what we’re solving for. But I didn’t come out of the gate saying oh Okay, I’m gonna line up experts and coaches and we’re gonna go into companies, right? Like, you know, 10 years back what was a life by what was a life coach or what was A coach like that would that was something that he was unemployed was doing it was kind of like, joked about now it’s a growing profession. So we’re actually started was setting up corporate lactation programs because that was also a soft spot that I wasn’t able to tap into where I was, I didn’t have the support that I needed as a breastfeeding mom which also impeded my return to the office. So the issue fordable Care Act had recently been passed in 2010 which was the first piece of legislation that gave working women, the absolute right to take time and pores required to give them the space that they needed to pump in the office. And employees don’t like dealing with boobs in the office. It’s just nice. They don’t like talking about that. So it was something that I always knew was necessary. I struggled with breastfeeding you know, as do most working moms out there as moms. I mean, it’s it’s, it’s it’s hard that breasts not easy, not easy. And again being the type A personality actually when I want to become a certified lactation counselor. So throughout this whole time, I had always been talking to other working parents. I had become somewhat of, you know, just community supporter and cheerleader when it came to breastfeeding, so I went Want to become a CLC? And so I had the law in my back pocket you know today I’m a mom of five but at that time I had four kids I was a working mom came from this like very very very grueling job back right understood that needs of high demanding employers. I was a mom of four I got it. I got the struggle. I got the juggle and I was uniquely situated to really navigate this new, you know, legal morass. So I started with a few contacts Within the finance space tend to start to snowball. So I started to going in and working with companies on building out their corporate life. programs because they didn’t know what to do. And it’s fully evolved to us talking About how to breastfeed and pump when you return to work to how do I keep my career on an upward career trajectory? How do I have conversations with managers? How do I change internal policy to really support me? How am I going to handle traveling and breastfeeding and so much of it was geared towards career and that’s something that still differentiates us from our competitors in the market is that we are a hugely focused on that intersection of managing your home needs. And your professional needs and so and slowly time started to shift and employers to were saying Alright, you know, there used to be this maternity thing and now they’re a secondary caregiver now there’s just like gender neutral family, same time they’re like, Alright, you’re doing all of this like breastfeeding stuff. You know, this was 2013 for working moms, what are you doing for working dads? Can you do anything? Maybe they’re struggling to I mean, you know, it’s nice. There’s a maybe we know today there’s there. Absolutely. And so it’s just it became like an evolution of we went where the market went and where the market needs were, and keeping in mind that the goal was just to support working parents and achieving it. their personal and professional goals. And that was from the get go when we started with no with a focus on corporate lactation and it’s the focus today as we’re expanding into As you know, we’re actually doing a lot of talks these days on even how to support pet owners when they return to the office because you know families look at different today than they did 50 years ago. Not everybody has a child. Lots of people have you know, their first LITTLE FRIENDS absolutely stress of leaving them behind after bonding For 18 months, you Is it true stressor Absolutely productivity as well in the office. So it’s all about making that win win for the employee and the employer. And so we got here slow and steady. It’s been an absolute evolution, but we followed market trends and we follow The market needs.
Dana: Okay, so you’re at this point where you’re certified by the way overachiever starts to you like and that’s something that is It shows you’re clearly a go getter, but it’s interesting too, because you are being a lactation consultant and being a lawyer are two very different fields. That’s something that are but you clearly have it in you to go ahead and do what you think is right. Right and what you’re passionate about to make the world a better place for all these other moms that you see were impacted just like you were and especially, you know Going back to work and having to figure out the space and the time and the awkwardness and the keeping it cold and where are you going to store it and you know, all the different things is such a mind boggling process, especially when it’s your first time doing it. And especially when you’re in a corporate position where not many women had have been before you. Yeah, you’re kind of the one that setting this up and paving the path for those who may be doing it in the future with your employer. And I think That having that insight for you to say okay look, I became a certified lactation consultant. I did this on the side to kind of just help the moms around me who I saw the need and you were passionate about it, but then To turn it into something huge. I am so inspired and I think that so Many people out there have a similar path in different fields right they they’ve said okay I have the all these skills, this whole skill set. I’ve done all this education to you know, become And to do all the things that I’ve done. So now I’m becoming a lactation consultant. Like I think there’s a taboo with making the shift between Okay, how This huge education in this Huge career that I’ve built but now I’m passionate about something else. I think so. Many people at this point must judge themselves. For Why would I go and do this Something like that. When I have this whole skill set and all this education, I’ve invested so much money into my career, but I think you’re a shining example of that as something that’s leading you to the next step in your career and in your life that’s going to make a difference and I think that those tiny baby steps. I mean, that was the full catalyst for you in this business this whole Villyge business. And I think that that’s so inspiring. I love that
Debi: Yeah, you know what I said? How to be a CLC as part of my knew the end game and I’m right epidemic so it wasn’t just about becoming certified. Hello people but I really wanted to get into the new The gritty of the biology of like what it takes to maintain your milk supply in the office and What’s really happening, you know, hormonally? And how are we going to work with both the employees and the employers to adjust for? You know, no, you can’t have the mom, wait, you know, there’s right behind that there’s all that. But to your point, absolutely, there is such an emphasis on, you know, where you went to school and what your credentials are, and go work for this top law firm, or this top company, and something that this entrepreneurial journey has absolutely done. For me, it shifted my thinking, I have, you know, five children, and before ever becoming an entrepreneur, I mean, you know, they’ve been along for the ride, but I think if I didn’t have that, I’d be like, okay, you know, kiddos, I’m going to focus in on Tiger mom, and you’re going to go to the best schools and, you know, go off and get job at Google, or, you know, you’re going to put in your time, you’re gonna become manager, you’re gonna climb the ladder, and I totally see the world differently now. And I’m always really pushing my children to find what moves them and then to be the very best at it. And you know, it’s it’s not always about the top schools, or the top organizations, or things that, you know, look fancy on a LinkedIn page, it’s things that are going to move mountains, and what are you? How are you going to set yourself up? To do that, you know, there are so many things that, you know, aren’t things that you can study or major in, in college, or, you know, they’re not even titles, but the people are creating their own path. And it’s important to just tap into those passions. We’re saying, you know, I mentioned earlier, you know, what was the life coach? Well, you know, these days are so many people, including top executives, who swear by their life coaches, success of their big public companies. So I absolutely encourage everybody to take that moment, and figure out what drives them, what moves them, what really inspires them, and then figure out is that something that they want to monetize? Or is it something that we’re just going to keep on the side as a hobby and as a passion? But yes, I am absolutely done with labels I went to, you know, I went to the big fancy schools, undergrad, law school went to, you know, big fancy places to start my career. And I have friends who did the same. And you know, what, many of them are still cogs in the wheel, respectable cogs in the wheel, totally being an entrepreneur. Now, I’ve met, you know, high school dropouts, who are the most successful people. And it has totally changed my thinking, and the way I define success,
Dana: I love that. And I think that it’s so encouraging for those that have a passion for something, but maybe that doesn’t have anything to do with what they studied in school, you know, and maybe, but you can always use any of those experiences that you’ve had, you can always use that experience and that knowledge from the education and from those experiences to turn your business into something that really is going to make a difference. And if you’re passionate about something, you are going to be so much better at it than something that you’re not as passionate about. It’s always it’s the thing that’s in the back of your mind, that’s been, you know, burning there for however long, and being able to actually act on it and build something out of it is truly going to make such a difference. So talk to me about how you actually grew a Villyge. So it was I assume it was just you to start, is that true?
Debi: Yes, I Started in 2013 and it was just me. I was a solopreneur until 2018. So I kind of
Debi: yeah, a long time it because I had those four kids, I had a head, I found myself pregnant at 40. And it was a rough pregnancy. And then that first year, I was very focused on the little kiddo. So it was kind of like a pause. I was still maintaining the current clients that we had. But it was, you know, under 10 very big enterprise clients. And it was, it was enough to sustain the business, keep everything going. But then when the little guy turned one, he’s now four years old. That’s when I really had to really plan out how I was going to go after this and whether I wanted to take that next step. So obviously, I had to get my ducks in order at home with five kids. So, you know, bring brought on an Au Pair really up to help, you know, had serious conversations with my with my partner with my wonderful husband. And then in the fall of 2018 brought on to people grew, you know, up to six employees, lots and lots of independent contractors and other people that we rely upon. today. We are in, you know, many of the biggest organizations. We’re still growing. We’re still very much in growth stage. We don’t yet have 100 clients we have under 50. But we are we’re growing and we’re in really, really, really big companies. We’re working with Delta Airlines on their lactation accommodation while we’re helping Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We’re Pattison Square Garden. We’re working with you know some big industry names to make a difference in corporate America and that feels so good. And we are expanding every day. This has been a big year for us. So 2018, we brought on people, we started growing, the pandemic, obviously, put a little bit of a halt of things a little bit as it did for most growing businesses. But now coming out of the pandemic, there’s this huge light need, as we discussed, funding down on what working parents need within corporations. And there is tremendous interest, which is phenomenal. Part of what’s difficult for our specific industry is we fell into human resources, right, new resources, the sales cycle is very long, that’s something when you’re when you’re thinking about who your end buyer is, might not be something that you know, when you’re starting out, it’s like, Okay, I’m gonna change corporate America, you know, but it’s so much harder than that. But who within corporate America is your contact? What is the cycle? How do you break the barrier? How do you get in? How do you get time? And then, you know, to realize that sales cycles are sometimes two to even three years. So we’re talking to people now about budgets, three years out, right? So when you’re selling within our industry, it can snowball very, very quickly. So our pipeline is tremendous. Versus like, who we have actually, you know, right, you’re actually working with Wow, right? So as a startup, as you know, a mompreneur as, you know, a little business, it’s hard to judge your growth. And it’s, you know, it’s like, there’s that, ah, you know, I want this quicker, faster, stronger, but you just Have to go with it can’t you know it’s kind of like the little kid who wants to grow up quick. So we are growing very very, very rapidly this year and we have huge things planned for the next year we’re building out a b2b SaaS platform that’s really going to catapult Villyge to the neck level and allow us to really serve as some of those jumbo companies have 200,000 employees and plus so we’re super excited about what the future holds and the difference that we’re going to make
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Debi: stamina, stamina, grit, you have to plan you have to know your go to market strategy. You have to know who your buyer is and how to get to the buyer and what your strategy is. And where your sales channels are and how you’re going to add more sales channels, depending if you are selling direct to consumer versus b2b? And how are you going to get there? How are you going to multiply your efforts? Everything that you do and everything is that you set out to do? I’m always keeping the back of your mind, how am I going to scale this. So, since we started at a service as a service company, we have been working with employers to support their managers and leaders. But using manpower, now, we’re creating a technology platform that is going to automate all of that, and be able to deliver leadership’s hills to managers that are supporting working parents in a faster, quicker, more efficient way. So you don’t have to start out saying, I need to serve us, you know, every company or every right or right, but know how you’re going to get there, and how you’re going to use those first steps to gain the expertise and market knowledge that you need to ramp up. If you desire to ramp up, you know, many entrepreneurs are very happy, you know, keeping, you know, a handful of clients, you know, close to them, and just servicing those following their passion with whatever it may be.
Dana: Well, that’s kind of what you did the first few years, right? That was what worked for you and your phase of life with how old your kids were, and then having a, your, your your fifth baby on the way that worked for you then and then you were able to ramp up after that. And I think that’s a great lesson and in and of itself, is that, hey, she took the time that she needed to have the clients that she had and service them exactly how they should be serviced. Because that worked for her then. And then being able to show that four years later, five years later, you’re able to scale to this massive proportion. So talk to me as a solopreneur. How hard was it for you to then hire out and let some of the reins go? Where did you start? What was the most important to you in terms of getting tasks off your plate? Or even just if you if you wanted to keep all your same tasks, but to grow the business outwardly? Where did your priorities lie in deciding who to hire first?
Debi: Yeah, that’s a good question. It was definitely sales, you know, that was the day it’s like, all right, we put together this great model, we’ve proven that the model sell, that we’re able to service it. And now we want to go bigger, and I’m not going to be able to do that alone. So that is where we started with sales. And it is a big deal that first hire, you know, when it is this, there are so many logistics, you know, just starting payroll it deal, it is a huge deal when you have to get the state involved in all you know, all of these, you’ve already incorporated a business and with taxes and all of that. But bringing on employees is huge. And it’s so much more than just that first salary that you’re going to spend. And that’s a big step. It’s like, Oh my gosh, you know, is this person going to return what I’m paying that? Yep. And you know, we some some of my first employees did and some of my first employees did not, you know, when you’re talking about sales, DSL is that when you bring on a salesperson that what you pay them is going to be a joke, because they’re going to double, triple and quadruple it at least your fear is that they’re not, they’re not. So and I experienced both. And so that was a big learning curve, you know, needing to know when to separate, and learning that sometimes it’s better to separate earlier, I definitely learned that over time that it’s when something’s not working, it’s much better to cut the ties quicker, rather than drag things on.
Dana: And in that position, obviously, you’ve probably felt differently in the moment than you do now. You know, hindsight being 2020. But how did you kind of get through that first, like, Okay, this isn’t really working, like, were you able to kind of separate and say, okay, like, this is what we have to do for our business. Was that a hard transition for you? If because for me just thinking about it, like I’m starting to sweat right now.
Debi: Yeah. The first employee I fired it absolutely was because I had fired people before, you know, within corporate America. It wasn’t my money. It wasn’t mine. Yes, it was, it was very different. It is. So this absolutely was hard. And the first time there were many too many warnings about it not working out, you know, there was leeway. And it was a sales role. So it was we’ve got to get sales out what’s going on. Let’s try this. Alright, within three months, we need to see this, we see that even down to the point of when we finally cut it, we cut the salary, we let her keep the rule for another three months with the idea that she might be able to close some of these things that were in her pipeline. It didn’t happen. It was long and drawn out and emotional. And it was a great, great, great learning lesson. I think it’s something that every entrepreneur has to experience. You know, advice going forward is Just you have to separate the business from the emotion. And since then I’ve made many decisions that have been based 100% just on business. And these are the facts. And when you’re a small company, it hurts because you absolutely operate like a family. It becomes, you know, friendships develop. And it does. It’s very easy to become personal, especially when you know, you’re rallying behind a big Yes. But not everybody is made for a startup. You know, it’s very different than working for a big company. And yes, it’s a different personality. And so you have to recognize that and I think when you’re early on your hiring practices are a lot different than on in the game, the way I hire today is much different than who I hired in the beginning. In the beginning, it’s like, anybody who will work for the you’re like, yeah, you wouldn’t work for me, right? Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Exactly, exactly. And now we’re at the stage where we’re hiring professionals, you know, like, that’s not happening anymore. It’s not a matter of fitting somebody into a role. It’s hiring a set of skills for a specific role and setting that person up for success in that role. So it’s coming at it in a completely different through a different lens. But yeah, there’s always there’s always a learning curve when you’re first starting out.
Dana: Yeah. And you have to get there. I mean, you have to, you have to learn it for yourself. Because I feel like that’s definitely one of those things where especially, we were just saying how, like, yeah, you want to work for me, like, that’s so exciting. Like, you’re you feel almost flattered that somebody’s been interested in so you’re like, you want to, you want to make it work for them. Right? And so you want out you want to do, what can I do for you to make it better? And I think that’s a necessary step I do. I think that, you know, as hard as it could be to end something after having that experience, like it is a necessary step in your business to give you that confidence to say, hey, somebody did want to work for me, and I was able to pay them. And I was able to have this experience for them and give them this opportunity and give them this job to then on the flip and build that confidence to say, Okay, I’m providing something awesome. Like I’m providing input, you know, this is a great job for somebody who fits the profile. And I think that, yeah, exactly. But you have to get there and you have to work through it for yourself. It’s one of those things that people can tell you and give you that advice until they’re blue in the face. But until you actually experience it. Yeah. So it’s not something that he that you can understand. So I love that. Yeah. So, Debbie, how do you fit? What Villyge does into your own company, like with your employees internally? Do you like test ideas out now on your employees? Or in their families? Like? Do you get a lot of inspiration for what you’re going to be doing next from them? Or is it really just from the market?
Debi: The inspiration comes from the market from talking to our leaders. Absolutely what everybody within our team, though, has their finger on the market. So love it for you’re in sales, and you’re talking to HR leaders about their pain points that they’re experiencing on a day to day basis. Or if you’re somebody within the leadership, success division, and you’re reading up on everything, and, you know, understanding what’s being talked about out there in the ecosystem, and how we’re going to frame it. When we bring that information back to teachers and leaders. We’re inspiring each other and sharing each other. Our Slack channel is one of like, the most interesting spots just hang out and read, because we have all you know, everything under the sun on this topic, they are just being shared. But I think what is important that our organization does is I’m a big believer, and we we walk the talk. So we have a completely, not completely but mostly asynchronous work environment, you know, our sales team has to be there during work hours. So they work classic daytime schedule. But there’s absolutely an emphasis on like, Look, if you need to be there for your kid than just chunk your time where you’re doing the face to face Skype hours that are needed, kick off in the afternoon and get back on at night. Even if you’re in sales to do follow up emails that doesn’t have to get done during the day. What can you move to another part of your day, and there is absolute requirement that everybody be achieving their personal family goals as well as professional success. Of course, we work hard, you know, not be a crutch. You know, where like I you know, my personal family goals are sit back in a hammock and read all day, right? Like, that’s not gonna work. But that’s not gonna work anywhere. So it’s about finding that true balance that is able to achieve the team’s goals, the organization goals, as well as your personal goals. And that’s what we’re about both internally and externally.
Dana: I love that as an employee, I’m sure people who interview with you to be hired by you are probably just like this is going to be amazing for my work life balance, you know, because you get it and I think that’s, that’s so valuable. But I want to give a little bit of background for people who are listening who don’t understand the Employee Benefits world just really quickly. So before I was a photographer and left my full time job to spend more time with my kids and kind of be in control of my own life a little bit more. I worked for a benefits brokerage and i i’d say in previous podcast episodes, like I sold health insurance, and sure I did, but you also sell to larger employers, big packages and ideas and new companies that are providing their employees with amazing benefits. And the idea is to kind of enhance the work environment and to to help these employers really provide something different from other employers to put them ahead of their curve and to really get the best fitting employees for their position. So that was something that I did. And I loved that side. This was like the more creative side of the business where Yes, we sell health and dental and life insurance, but to be able to provide and, and pitch really interesting companies that were going to help their employees in different ways, was something that was really, really fun. So I am such a nerd for your business. I just love that. It’s something that you offer in general, but what I really want to know from my kind of background there, I see. And I hesitate to say this, because it sounds sort of abrasive but how and maybe maybe nosey this might be too nosy. But I want to know, so obviously, you’re selling to human resources, you’re selling to HR, because HR is the one that then puts in policies in place for their employees and tries to better the work environment and all the things they have going on for their employees. But there are a lot of times not the decision makers financially. Right. So how are you and your company? How is Villyge working with HR? Who obviously probably loves you right off the bat, right? They probably love the idea of Villyge and love what you all stand for? How are you working with them to convince the decision makers of their company to invest in Villyge ?
Debi: Yeah, so that’s a great question. I love it. It’s all about the ROI. It’s all about the return on investment. So after we sell HR, which, as you know, people, they’re they’re easy. They’re warm and fuzzy. They’re like, you know, Kumbaya, let’s make a great organization. It’s all about culture. And this is great, we have these awesome policies in place. And I struggle with how to drip this out culturally. Organization, we recognize Villyge is going to help us do this that’s going to make our life easier as HR, yes. How do we get hold? Oh, right. So to get it to sign off with, usually it’s the CFO, it’s all about showing them the ROI. Without any working parents support, the average return rate post baby is 59%. At any company that’s really low 59% 41% of working parents are off ramping, if you consider that the average birth rate within any company is 5%. If you look at 41% of 5% leaving, so you know, let’s say it’s 1000 people, you know, 50 people are gonna leave 41% of that, you know, and then you take that average salary. And so, you know, even if you’re looking at a salary of like 50,000, or sometimes it’s, you know, if you’re looking on salary, that’s, you know, 100,000 150,000 typically, it costs anywhere between 150 to 300%, to replace that one employee that has left, so depending on the organization and how large it is, and their particular leave rates, you know, because we know that, you know, some organizations are heavier on the females for males or you know, Millennials versus older people. We’ve been able to show an ROI of 36x and up some organizations it’s been as high as like 80x. Wow. It is a benefit that absolutely pays for itself when you examine just the replacement cost on attrition when you factor in that 80% of working parents will admit that their productivity is being affected and come back to that economists have placed a figure of 34 cents on every dollar is lost from the unproductive employee. That’s another source of just like, dollars flying out the window when you’re not supporting working parents and 80% has admitted. So if you So 41% are off ramping, those that are sticking around that 59% 80% of those are saying, you know, what, we’re struggling with productivity here. And then, you know, the other issue that we’re solving for is litigation, litigation, it doesn’t always go to litigation, sometimes it’s kind of like, my own personal story where it’s like, you tell someone that they were so you know, you wouldn’t be too happy to begin working where, you know, it quickly, you know, becomes a headache for HR. And then, you know, Planning Council gets involved in a quick settlement is passed through, companies spent so much money settling claims on an annual basis, not because they have bad policies, but because the managers are not toeing the company line. So we’re in there and work with managers, and we can get in there and work with the employees to up productivity, and give them the tools that they need to feel supported to retain their employees. And then you couple that with, you know, right now we’re going out, we’re dealing with a she session, and companies are really feeling the drain on their female talent, they have to put in place benefits that will attract top female talent, they want to go off to business schools and be like, yes, you’re going to work hard, you’re going to learn a lot. And yes, we do actually support family life. When you get to that stage in your life. Here’s how we do it. Here’s tangible proof. So it also becomes a recruiting tool. So the ROI is there. And it’s sometimes hard to it’s a little game of telephone, right? So yes, smelling HR, all this and they’re like, okay, the numbers make sense. But then it gets lost with the CFO. So we have to provide them with documentation. We really look at that particular organization to run the ROI numbers to get it up there. We coach HR, on Look, this is how you want to talk about it to your CFO. And we do that and you know, take a step back, you know from career coaching, we’re always about making it the win win. If you go to your boss and you don’t put it in terms of what you need to put it in terms of like, what they need. Same thing when we talk to HR about how are they going to get this across the CFO, we coach them on how they can look like the superstar how they’re going to be saving the organization money by bringing in a Villyge as a benefit. So that that’s our like sales playbook on how to get it up the line. It’s all about the ROI when it comes to benefits as you know
Dana: Yes, absolutely, and I know that you know obviously from experience in the field that having those numbers is so so important but also being able to show for their specific organization like you said running their specific numbers and being able to show exactly how you think it’s going to work, and how it’s worked for you in the past, but I think, from. So from a business perspective for you as an entrepreneur, how long did it take you to really feel confident in those numbers and tend to tweak them enough and to have enough proof from your actual clients that there’s something tangible that you can put in place and feel really confident you can hit that. How long did that take?
Debi: great question. So something that I didn’t talk about early for is when Villyge , is in place, our clients maintain a 96% retention rate. So, 9% to 96% So that’s how we run the numbers and ironically it’s one law firm that takes our average down. Oh my gosh that’s so funny. And that’s just par for the course when it comes to that profession, you know, it probably took us when we were able to have probably like, 10, large enterprise clients we were able to start to see trends. Once our representation edge towards like the 10,000 lives. Your 10,000 employees and we were able to really say, Okay, wow, you know, we didn’t just hit 96% over here but it was like, 98% over here and wow, that really hasn’t lost a single person, you know, We’re working with an investment bank right now, what we have been there for years they were one of our earlier clients, and there’s been, there was a turnover with their CHRO recently she’s she was retiring, and she sent this great email on how we helped them with female retention, A place that you know all investment banks, struggle. Yeah, yes, and that was like, is like, wow, you know, we have the numbers and these are numbers that are black and white and we give to HR to sell to the CFO, but beyond the numbers we’re making a difference, you know, we’re allowing those same female professionals who sat in my seat graduating college, take over the world, you know, to not have that two by four hit them on the head, you know when they announced their pregnancy, and it’s, it’s such a great feeling.
Dana: Oh my gosh, I’m like, so inspired and so like, I’m like, I just met you and I’m like proud of you I have no crowd but I have. I just think it’s, it’s amazing so it makes me want to like, go back into being a broker and like be able to pitch cool ideas like that so I just, I love everything you guys stand for obviously so obviously we talked a lot about who you service but if somebody is listening to this and they are part of a large employer what. What size are we talking about that you guys really primarily want to be servicing right now that you’re the best for
Debi: right now between 5-10,000 15,000 lives is our ideal clients next year in 2022 We’ll be moving to, you know, The sky’s the limit. At that point,
Dana: there’s big well I asked that because I have, I mean, majority of the people listening to this podcast are moms and so I’m really excited for them to hear this and say hey like my employer, really use something like this and hear about it and I know that there are so many great ideas that come from employees and it’s always worth a shot to reach out to your HR department and say Hey, I heard about this really awesome company on a podcast and I’d love for you to you know reach out and explore that idea so that’s why, that’s why I asked that because I think if you’re listening to this and you, you know, maybe, love your job, and don’t want to leave or don’t want to become an entrepreneur but you’re, You know, interested in the podcast anyway. This is a really great opportunity for you to kind of seize the day and make your work life balance even better than than it already is. So, Debbie, thank you so so much for coming on and doing this with me, I’m like beyond delighted to talk to you and I can’t wait to chat further I’m going to. We’ve already talked to W I’m like you gotta you got to get in touch with my old people we got to, we got to make something happen here So Debbie tell everybody where we can find you online, your website, social media, all the things.
Debi: Yeah, you know, everywhere, we’re Villyge , whether it’s Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter anywhere it’s Villyge and it’s Villyge spelled vi LLYG And if you want to make the asking your employer, go to our website Villyge comm. Scroll d own to the bottom in the footer and there’s a little link there that says make the ask. We’ll do the hard work for you, just shoot us an email and we’ll go to your employer and and we’ll pitch them on your behalf.
Dana: See she’s already making it easier for you. I just can’t even, she’s got all the answers, it’s perfect. Well, Debbie, thank you so so much and I’m so excited to get this episode out there and have everybody hear what amazing things you guys are doing for our workforce. Thank you. It was a pleasure to chat with you. I am so honored you spent any minutes of your day listening to me babble about living this entrepreneurial life amidst the chaos in any mom’s normal day to day. If you love what you’ve heard and read more snippets of knowledge about this mob boss life, head over to our website at amidst the chaos podcast, calm. For show notes and links to anything mentioned in today’s episode. If you’re really feeling inspired, it will mean the world to me and my family if you take the time to write in with you. Thanks for joining me, amidst the chaos.
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