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Our guest today is the COO of Lawlytics, Anita Malik.
Anita has over 15 years of experience leading operations, marketing, and product development at a number of startup organizations and also at Arizona State University, where she served as Deputy Director for the school’s business journalism institute.
Her operational excellence and digital background have helped her lead two Arizona startups through successful acquisitions, as COO at ClearVoice and COO at LawLytics.
Anita is also passionate about creating communities for social change. She did this as Founder and Editor of East West magazine, a nationally-acclaimed print and online publication focused on the Asian American experience.
She was a recurring segment guest on NPR’s “Tell Me More,” with the editors of Latina, Essence, and others to discuss our country’s changing demographic and the untold stories.
More recently, Anita built digital communities for change as a 2018 nominee for Congress. She is also a board member for Moms in Office and the National Council of Jewish Women, Arizona. Her most important role though is mom to 8-year-old Wade, 7-year-old Avery, and fur baby Marky.
In This Conversation We Discuss:
- What the hiring process is like for an entrepreneur-led company
- How Anita handled people who were once vying for her job that wound up reporting to her
- How Anita uses delegation to get the expected results
- How to properly navigate between a CEO and Co-CEO
- How to keep employees from bypassing the COO to get permission from the CEO
- What’s working to retain employees during the “Great Resignation”
Connect with Anita Malik: LinkedIn
Lawlytics – https://lawlytics.com
Connect with Cameron: Website | LinkedIn
In this episode, our guest is the COO of LawLytics, Anita Malik. Anita has several years of experience leading operations, marketing, and product development at a number of startup organizations and also at Arizona State University, where she served as Deputy Director for the school’s Business Journalism Institute. Her operational excellence and digital background have helped her lead two Arizona startups through successful acquisitions, as COO at ClearVoice and COO at LawLytics.
Anita is also passionate about creating communities for social change. She did this as the Founder and Editor of East West Magazine, a nationally-acclaimed print and online publication focused on the Asian American experience. She was a recurring segment guest on NPR’s Tell Me More with the editors of Latina, Essence, and others to discuss our country’s changing demographic and the untold stories. Anita built digital communities for change as a 2018 nominee for Congress. She is also a board member for Moms in Office and the National Council of Jewish Women, Arizona. Her most important role though is mom to Wade, Avery, and fur baby Marky. Anita, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me.
I’m looking forward to talking to you about this. I’m going to jump right into the most important thing first because it was something that dawned on me. We’re doing this interview at 6:30 in the morning, Arizona time. You have kids that are no doubt sleeping and probably going to wake up at some point. You’re running as COO of a business and teams globally. How do you juggle it all, for real?
It seems so cliché. You’re like, “Of course, she’s going to say that,” but it’s the truth. It’s being organized and understanding. I got up. I often do calls. We are a global team. We have teams in India and we are owned by an Australian company. Time zones are a battle here but often, I am up early. I know that a child might get up during a meeting so what do I need to do to prep for that child to be able to be self-sufficient to get breakfast going?
I do that prep. I cut some fruit and put some vitamins out. Whatever it is, you get into those routines and learn to adapt. One of the biggest things for any COO is being flexible because things are shifting all the time. I’ve been a COO, particularly with startups. I love startups so I know how fast-moving those are and things change every day. You’ve got to be flexible and adaptable in all areas of your life to make it work.
You’re right. Everything does change, especially in that startup environment. How many employees do you have in LawLytics?
We’re at about 65 so we’ve grown. When I started, we were probably under 30. We’ve increased on the product and engineering side.
You’re at a stage in a business cycle where the employees are joining a real business. They’re expecting us to have the systems and some of the processes in place. Sometimes, some of these employees aren’t that adaptable to change. They’re not as flexible. They’re expecting stuff to be going down in that straight line. How do you work with them on that? How do you help employees understand the need to adopt and be flexible?
To me, that’s the core of the hiring process to start. I’ve developed a hiring process with an organization where people go through tiers of levels of interviews. The managers are comfortable with them but they get to meet the team members. I have the final conversation usually to have a gut check. For me, that is exactly what you said. I make sure they understand that. I look at those traits.
Doing this for so long, I’ve been able to recognize who can truly adapt to a startup environment. We may seem to the outsider because we were required and we have this global company as our parent company that it’s no longer a startup. It’s a little bit more corporate-y and all that but it’s not true. I’m still looking for that personality that can truly be flexible, adaptable, and understands change. We make that clear throughout the process.
Something I’ve done with my team across the board is people get change fatigue. I noticed in 2021 that we were changing things all the time. I have a ton of agenda items. I want to get done things that will prove the efficiency and scalability but I take these intentional pauses in that because you can start to see it build up. We see that change fatigue. Those intentional pauses also help the new hires. They see that there’s a flow here and we’re not constantly going to change every day.
That’s especially true in that entrepreneurial environment. The CEO, are they pretty entrepreneurial as well in terms of the flavor of the month or week?
Yeah, in both times I’ve been a COO. I had co-CEOs at ClearVoice so two. In startups, it is that entrepreneurial mindset. It’s a founder that came in that was like, “I’m going to create something.” They’re the CEO of a growing company. That essence of being a startup founder bootstrapping all that, changing, and trying to see what the market’s doing now versus the next day sticks. You don’t lose that. We’ve gotten into that vibe and you’ve got to get into it for it to work. It’s like, “Let’s have the vision, the long-term plan, or the six-month goals. Let’s do that as COO and CEO while I run the day-to-day.” There are those shifts that happen that are a little bit more in the weeds but they’re still happening.
I want to talk to you a little bit about the hiring process that you mentioned as well. Walk us through what your traditional recruiting, interviewing, and hiring process would be.
It’s important at every level, no matter who’s coming in and for what that there’s some assessment so to speak. I want to call it a test. We do a normal phone screen. That’s our first step. We have somebody from our team and the operations team do a phone screen and make sure that there are no red flags. We don’t look at resumes in the traditional sense because, in a lot of our roles, there are people that come from different backgrounds.
We’re in a time of the Great Resignation and people are switching careers. We’re looking at skillsets and not like, “You’ve done this job before.” We do the phone screen and then they get an assessment. To me, it’s important that the assessment is done before they start to meet the team. We are a busy group. They then come in and meet with a couple of different people. They’ll meet with the manager of that team as well as somebody either that’s above that manager or at the peer level to get another gut check. If they’re all happy and we want to move this person forward, it goes to the actual team members.
If they’re coming in for the customer support team or the onboarding team, they’ll meet members of that team, which a lot of companies bypass because they’re afraid of what could be said. There are a lot of different things I’ve heard over the years of, “Don’t do that,” but to me, it’s important because everybody needs to feel good culturally and that there’s a cultural fit there. I’ll then do a gut check if everybody’s like, “Yes, this is the person.”
I like the team doing the round of interviews. I also think it probably creates a little bit more buy-in and maybe collaboration in the onboarding process as well. It’s like, “You interviewed them and you liked them then so let’s help make sure they’re successful.” There’s got to be a bit of that. Does that happen?
It does. We’re still small in so many ways that we count on everybody to help with those training initiatives in the beginning. They’ll have a 2 to 3-week training plan. Every member of that team is asked to do something to help this person along to have one piece of their training. It’s important that they’ve already felt like, “I’m 100% on board with this candidate coming in because I’m going to spend my precious time helping them get up to speed.” It makes a big difference.
You changed your career or company in the middle of COVID. What were you thinking? You joined LawLytics in the middle of COVID.
I did. You read my intro or my bio there. I ran for Congress in the middle there in two cycles. I came across LawLytics through a contact, someone that supported the campaign. Someone that’s the VC angel community here in Arizona was like, “This company needs a COO. Let’s get you connected.” Starting in the middle of COVID was interesting. I had been about 1 year into COVID or 6 or 7 months. I was like, “I don’t know what the future holds.” Here I am, in this gap in my career. I was having the conversation thinking, “We’ll be back in offices at some point. I’ve got to get there and start having these conversations.”
When I started, it was all remote. I’ve not met most of the employees. I’d never met my CEO for about six months after I joined. I don’t know what I was thinking but I was terrified by that. I was terrified that what I feel like I’m very good at as a COO and why I end up in this position always is building teams and a culture that is team-centric and not individual-centric. That helps the mission of the company. I’m like, “I don’t know how to do that remote.” It stressed me out.
I also had to prove something walking into this company. Everybody who had been doing their thing and feeling good about it was like, “Why is she suddenly coming in to change things?” They were afraid of that change. Some of the core employees have been with our CEO for several years. Two together, it was daunting. I don’t often get afraid of things but I was like, “It’s a challenge. I can do it.”
There are lots that have been talked about that in the first 90 days, what the role is when you’re coming in as a senior officer in the first 90 days, and how you don’t want to upset the apple cart. All of that was written in the pre-COVID, coming into an office environment, spending time with people, going for luncheon coffees with people, and getting to know each other. That didn’t freaking happen. How did you do that? What were you cognizant of doing to get yourself onboarded in a good way?
I made sure that I connected with everyone. I know that sounds so simple but it was something that I did consistently over the first year with the company so every person in the company takes a lot of time and got to get to know me. They had different types of team meetings and group meetings. I noticed that the company seemed fragmented. This team was over here. The other team was on the other side. They weren’t communicating in a way that was good for the company or the customer but they were all in ops.
I started to bring those together and add some get-to-know-you type of exercises to my ops meetings. Everybody in the company does a TED Talk at some point in an ops meeting. It’s something that has gotten people to come together. That was me trying to build the team. As far as their trust in me and their belief, I had 1 person about 6 months in who said, “I have to say that I’ve learned so much from you. When you came in, I thought, ‘She’s just a politician. What can she do?’”
That was hard to hear but I understood it. If I was in their shoes, they didn’t know much about me. We never met in person. Building trust with them was like, “I had to do the work.” I came in and probably a couple of months after, they had their first product release that they’ve had in years. Everybody was freaking out about how we are going to handle it and this and that. I said, “This is what we’re going to do. It’s going to be great.”
We built so much excitement around it that chipped away a little bit at that, “She doesn’t know what she’s doing. Who is she?” type of thing. I started to roll out process improvements and support services for our customers. I did those all in a very methodical way in terms of not overloading the team. Everything was tested. They were involved in the process, which is key. I made sure everybody’s voice was heard. Through all that, you build that trust and understanding, “I’m not here to make your lives miserable. I’m here to improve it for everybody.”
What about the group of people that were vying for the job that then got to report to you?
How did you know that?
It happens at every midsize company where the CEO is, for the first time, hiring from the outside versus promoting from within.
That was a new experience for me. In my previous role as COO, I helped them rebrand and build that. We were an agency. There wasn’t somebody else. That was challenging. There was that. You nailed it. It was the same thing but it did take longer though with those individuals to prove out. It’s very simple but listening goes a long way and being able to share transparency back.
If you’re somebody that wants to be in my position and you feel suddenly cut out of everything, true or not, that’s the emotion that person will feel. They’re like, “I’m not important.” Learning how each person works, giving them those responsibilities, and delegating are so important in this role and something that I’m still always teaching myself.
It’s easy to hold everything but two-way communication, listening, understanding their concerns, and making sure that people’s voices are heard do make a difference. It doesn’t happen overnight. I don’t want to make it sounds so easy but you have to keep at it. The minute you walk away from that line and you start to say, “This isn’t working. I’m going to go do my thing and not worry about it,” it falls apart very quickly.
I keep having these things I want to go back and ask about but you keep mentioning other things that I’m intrigued about. In terms of delegation, delegation is one of the twelve modules in my Invest in Your Leaders course. I’ve always been keen on teaching people that. What are your systems around delegation to ensure that you get back the result you’re looking for and your team feels like they’re being led in the right way? Can you give us some of your thoughts on delegation?
I don’t know if I have a system. I might need to get that from you. It’s something that I’m always teaching myself. I’m a type A personality. I’m a perfectionist so it’s hard for me to delegate. I do it but it’s something I have to think through. If I had a system, what I’d say it has boiled down to is getting people to communicate what they’re interested in doing.
For example, I also run the marketing team. It’s three of us. We go through everything that needs to be done long-term that week or short-term. I try to see where people’s interests lie first. If I’m handing stuff out like, “You’re going to do this and that,” sometimes you have to do that but in an ideal situation, it’s like, “What’s your interest? We have all these projects going on. Who’s going to take what?”
Let them come to the table with volunteering. “I want to do that. I want to help write that email.” I’ve noticed that works because then they’re going to do a better job. I’m not then going to feel as much like, “I have to go fix things.” They always know that I’m there to support them, review things, and look at things. For me, it’s become, “Where are you interested in? What are you going to step up to the plate to do?” I also assigned things.
What you’re talking about is core to a concept called situational leadership. It’s one of the other concepts in the course but situational leadership and delegation are tied so closely that if somebody’s not into working on a project and they’re not excited about it, don’t give it to them. You’re almost pushing rope at that point. I’ll give one of my thoughts on delegation but I want this episode to be about you, not me sharing ideas.
One of mine is that Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill the space that we give it. When we delegate a project to people, we have to tell them how little time we want them to spend on it, not how little time we think it will take them. It’s very similar to how little money we want them to spend. If I said to my assistant, “Can you organize a dinner for six of us?” when I’m in Scottsdale, she could book us off at Fat Ox, Ocean Club, or something and have this crazy dinner and have all the wines being decanted but what I meant was, “Can you book Uber Eats for six of us? We’ll eat at my suite at the Royal Palms and we’re going to have a working dinner.”
I didn’t delegate clearly and I also didn’t give her a budget. That’s important that when we delegate, we do that as well as consider that people are either into it or not. You mentioned the co-CEO part. Working with co-CEOs, what was that like? How did you balance? It’s hard enough working with one CEO, especially an entrepreneurial CEO. How was it working with two?
It’s a challenge and I don’t think early on I understood the difference. The key was as I found out who was passionate about what area of the business, it made it easier for me to navigate. One was passionate about the sales side and the day-to-day operations. The other one was all about marketing, messaging, and that type of thing.
Those were big decisions. They were in that room together with me and making them. It was always this, “Who’s going to take it and which direction?” Being able to then take my concerns to the right place was important. It’s challenging and understanding their relationship. With co-CEOs, you can imagine that it’s not perfect. There’s that back and forth and those struggles. Being in the midst of that a lot of times often put me in a position trying to get an answer.
From the comedy perspective, it’s like, “Yes or no? What did we decide?” Let them debate it out often. It was frustrating because I didn’t think my voice as much as now was heard. It was 3 of us versus the 2 having that conversation but we got a lot done. It was just I had to be a little bit more sneaky about it. I don’t know if that’s the right word but I had to try to get in there with, “Can we make a decision?” We then boil it down.
In some ways, it’s not unlike the CEO-COO relationship at times for a lot of our direct reports where our direct reports want an answer and they go to mom and dad like, “Can I have a cookie?” Dad is like, “What did your mom say?” Our kids play us off and sometimes our employees do as well where they know they’re going to get a yes or they need a different opinion when they’ve already gotten one. How do you play out that with your team where there is something that is within your span of control or your responsibility and you could make the final say but they go to the CEO? How do you deal with that?
We’ve done a great job with that at LawLytics because we’ve had that conversation. The whole thing I love in my position with LawLytics is the CEO and I have gotten to a transparent relationship where we can talk about these things. It’s about both of us growing in our roles and that’s how we’ve positioned it. That’s been my concern always from the beginning, particularly coming in as somebody that they’re like, “Who is this person? Why is she coming in? I want her job,” whatever those issues may have been.
We’ve talked about that. He’s not involved for several reasons but that’s one of them in the day-to-day. After about six months of being on the job, people don’t go to him. They understand that I’m moving those pieces and making those decisions. I do go to him with certain things. They don’t feel that they need to go to the top. They feel like they can get their job done with me. That makes it so much easier and cleaner. He and I have those conversations. If he has a concern, I’ll bring it to the team and that type of thing.
You’re right. It does take a little bit of time to socialize that but once they’re used to it, they’re used to it. Tell us a little bit more about LawLytics. What’s the core of what your business does? Who are your customers? What’s an ideal customer for you? I want to go into some of your team and the organization itself.
LawLytics, we’re the foundation of a small law firm’s digital marketing. We create the website. It’s the website but it’s a hub. We have our proprietary platform that was designed specifically for attorneys. It’s those solo or small law firm practices with 3 to 5 lawyers. Oftentimes, it’s just one trying to go out and hang their shingle and start their business. It’s about empowering these small business owners, that are attorneys, to not get overcharged for their marketing, not lose control of their marketing, and have to constantly be waiting on an agency to give them the tools to do it themselves.
I run an organization called the COO Alliance. Two of our members are big in the marketing space for law firms. I didn’t realize the industry was that big. One of them is called Hennessey Digital and they’re a SEO shop that does SEO for personal injury lawyers. The other one is called SMB or Bill Hauser’s group. He’s got hundreds but he teaches them more on the business and the operations side of things. Is it classic that domain experts like doctors, engineers, dentists, and lawyers are good at what they do but suck at running a business? I don’t mean it as a negative either but it seems like there’s a big industry to help them.
There is, particularly on the tech side. They went to school to do this specialty and they want to focus on that specialty and that’s better for their business too. Our CEO, Dan Jaffe, started this company because he’s an attorney. You see that often. If you don’t understand what’s happening in the digital marketing space and the tech behind it, it’s easy for someone to say, “This is what you need to do.” You’re overpaying and all that type of stuff. Especially for these smaller firms, they don’t have those budgets so he wanted to be able to provide something at a cost point that made sense and did everything they needed to do so they wouldn’t get in those positions.
You’ve got a global team. What’s the core makeup of LawLytics? How many are North America-based? How many are global? What are each of the groups doing or is it mixed?
It’s a little bit mixed. We are owned by an Australian legal tech company. The largest in the world owns a good chunk of legal tech. We don’t have direct team members in Australia. We interact with them and our sister companies who are all across the world as well. Our team, in terms of LawLytics employees, we’re about half and half with the US and then India. A lot of our product and engineering is in India. We have some products in engineering in the US as well.
Any complexities with dealing with the India group? It feels truly like the world is flat and we’re dealing with employees in all these different groups. What’s the secret to working with teams in India? How’s it going?
I don’t know their secret but it’s going great. It’s been that way since I joined. We’ve scaled that team up considerably. If you get over the time zone issues, you can adjust to that. We have members of our US team that are on the East Coast and it works great. It’s worked out well that a lot of my product people in the US are East Coast so they have a great working relationship.
You’re right. It is flat. Lacking all these other tools, it doesn’t feel like they’re anywhere different. We’ve not had that struggle. There are some cultural things that happen no matter what when you’re in that global situation that we’ve had to overcome and understand how they’re absorbing information from us. If somebody on the US team puts in a ticket for something, we make sure that we’re very clear about what it is. You don’t have to do it just because we put it in there. We need to talk about it. That was process-based. It’s not been challenging that I can think of.
What are the cost savings? If you’re hiring an engineer in India versus an engineer in Middle America, is it 50% or 30%?
I’d say roughly that but like everywhere else, India’s going through that. The people are moving and the market is great. It’s not as much as people would think. For us, it was talent. This is a group that before they were employees, worked separately as consultants to the engineering team. It was something that they understand what we’re doing here and that talent is important.
One of our COO Alliance members said at one of the meetings that 70% or 80% of their employees are in Bulgaria, Romania, and somewhere else in Latvia or something. They said that it’s about 30% to 40% cheaper. Maybe 50% cheaper but they pay more than the market. They pay about 15% more than they should or could so that the employees in that market feel so loyal. They’re going around all their friends like, “How are you getting paid that?” It’s almost like they’re working for PayPal in San Francisco when they’re not. We have to, in a way, because we’re also competing against the Bay Area. The Bay Area is hiring talent globally, not just in the Bay Area.
It’s been important to us to make sure that we’re not undercutting anyone anywhere, here or over there. People feel like there’s loyalty. One of the things I’m so proud of since I’ve been COO and I’m afraid to out loud because I don’t jinx myself is I haven’t lost an employee. I haven’t had someone leave. That’s important.
Especially during what’s being called Great Resignation. What do you think your secret is? What’s working?
It’s that alignment. Align teams to feel like they each are contributing to the overall mission of the company. People work because they have to work. Oftentimes, not everybody is like, “This is my passion,” if you’re not an entrepreneur person. If you hire the right people that feel connected to what you’re doing and then you make sure that they see how that happens in their day-to-day job, they want to be at a place like that.
It’s how we are as human beings. We want to feel valued and be able to see an impact on what we’re doing and spending most of our time on. For me, it’s that effort to have brought the teams together but then also be the person that can say, “Where do we see if trouble is coming up? Why? Is it because they’re not hearing what’s going on? Is it because they’re not feeling valued?” People think it’s all about salaries and money. It’s not. It’s that feeling like a part of something bigger.
It’s also giving a thing about them as humans. COVID has accelerated for most companies. We had to give a thing about each other. Many don’t and that’s who’s getting people quitting. If you don’t care about people, you don’t align them. I was listening to something that Malcolm Gladwell was talking about on a podcast. He’s the author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and all of his other books.
He said that he feels like we’re going to have to move back to the offices in some way more than we maybe are thinking because people are social animals. We’re not getting that social need met as much. Do you see anything there or are they getting the social need met with friends and family and they don’t need it met with work?
It’s a concern but there’s enough of the population, particularly ours, that people are happy to be working at home. People do miss the social. They’re probably getting it with their friends and family but if you can create some of that within the digital workspace that you have with them or that virtual space, that helps as well. We’ve seen mental health issues go up post-COVID. It’s that isolation. I haven’t experienced it a lot with this team and we’re very lucky for that. If you asked me in 2021 if we’d go back into offices, I’ll say yes. In 2022, I’m less convinced.
I have a friend of mine in Arizona, Jonathan Kaiser, who runs a big real estate group. He helps tenants with their leases and negotiates with big landlords. He’s like, “It’s coming. It’s a big wave of companies that are not going back to their offices. They’re all renegotiating getting out of leases or they’re expiring.” It’s weird. I would have thought there was no way.
I talked to a company in Columbia. They had 800 employees and he said that pre-COVID, he never would have said yes to anyone working from home and now, he told all 800 to never come back to an office like, “Don’t ever come back to work.” Adapt and be flexible, we talked a little bit about that. Talk about the startup culture and what it’s like being a COO in a startup culture.
It’s crazy. I have this often joke where I say, “I don’t know how I end up in this role.” I like to fancy myself being a product person and a marketing person but I always end up running operations. The biggest thing about doing it in a startup is being on top of everything and the ability to remember everything that’s happening and be organized about it. That’s the case in larger organizations surely but you have a lot more maybe support around you.
For me, it’s being like, “My manager of the customer success team might tell me something but I’m going to go down to the person that’s doing it because we need to get into the detail.” It’s being willing to constantly all day long shift gears, shift between projects and teams, and get into those weeds but I love that. I would be miserable if I was hearing from my direct reports and not being involved in what’s happening.
What was it like getting acquired? You’ve gone through 1 or 2 acquisitions. What was that like?
It’s different both times but in both cases, the parent company has been like, “You do your thing. We’re not changing anything. We want you to build out. Here are some goals.” That part has been similar and not something to stress about. The biggest thing is the team, how teams react, and ensuring people feel comfortable being as transparent as we can.
In our situation, we’re still learning about our parent company. It’s not been that long. We were acquired in around October and November 2021. If they don’t hear from us for a month, they’re like, “What’s up?” It’s like, “We don’t know anything different. We’re doing what they said. Nothing’s changed. We’re continuing to do this.”
This has been interesting because we have a lot of sister companies. At this time, it’s been for me trying to navigate that and figure out where we can build partnerships and things like that. It’s added this other layer of these sister companies, which is exciting but a whole other job that you could add on. We’re looking at bringing in someone to do partnerships at this point.
How about in terms of navigating the politics or the new group of people that you report to or into? It’s not just you and the CEO. I would imagine there’s a board, some governance, or maybe even cohorts at some of these other sister companies. How do you navigate all of that? That’s got to be different as well.
It is. My CEO and I split that. I’m trying to run the day-to-day operations, keep people going, set those goals, and work through the product. He’s navigating that part of it. He has a good relationship. Our parent company is privately owned. The head of that company has direct communications with our CEO. They meet weekly and talk about the higher-level vision. There’s been them navigating in terms of the operational finance side of it because that’s a big part of the organization but otherwise, it’s not been too challenging. It’s more trying to get that FaceTime and we have it regularly.
I want to go through your growth in the business world and I also want to talk about some of the growth and the lessons that you took from running for Congress. Talk about some of your careers that got you to be the COO the first time. What have you pulled from that into your second role? We’ll then talk a little bit about Congress.
I have a Master’s in Broadcast Journalism. My undergrad degrees are in Computer Information Systems and Finance. I’ve always had these two parts and people were like, “What are you doing?” when I was doing my education and going back to do journalism. It was before what we should call convergence but it was before the internet. All the news organizations had to figure out, “How do I communicate in this way and keep my business alive?”
It turned out to be the best thing as we moved into the digital world we’re in, where I have both of those sides. That’s what ClearVoice was about and that’s why I was so excited to help them create that company because it was about content marketing and creating that freelance marketplace for the gig economy, which was at the time a starting thing. We have COVID where the gig economy is the life.
That was exciting for me and it was something that was able to bring those two things together. That role helped me grow. I didn’t go in saying I’m going to be a COO. I was leading the content team and doing the things that made sense with my resume. It was something that I realized I grew in how I can lead teams, inspire people, and keep things moving and organized. That’s how that evolved and that was a great time for me.
That’s a huge growth for a leader as well when they realize that their primary role is growing and aligning people. It’s not doing stuff right. It’s a weird shift as well.
They’re like, “What do you want to do now?” I’m always like, “I want no meetings. I’ll write something. I’ll work on the emails. I want quiet time.” I say that but that’ll last a day if that ever happened and I’d be like, “Where is everybody? Let’s talk and see how you’re doing.”
You’re migrating and pulling back towards the good areas. What about Congress? How did you grow? What lessons do you think you pulled running for Congress that you use as a COO?
When I ran the first time, we had great success with that. I moved the needle here in this district. I was like, “You got to run it like a business. It’s digital marketing. What’s the big deal?” I had a lot of people who had worked with me in that space and joined my team. We ran it that way. I wanted to see a campaign be about building a brand and everything you do with the business.
Coming out of it, I learned more about how to inspire teams. The biggest thing that I’ve brought to LawLytics and going forward is I had one of the biggest volunteer organizations in this state. To me, the volunteers on the congressional campaign are the customers because that’s your power. Without them, it’s hard to get it done. Nobody knows who you are.
If you can treat it like that, take that approach back to business and say, “How do we create communities with our customers? How do we serve them better?” Also, our team and employees. That’s what comes back to everything I’ve been saying about listening and making sure people have a voice, which was so critical in the campaign. I’ve applied that to everything I’m doing here.
A lot of my team members, including the C-level and our CEO are always like, “You’re so diplomatic. How should I handle this situation? We’ll do these sessions.” I’m like, “I don’t think I’m that diplomatic. I’m silly and confused half of the time. That’s my assessment.” Truly, people forget to listen and then say, “Let me ingest all the information and figure out a good way to handle this that works for everybody.” The campaign helped me have confidence in that. As women, we’re always saying we’re not good at something. I own it. I say it and the campaign gave me that as well.
I love that whole about inspiring people and creating that movement too. I’m friends with Doug Ducey. Is he still the Governor of Arizona?
He is but 2022 is his last term.
I’ve been friends with Doug for several years. One of the things I loved about him was that he took his lessons from the business world, from Cold Stone Creamery which he was the Founder of, and brought that into politics. I’m going to be curious to talk to him when he is done. If he was going to go back to Cold Stone again, what would he take from the government back into Cold Stone? He did it the one way. I’m curious about the other. I want to go back to the 21 or 22-year-old Anita Malik. I want you to give yourself some advice that maybe you know to be true now but you wish you’d known back then.
Own what you’re good at and have that confidence. Speak up throughout that journey. I’ve played so many different roles. I was a developer when I started. I’ve been a business analyst. I’ve done everything. I often felt bad for asking for more or standing up for myself or my team because oftentimes, I felt like I was the mother hen with teams at every place I’ve been. I had this bad feeling though like, “I shouldn’t have done that.” I would tell myself, “There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re doing the right thing. You need to be that leader and own it.”
Anita Malik, the COO for LawLytics, thanks very much for sharing with us on the show.