Today we are joined by mother-daughter team Edith Cooper and Jordan Taylor, as they discuss their business, Medley. Medley provides a space for workers to meet in guided, diverse group sessions in order to grow their collaboration skills through conversation and teamwork. Listen in for Edith and Jordan’s perspectives on the necessity of cultivating diversity in the workplace, running a business as mother and daughter, and how Medley’s mission aligns with an ever-evolving workforce.
Edith Cooper [00:00:01] Sure, well, I would say this, I think that any successful company has a culture value statement and it centers generally around important values that all in the company should strive for: collaboration and commitment to clients, purpose, etc.. And there’s usually a comment there with respect to diversity.
Sam Jayanti [00:00:25] Welcome to Ideamix radio. I’m Sam Jayanti. And every week I chat with entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, career changers, experts and enthusiasts for insider tips that you can apply to turn your idea into a business. So sit back and enjoy today’s show.
Sam Jayanti [00:00:48] In an increasingly polarized world, how do we find the space to connect and engage with people outside our daily lives? Edith Cooper is one of the nation’s leading black business executives, having spent 30 years on Wall Street. She was most recently a partner in the head of Human Capital Management at Goldman. Prior to founding Medley, Jordan Taylor worked in media as chief of staff at MK and was a consultant at BCG. Medley began with the realization that something was missing from modern life. Jordan and Edith, mother and daughter, came together to collaborate on a solution. Edith, Jordan, welcome to Ideamix radio.
Edith Cooper [00:01:29] Thank you so much for having us. We look forward to the conversation.
Jordan Taylor [00:01:32] Very happy to be here.
Sam Jayanti [00:01:34] So tell us, both of you, in your own words, how would you describe Medley?
Jordan Taylor [00:01:41] Medley’s a community to support people’s personal and professional growth. At the heart of Medley is the group experience where we match people into groups of eight that meet every month under the guidance of a certified coach. We created Medley because we saw that there was a huge opportunity to democratize access to really high quality, transformative experiences that are previously limited to top executives, professionals, leading big companies. And we just saw that there was a huge opportunity for people who might not fit into one of those categories, but who was really excited about the prospect of learning from other people.
Edith Cooper [00:02:18] Throughout my career, I have found that the number one responsibility of leaders and managers is to create an environment where people could really, truly perform to their potential. The more difference that existed in a group, the more dynamic that group was, more innovation, more entrepreneurism, quite frankly, more creativity leading to results. Having said that, there are so few opportunities for people that I worked with or managed to really experience what that was truly like. And so that fueled my interest in working with Jordan on the creation of Medley.
Sam Jayanti [00:02:55] So you both have said so much in there that I really want to dig into, you both come from a corporate background and you’ve both pointed out that there’s really a space that’s missing that you’ve created with Madley, where these kinds of developmental issues can be talked about by everybody, not just sort of a privileged few. Talk a little bit about that. What is it about corporate culture that makes that discussion forum unavailable?
Edith Cooper [00:03:25] Sure. Well, I would say this. I think that any successful company has a a culture value statement, and it centers generally around important values that all in the company should strive for: collaboration and commitment to clients, purpose, etc. And there’s usually a comment there with respect to diversity. But in reality, what has occurred over the years is that it has been very challenging for people to really move outside of the lane of the type of person that they have seen to be successful in the past. And quite frankly, that often reflects the reality of who you are as a person. What we believe has really changed is that people who are coming into the workplace today are no longer interested in morphing themselves into a mold of a preexisting organization. They’re asking questions. They’re very aggressive and they’re wanting to know upfront things like can I bring my true self to work? What is the purpose of the organization? How am I going to contribute not just to the bottom line of a company in my personal bottom line to things that are more important for society at large? And I would say that that is a game changer, which has created, I think, more tension in the system around people wanting to be able to connect their personal and professional priorities. But it’s a it’s a changing paradigm. And I think that often leadership is not prepared to facilitate that. It’s it’s a new, uncomfortable space. And Medley offers an opportunity to create those spaces outside of the workplace.
Sam Jayanti [00:05:08] Thank you for that, Edith. I think that’s a great, great analysis. Another question for the two of you is, is your customer are people coming and joining Medley directly as individuals? Are there companies that are sort of making this available to their employees? What what is the mix?
Jordan Taylor [00:05:29] So our first customers have been individuals who discovered Medfly, whether it was through a podcast like this or through some of the content that we’ve created, and they were really drawn to the prospect of being able to break outside of their bubble and being able to have a committed, dedicated space to invest in their growth over time. But what we’ve seen over the past few months and what we really see as a big opportunity for Medley going forward is companies have actually been reaching out to us because they’re very interested in providing members of their team with a structured way to grow and structured way to to get outside of the company culture ecosystem. And so we actually have already run a pilot with three different companies and three very different industries, which is exciting to us. And we have a lot of plans over the next upcoming year and growing out that and working with a few more really people oriented companies to grow out that piece of the business.
Edith Cooper [00:06:24] This is a real example of what I was talking about before, which is the increased requirement of companies and leaders to meet people where they are. I think we would all agree that the last months, actually perhaps years have really increased the pressure and stress on everyone. And it is almost impossible, particularly given that so many of us have been working remotely to separate the experiences of one’s life personally from their professional realities. And so employers and leaders want to find ways to signal to their people that simply they care about them, that they recognize that personal and professional now are quite blended. And this is an opportunity to show support and ways to invest in them and their overall well-being.
Sam Jayanti [00:07:14] That totally makes sense. In t2019, for every hundred men promoted to manager, eighty five women were promoted and this gap was even larger for some demographic groups. Only fifty eight black women, seventy one Latinas, and women, you both know well, have remained significantly outnumbered in entry level management at the beginning of 2020. How do you acknowledge the structural inequalities that impede progress in the workplace for particular groups in your community while still curating an experience for all?
Edith Cooper [00:07:52] Well, it has been very important to us to ensure that we are creating an environment that is truly inclusive, and so we use a methodology to match people based on their personal values and things they’ve highlighted to us in the profile that we ask people to complete. But we are very deliberate and thoughtful about making sure that we are creating an environment where there is a diverse set of perspectives and experiences. And quite frankly, to your point, that is something that is still quite unique, particularly for mid-level and senior level managers. Organizations must be intentional and deliberate about ensuring that there is equal opportunity for people to perform to their potential. And in the work that I’ve been involved in over the decades, it’s very clear that we must pay attention to every touchpoint that an employee has that creates their experience and therefore success. Things like the manager that they have, the opportunities and access that they have to new opportunities that may be a bit risky but are a huge step change opportunities for learning and growth. And I think probably throughout each of these categories accountability. We can no longer be comfortable with the thinking that this will take time. We have to own the responsibilities, that we have to be deliberate in finding excellence broadly defined and making sure that that excellence has equal opportunities to success once they are employed in an organization.
Jordan Taylor [00:09:34] I think another way that we are really trying to help underrepresented groups and women make progress in the workplace and in the world, to be quite honest, is by giving people these supported spaces where men, women, people of color, white people are all able to learn from each other’s perspectives and hopefully build empathy. And hopefully, while we hope that we’re able to support women, for example, in hopefully getting that promotion and making progress and living happier lives, we also want men to be more aware of some of the limitations and challenges that they might be potentially inflicting on others or or feel themselves. And so I think that’s something that we’ve seen as a really big opportunity, is that we’ve actually been able to create spaces where people can sort of connect across various demographics and recognize sort of the similarities that we all have.
Sam Jayanti [00:10:29] Totally makes sense, you started Medley in the midst of the pandemic and had to make a significant pivot in moving from a concept that centered around a physical space to an entirely virtual experience. What would you say has worked well about the virtual experience and what hasn’t?
Jordan Taylor [00:10:50] Well, what’s worked very well is that we’ve been able to bring people together from around the world, that was the first thing we noticed when everything shut down the middle of March of 2020, it was very clear that we needed to adapt and we needed to change the business. So we started testing and running groups online and just doing free sessions because we had coaches who were ready to go were really, really close to launching. And that was the first thing that we learned was that people really valued the opportunity to connect with others from around the world. Because you’re not only limited to the perspective of someone who lives in a different neighborhood to you in New York City, for example, someone from Chicago can learn from someone from London, can learn from someone from Minnesota, et cetera. And so I think that’s been the biggest positive of the experience, increasing the accessibility of Medley. I would say one of the biggest challenges is that there really is nothing like sitting with someone in a room, being present with them and connecting and especially in a group. And so while we’ve been really inspired by the level of engagement and openness and presence that people bring to sort of the medley community and medley events, I do think that that’s something that we’re continuing to work on. And we recognize it’s just inherently different from the in-person experience.
Sam Jayanti [00:12:05] Definitely. We’ll be right back. So, Jordan, Edith, you decided to start a business together as mother and daughter, that isn’t particularly common. Tell us how you came to that decision.
Edith Cooper [00:12:25] It has been an extraordinary opportunity for me to learn, grow and create with my daughter, Jordan. I have always really recognized how important it is to understand how the current generation and quite frankly, the future will be determined by the ways of learning and doing that exist today. I thought when Jordan was really thinking through this idea that led to Medley, that it was really unique and that it is really a reflection of my life’s professional experience that people do better and thrive when they can do it with and and in conjunction with other people. As a mom working with my daughter, I mean, if I had known this thirty five years ago, I would have probably gotten to it a little bit faster. The reality is the trust, the respect and the general commitment to shared purpose is very clear. I would say, however, that it struck me in the beginning that we needed to make sure that we retain time for each other as mother and daughter. Work was blending into life and and consuming everything. And it was really I recall a conversation that I had with Jordan one day, and I said you know something, the last five conversations we had have been about work. I stated when I left my career in finance and started Medley that that wouldn’t happen. But it’s happening. We’re all about work. And so we’ve had to really be intentional in making sure that we are as committed to personal time as we are to the creation of Medley.
Sam Jayanti [00:14:12] It’s difficult, particularly during this pandemic period. How how do you both disagree and how do you resolve those disagreements?
Jordan Taylor [00:14:25] Oh, well, you know, I think the biggest thing that that enables us to resolve our disagreement is this level of trust that Edith mentioned that we have with one another. When we are thinking through a decision, occasionally we will be approaching a problem differently. But what we’ve had to learn to do is really articulate the why behind sort of why we think something should happen. So rather than going into you’re right, you’re wrong, we actually very rarely go into that territory. We’re really able to get to the root of not the first order, the second order, the third order reason why we think that this could be the right move versus not. And because we have such a strong level of trust, we’re able to go into those conversations and really try to listen to one another that helps us get through it.
Edith Cooper [00:15:13] The other thing that I’d point out is that we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. And over time, I have to say we’re getting much more effective at recognizing what those are. I would say in the beginning, I was probably a little bit hesitant to leverage the experiences that I’ve had because we are truly in every way. Co-founders of Medley and I. I recall a conversation where I was just like, listen, here’s why I’m concluding this, but I don’t want to appear that I’m coming over the top or being too directing and Jordan, and this is where it’s so extraordinary to work together she goes, are you kidding? In a situation like this, please direct. Please direct. And the same is true for her on areas that that she has got the deeper subject matter expertise. But the trust that goes into our working relationships really enables us to have those kinds of conversations. And we know that there’s no ill intent. We have the same purpose which is moving Medley forward.
Sam Jayanti [00:16:20] I totally agree, I think understanding relative areas of expertise, but but also, as you both have said, recognizing the why and having a discussion that’s recurring about why you’re actually taking on something is the best way to get to the same place and be on the same page. What do you view as what’s been the most effective way for you to grow in scale at Medley?
Jordan Taylor [00:16:53] It’s been a couple of areas, you know, it’s interesting for us because we are sort of serving two customers and plan to in the future: the consumer side and companies that we work with. And so I think the biggest levers that we’ve been using so far have been content and leveraging the brand that each and I especially Edith, has built up sort of over the course of her career. And then also referrals and word of mouth has been really huge for us in terms of growing the community. When we think about how the business will scale over the next three, five, 10 years, I think B2B could be a really massive opportunity for us to grow Medley fairly quickly. But we really want to be delivering a high quality experience to start and make sure that it is as good as it can be before we press the accelerator.
Edith Cooper [00:17:44] So the key to scale is really getting the right team in place and creating an operating model where everyone’s really sort of moving in the same direction and leveraging their deep expertise, but particularly as we’ve gotten started understanding where they can flex into other areas that appear critical as we grow. And that is the key. We’ve invested a lot of time in creating a really extraordinary team that has positioned us to capture the opportunities to have people interested in Medley join and have an extraordinary experience. And that will be true as we grow, is it’s very difficult to scale if you don’t have a good view of what underpinning you need from a people perspective to make that happen.
Sam Jayanti [00:18:34] No one knows the importance of team better than you do Edith, I’m sure, given your prior work responsibilities.
Edith Cooper [00:18:42] The other piece that I should add to that, of course, is fairly obvious and standard, is technology. We are investing a lot of thinking in how we are creating connections with our members, not only in the way that they’re interacting in Zoom calls, but how they’re connecting with each other throughout the experience is a membership that involves not only the group’s meetings, but programing that exists throughout the the the the weeks. And technology will be a very important part of that. Right now, we are using existing technologies to help us really test some of our hypotheses with respect to what is required to create this extraordinary magical experience. But over time, there’s no doubt that we will invest in developing a technology platform which will really be important for us, scaling to yet even another level.
Sam Jayanti [00:19:37] I think the importance of technology and cutting the sort of cycle and experimentation time is just huge. Let’s take a quick break. Jordan, Edith, how do you both allocate responsibilities between you?
Edith Cooper [00:19:54] Jordan and I have areas of focus, but as co-founders of a very small team, I must say that we often find ourselves flexing to various areas. We come at things from a very different perspective. Jordan is very primarily focused on product and product development and the infrastructure of the business, which is is quite significant. Additionally, she weighs in very heavily on brand and go to market strategy, leveraging her experiences that she’s had both. And working and leading is part of the leadership team of a content company, but also being into the perspective that she had in consulting for companies prior to going to business school. I come from a large corporate environment where talent was the core of of of every organization that I’ve ever worked for. And so I am very focused on understanding the human dynamic that exists externally. Why that leads to a real opportunity for meddling and making sure that the the values and culture within the organization fit what we know our members are looking for. And then just just basically we we work very, very closely together. And so there are times where I’ll get involved in the branding conversations because it’s another perspective and lens that’s important and Jordan, of course, is very, very involved in the talent equation and the product market fit side of things as well.
Sam Jayanti [00:21:37] What about you, Jordan? Anything to add?
Jordan Taylor [00:21:40] Yeah, I think the biggest thing in terms of how we learn to divide responsibilities up is obviously, as you said, we really are a team and do talk about pretty much every piece of the business together. But really just over communicating has been key for us in terms of making sure that we know who’s taking point on what. And that’s sort of enable us to flex in and out as needed, as you described. But it’s fun because we both think differently, but also similarly, and I just get a chance to learn from Edith’s 30+ years of experience. I go into some meetings and I leave and I’m absolutely wowed. And that’s been a real treat for me, getting to work with someone who not only I trust completely, but who has just so much relevant experience.
Sam Jayanti [00:22:27] It’s wonderful to have that mentorship. What keeps both of you up at night right now?
Edith Cooper [00:22:33] You know, I’d say. For me, I think that we are at such a moment of time in society where what we are doing at Medley will really make a difference in people’s lives. We are a polarized society. We are a society of human beings that are hurting and have been hurt by the tragedies of the pandemic and racial equality. And unfortunately, the list is quite lengthy. And I truly, truly believe that Medley is creating opportunities for people to have those authentic conversations that will make a difference. And so what keeps me up at night is, you know, is really this sense of urgency, of touching as many people as possible as quickly as possible and leveraging the experiences that we have in creating Medley and my professional experiences and my ability to have access to thought leadership, to really get people thinking in a different way and making sure those things are all connected. So when I do a LinkedIn live with someone like Darren Walker, who’s the, you know, the president of the Ford Foundation, I am moving into what I believe is my responsibility to provide to a broader audience the benefits that I have achieved over the years of getting to know Darren and working with him and learning from him. And that’s what keeps me up at night. What is the next thing that I need to to do to make sure that I’m every day making a contribution? And how are we making sure that through Medley we are doing that for as many people as possible?
Sam Jayanti [00:24:17] That makes a lot of sense.
Jordan Taylor [00:24:18] Yeah, I think the biggest thing for me as well is this urgency piece. And in addition to that is, you know, executing at the quality that we want and that we believe we can deliver while still moving quickly and iterating and experimenting as much as possible.
Sam Jayanti [00:24:36] Now, you both have talked about quality and mentioned it a few times. What do you do to ensure the quality of the experience for your members?
Jordan Taylor [00:24:46] So the first thing that we do is get as much data and feedback and information as possible so we can understand what’s working and what might not be working as well. So after every interaction with Medley, we send out surveys. We occasionally will reach out to members. I mean, actually, we’re talking to members almost every week in various capacities. And we think about is someone really getting value from their Medley experience? We look at how often they’re attending Medley group sessions. We look at any qualitative or quantitative feedback that they’ve given us, and we get feedback from the coaches who are leading the small groups. And so, you know, in a perfect world, every member is attending one or two Medley sessions every week. They are engaging with their group in between sessions and they are really making progress in their lives in terms of how they show up with the people around them. And that’s really the biggest thing for us, is when people think about sources in their life that give them a sense of progress and a sense of belonging. They really think of Medley.
Edith Cooper [00:25:52] We really think that it’s important for long term growth to basically do what you say you’re doing and live into the expectations that you’ve created in the way that you tell the story of of your brand in this case, specifically Medley. And o\people need, our members need to feel that in the way that they work through the entry point, the application, the conversations that Jordan or I or head of product have with them before they commit to joining. The fact that they know that we really care, that we are creating an environment with broad perspectives. And by the way, ensuring that the culture that we are representing to our potential members is something that we hold true in the way that we interact with each other as colleagues. Because if those things are not consistent over time, particularly as you grow quickly, things break down. And those cracks are really, in our view, what creates limitations to Medley’s growth. Every detail has to fit with the prioritization of creating environments where people can be authentic, learn and grow with and through each other. And we need to make sure that we’re holding ourselves accountable to every touchpoint in that journey.
Sam Jayanti [00:27:12] A hundred percent. I think the cracks can turn into an abyss for many early stage businesses. And I think the way that you guys gather customer feedback and do it with such frequency is sort of the key to unlocking the quality question. Last question. Where do you see yourself in your business in three years?
Jordan Taylor [00:27:32] In three years, I hope that our community has grown to tens of thousands, if not, hundreds of thousands of members who are engaged in learning every day, every week with each other. I think personally I hope to be really continuing to grow as a leader of the organization. And I hope we’ve built a team of people who are super energized on our mission and are fun to work with and who we get to learn from every day. And I hope to still be doing this with you, Mom, for sure.
Edith Cooper [00:28:11] I really believe that as a society, we are ready for a seismic change in the way we think about what community means and and by that I mean that human interaction is recognized as the root of all extraordinary, whether it’s at work, whether that’s in your day to day personal life and how those core values of of being authentic, getting outside, learning from other people’s perspectives, empathy are not things that are viewed as optional soft things, but are really recognized as central. I would like for people to when they’re talking about what I just described, they think of wanting a Medley in their lives, thinking about it as a noun, a Medley, but also as an experience. I have a medley in my membership of Medley, but I’m looking for other Medley opportunities. And and I believe that not only is it possible, I think we’re well positioned to capture that.
Sam Jayanti [00:29:27] Wonderful. Thank you both so much. Here’s something else you should know the impact of the covid-19 pandemic has been particularly hard on women and women of color, especially, as many as two million women are considering leaving the workforce. And this would effectively undo all of the progress we’ve seen in corporate hiring patterns over the last six to 10 years. But hopefully communities like Medley will provide the support and bring attention to the issues, as is so needed to get through these times, thanks to McKinsey for the data used in today’s episode. Edith and Jordan, we love what you’ve built because you took a true belief and community and connection, recognized the social issues that will be a massive impediment if we don’t solve these problems and have turned it into your business. So thanks so much for being with us here today.
Jordan Taylor [00:30:20] Thank you so much for having us.
Sam Jayanti [00:30:23] Thanks for listening today. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and while you’re there, please do review the show. We love hearing from you. So e-mail us at info at theideamix.com or Instagram DM us. Our episode this week was produced by the incomparable Martin Milevsky with music by the awesome Nashville based singer songwriter Doug Allen. You can learn more about Doug at DougAllenmusic.com.
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