Founder & CEO, 85 Broads Unlimited LLC
Posted on: February 29, 2012 | Go to profile
As CEO and Founder of 85 Broads, Janet has built a network of 30,000 multi-cultural, multi-generational women living in eighty-two different countries and working for thousands of different companies. Janet began her career at Goldman Sachs, where in 1986 she became the first woman in the firm’s history to be promoted to sales management. In 1997, she joined other women from the firm’s NYC headquarters at 85 Broad Street in launching what has become the most powerful, intellectually savvy network of women in the world. Janet is also the founder of the $2 billion institutional money management company Milestone Capital Management. She is currently a member of the Kellogg Center for Executive Women’s Steering Committee and a member for the Forbes Executive Women’s Board.
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: My professional journey began at Goldman Sachs exactly 3 days after I graduated from Columbia Business School. I was 24. I spent 11 very happy years at GS, left the firm to train to become a triathlete, never made it to the starting line but got in great shape, I returned to GS to work PT as a consultant for a little less than a year, got married, had two kids, came back to the firm in ’91, stayed for 2 1/2 years after working for GSAM, Goldman’s asset management division, then borrowed $1.5 million from Dort Cameron to launch Milestone Capital with Jeff Hanson, my husband, and two rockstars, Marc Pfeffer and Janice Meehan, both from GS. We got a major “assist” from ex-GS trader Phylis Esposito who introduced us to the senior management team at Bear Stearns. The folks at Bear “took us to the dance” – they helped us build Milestone into a multi-billion dollar fund business. In 2004, I joined Joe Gregory, the President & COO of Lehman Brothers, as a Managing Director. My mission was to help Lehman dramatically increase the female starpower at the firm. What was awesome was there were already so many female stars at the firm, which is why I loved working there. Some of the coolest, most unflappable, brilliant women worked at Lehman Brothers, including Barbara Byrne, Anne Erni, Nadja Fidelia, Pat Miller and Mary Mattson Kenworthy, just to name a few. I left Lehman in early 2007 to focus 100% of my time on building a global franchise and footprint for 85 Broads, which was entering its 10th year of operation. We now have over 30,000 women in the network worldwide and have increased our entrepreneurial focus dramatically.
Q: Who is a leader that you have great respect for and why?
A: Hands down, the person I have the greatest respect and admiration for is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. In 1996, we had a mother-daughter tea for all the elementary, middle and high school girls in Bronxville. Kathleen’s father, Bobby Kennedy, had spent part of his childhood in Bronxville so it was a very special opportunity for her to connect with lots of fabulous young women. She asked how many of the girls wanted to be President of the United States. Almost every single hand in the room shot up! Kathleen told them one thing I will never forget — so simple and yet so wise — she told them TO BE A LEADER. I have often repeated that very phrase to my own children.
Q: What are 3 characteristics that you believe define great leadership?
A: Undaunted lifelong courage no matter what the odds, the ability to move through a wall of devastating personal grief with bravery and grace, and a sense of humor — to always be able to laugh out loud and make your own fun.
Q: How much time do you spend on networking versus focusing on the internal affairs of your business (such as management, strategy, ideation etc)?
A: I think what I do every day is “connectworking.” I like to think I am reasonably good at seeing great matches between and amongst our members globally. It’s what I love doing the most.
Q: Can you share a story of how networking led to a great success?
A: Alexa von Tobel was one of 11 young women who interned at Milestone Capital in the summer of 2005. We wanted to figure out in “our lab” why young women didn’t care much about investing. The simple answer was because it was boring! We formed a company called Market Clout and rolled it out at Harvard that fall.
Because everyone was busy, it never went much beyond an exciting summer business idea but Alexa took the ball and ran with it when she launched LearnVest in 2009. Alexa has megawatt star power and she works harder than anyone I know. I introduced her to two former GS partners who were members of 85 Broads and as they say, the rest was history. We used our platform to help her launch LearnVest in one of the most difficult times in history. LearnVest is now valued at over $100 million.
Q: What are your top 3 tips for networking?
A: “Give” before you “get.” If you can offer someone something of real value, that person is far more inclined to really want to help you in return. Social media is a great way for young people to offer value to someone they want to connect with by tweeting about that person, writing blogs about what they admire about that person, etc. Most of all, if you can offer critical insight on a subject in a way that conveys your passion for that particular topic, it’s a fantastic way to energize a truly genuine and meaningful discussion.
Q: A great negotiation can be game changing for one’s business or life. Studies have shown that men are much more comfortable negotiating and asking for what they want compared to women. What’s your advice to women who are uncomfortable negotiating?
A: I think women have to get used to thinking in terms of “key words” – I call it “negotiation optimization.” What that means — get to the point by being succinct. It’s incredibly important to know exactly what “the ask” is!
Q: Can you share a personal story of successful negotiation that leaped you forward?
A: In 1986, I had the opportunity to meet with Bob Rubin who was taking the helm as co-senior partner at Goldman. I was one of the top producers in the Fixed Income Division, which was where Bob was spending a fair amount of his time given that his background was primarily in risk arbitrage trading. He asked to meet with me and being the fabulous, no BS trader that he is, he asked me what I wanted to do. I said, point blank, “I want to manage the Money Market Sales desk.” He simply said: “Done!” It was one of the most satisfying moments of my entire career tenure at the firm.
Q: Who has been your greatest mentor(s)?
A: Sheila Wellington, former President of Catalyst. She led that organization brilliantly for a decade. Gutsy, gorgeous, and oh so generous with her time.
Q: If you had the opportunity to give advice to your younger self at say the age 13, what would you say?
A: Dear Self: Remember to laugh out loud and make your own luck. And stay curious – that will take you where you need to go in life!
ON Starting Out
Q: If you had a young sister or a daughter who was a senior in college, anxious about landing her first job or unsure of what she wanted to do, what would your advice be to her?
A: My daughter graduated from college in May of 2011. She is a studio art major. My best advice: invest in what you love! If you create works of art that you’re passionate about, you will find a market for them. In other words: believe in your talent!
Q: Life is full of setbacks. Can you share an experience of one, and how you were able to bounce back?
A: I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. It spun my life around. My kids were my rocks then, they are now and always will be.
ON Taking Risk
Q: Usually reaching something great or grand in life requires taking a risk. What has been your greatest risk so far and how was it rewarding?
A: Starting my own asset management company without any experience in that industry. It turned out to be a brilliant move, which is why I am so passionate about women GOING FOR IT.
ON Giving Back
Q: What cause(s) have you chosen to support and why does it resonate with you?
A: The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Chris and Dana were part of our community and their son Will was a close friend of my son’s at Rippowam, a small but wonderful private school in Bedford. Dana Reeve inspired me with her courage to fight for a cure for spinal cord injury while she herself was dying of lung cancer at the age of 43. She was one of the most extraordinary women I have ever met.
Q: Oprah has that great section in her magazine “What I know for sure.” What do you know for sure?
A: I know that having a core set of beliefs to help you navigate and course-correct throughout life is critical.
Q: In your opinion, what are the top values that make up a meaningful relationship?
A: Believing in someone always, for better or for worse.
Q: If you were to write a book, what would it be about?
A: “More Than 85 Broads” – it was published by McGraw-Hill in 2006 and has sold over 20,000 copies. :)
ON Personal Finance
Q: What are your top 3 personal finance tips for women?
A: Learn how to invest in what you love, don’t take money out of your investment portfolio unless you have a darn good reason to do that, and investing well gives you far more options throughout the course of your life — sadly, most women spend way more than they invest, which limits their choices later in life!