March is Women’s History Month, presenting G & G Law, LLC with a perfect opportunity to celebrate the legal maneuverings of some bad-ass entrepreneurs. Shall we call them Lady Bosses? Femmepreneurs? She-E-O? Boss Ladies? Boss Babe? #girlboss? Do I see some mommy-preneurs out there?

At G & G Law, we stick to “entrepreneur” or “business owner.”

Let’s take a well-earned moment to celebrate women who built amazing businesses. While we don’t want to diminish them with cutesy nicknames, sometimes these gendered terms help me realize I’m not alone when things are more difficult because of my gender. Without a doubt, women face challenges when building businesses that men don’t. Women of color and underrepresented groups have an even harder road. But still, women persist. It’s inspirational.

Head over to our blog to read more about the series:

Read on for what G & G Law’s founding attorney, Michelle Green, admires about the mega-successful Shonda Rhimes.

Shonda Rhimes: Negotiate for Others, Build an Army to Build an Empire

Even if you haven’t seen a Shondaland show, you’ve definitely heard of one. Shonda Rhimes created Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and so many more. She has a Netflix deal for future projects AND she created her own community-building platform, Shondaland.

Celebrities often credit Shonda for giving them amazing negotiating advice, including such heavyweights like Ellen Pompeo, Kerry Washington, and Viola Davis. In an in-depth Hollywood Reporter interview with actress Ellen Pompeo, Dr. Meredith Grey (*ahem* Ellen) says:

“In Shonda finding her power and becoming more comfortable with her power, she has empowered me… I was always loyal to her, and she responds well to loyalty. So, she got to a place where she was so empowered that she was generous with her power.”

Unfortunately, I don’t know what sort of negotiating advice Shonda gave, beyond “know your worth” and “be prepared to walk away,” or whether she explicitly goes to bat for the stars of her shows.

But here’s how I imagine it: Shonda, Viola, Kerry, and Ellen convene, swirling a fine pinot in Olivia Pope-style stemware. Their endgame: For each of them to garner as much power and wealth as possible. Ultimately, they decide their best bet is for each of them to do everything they can to raise the others up. It’s what the old boys’ club has been doing for ages, but I like to think that this group does it better: less smoke, more inclusivity.

Each of them goes on to mount bigger and better projects, including and promoting the others along the way. One of them pushes another one forward, then the new one in front pushes someone else out to the front. Eventually, they all win all the race together.

Reminds me of the mission of Women Belong (thank you, Kate and Dorothy!).

In business contract negotiations, there is a common assumption that each party is only in it for themselves. It’s a zero-sum game; if one party gains something, the other necessarily loses it.

But I have a feeling that Shonda (with the help of her attorneys!?) is a three-dimensional negotiator. Sometimes the best tool for long-term gains is generosity.

Our clients often come to us asking for our help with contract negotiation. This is something that seems to intimidate a lot of business owners, and their main goals are:

  • Do what’s typical
  • Don’t get screwed

These are NOT the most helpful tactics in a negotiation.

You know how some people like to say (cue deep “man in a suit” voice): “You know a negotiation was successful when both parties are equally unhappy”?

I call bullshit.

Negotiation is an opportunity. The very best negotiations, and the most successful business owners, create abundance in their deals with others. The goal is for both parties to either:

  1. Propel forward together; or
  2. Realize the relationship won’t work out early, before too much is invested (surprisingly, this is a success too! Many people wrongly label it “failed” negotiations)

No one knows which of these will happen when beginning negotiations, but both are good in the long run!

Beyond altruism’s inherent merits, inspiring loyalty and fighting for others can be a savvy strategy for building your own wealth and power. The key for entrepreneurs is to understand and communicate your big-picture goals outside of the four corners of the contract at hand. It’s not always easy, but that’s why it’s next-level.

Writing this has inspired me to read Shonda Rhimes’s book, Year of Yes. Maybe there’s more insight about her empire building strategy? Has anyone read it?

We’d be delighted for you to check out the other articles in our Women’s History Month series on our website.

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Michelle Green founded G & G Law, LLC with a mission to make legal services accessible to small businesses. The firm has grown to a team of six, and we help our clients with their transactional business needs from formation to exit.

Services include: LLC formation, partnership agreements, contract drafting and negotiation, employment and independent contractor issues, trademarks, buying and selling a business, and finding appropriate assistance for more complex needs. Feel free to contact us to schedule a consultation.

Content provided by Women Belong member Michelle Green