Podcast

Episode: 275 |
Gemma Toner:
Empowering Women:
Episode
275

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Gemma Toner

Empowering Women

Show Notes

Gemma Toner is the Founder of Tone Networks, a video-based learning and leadership development platform that empowers female employees through expert content, live coaching and a vibrant online community.

Website: https://www.tonenetworks.com/
Tone Networks LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/company/tone-networks/
Tone Networks FB:
https://www.facebook.com/tonenetworks/
Tone Networks Twitter:
https://twitter.com/ToneNetworks
Tone Networks Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/tonenetworks/

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Will Bachman 00:01
Welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which connects you with the world’s top independent management consultants. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I am so excited to be here today with Gemma toner, who is the CEO and founder of tone networks, a business that’s dedicated to empowering women. Gemma, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for having me. Gemma, let’s start with the basics. Tell me what is tone?

Gemma Toner 00:30
Sure. So tone networks is a video Based Learning and Leadership platform that is designed for super busy women that are short on time, but high on ambition, if you will. And we make it really easy for women to consume, the content that we create. And we provide access to executive coaching and experts and live stream events in a supportive environment online.

Will Bachman 01:05
Okay, and what is your kind of target audience with I mean, women is half the half the population within that. Yeah. What’s your to your target?

Gemma Toner 01:16
Yeah, I would say, you know, there’s something for everyone on tone, I would say we we focus mostly on working women. And our goal is to get women access to resources that are reserved for a very, very small portion of the population, whether that’s executive coaching that you know, only certain executives get, or that’s access to experts that, quite frankly, you can’t just make an appointment with And oftentimes, they’re expensive. So our goal is to really democratize what is reserved for a very small percentage of the population so that women can get access to that knowledge. And most importantly, when we were doing the consumer research to understand what women wanted, we needed to make it short and then tiny kind of consumable bytes, if you will, because women are really short on time, and we needed to make it easy for them to access.

Will Bachman 02:15
Okay, and is it primarily a platform that just an individual person would go up and sign up for? Or is it mainly a service that would be maybe purchased by a corporation and made available to their employees? Or is it both? Great

02:31
question? Yeah, great question. We actually have two business models, we, we have a membership model for individuals. And then we also work with fortune 500 companies, they purchase tongue for their employees, typically, these companies are looking to move women along in their talent pipeline. And so tone is a scalable solution for them to get experts in executive coaching to a very broad group of women in their organization.

Will Bachman 03:05
Okay, and what are the topics that have you know, of the different videos and, and other learning? So what what are the, what are the topics? Yeah, focus?

Gemma Toner 03:16
Another good question. So we really focus on the whole person, because last time I checked, none of us kind of split ourselves down the middle, when we cross over into the threshold of our offices now often for many of us, our home office. So we look at work life, mind, body, and money. And those are the type of experts and short form videos that we offer, as well as the type of events would create live events, we have one actually happening today, on sleep, where we have a sleep expert, where women will come together probably have a couple of 1000 women show up. And we’ll be sharing the sleep experts knowledge as to how to get a better night’s sleep and why it’s so important. So that would be an example of how tone impacts both your personal and your professional life. The better rested you are, the better you are as an executive, the better you show up at your place to work and the better you are when you get home.

Will Bachman 04:16
And tell me a little bit more. So what would be some examples of the problems that you’re trying to solve have content that might not be available in other other places on, you know, on LinkedIn learning here on YouTube or on other places? What What are you trying to do that?

Gemma Toner 04:34
What we’re doing it’s different is really the combination of this short form videos that are personalized to the individuals interests. So when we built the software platform, we basically created a way for women to let us know what they’re interested in. And then we actually serve to them content that is what we hope relevant And of interest. The other thing that we do that’s very different is we actually push content to women, in the form of what we call tone teasers and tone teasers are meant to tease you away from your routine, so that you can take some time to actually invest in yourself and learn something new. The other piece that we have is that we also have this library of content that, again, is delivered to our users in a very custom fashion. But then we also have these live stream events where it’s an entire community of women coming in from all over the world, all different types of jobs, basically self selecting into a specific topic, on interest, and then actually being a part of a much broader conversation where we have an expert presenting, and then it’s an interactive experience where our members can actually ask questions live, and then it’s archived in our platforms so that if you happen to miss it, you can come back and learn. And what we find, which is really interesting is there’s been plenty of research about women don’t always raise their hand, what we find is that as these tone talks, what we have is very robust conversation. And when we survey after, we also find that the women that attended actually learned from the other women’s questions, right, so it’s like, ah, wanted to ask that question. Didn’t didn’t feel comfortable enough to but I’m really glad somebody else did. So there’s this combination of this community learning experience, as well as an individual personalized experience, and it would be on demand videos.

Will Bachman 06:48
And what do you find? By having a real focus on serving women? You know, I mean, men might be interested in work life balance and mind body as well. So what is what does it allow you to have kind of a different voice? Or does it create a different vibe or a different experience? When there’s just a real focus on women? Tell me a little bit about, you know, creating?

Gemma Toner 07:14
I mean, I think there’s, I think one of the things that it is about creating a space, a safe place, right. And, you know, yes, this, you know, work life balance, and a lot of the topics certainly are not exclusive, if you will, to women, what I will say is that because the community comes together, there’s a sense of, I’m not alone, I appreciate that there’s other people out there that are experiencing this as well. So there’s that sense of support. And, you know, there’s been, again, plenty of research done, where women need a sense of community, to help build confidence. And so that is a big part of what tone actually provides is this place where you can learn on your own, but you can also go into a live experience and learn with others.

Will Bachman 08:07
Right. So tell me, what are some of the so for when you’re having conversations with corporate buyers? Who are going to provide this than to their employees? Tell me a little bit about what’s what’s the sort of the pitch, what’s sort of the value proposition that you bring to a corporate?

Gemma Toner 08:26
Yeah, so right. So the value proposition is, you know, we have plenty of data that shows the impact you make on retention, job satisfaction, and likelihood to recommend and refer the company as well as the perception of the company. And we also can share with them research that shows the level of impact that we have on the individual users. That being said, that’s sort of the data part of here’s why, here’s what makes a good ROI. You know, your chain your your employees, I would say that the companies that we work with, and the companies that this type of product resonates with are companies that have made a commitment to gender equality and equity. And they really have KPIs against it, because what tone allows and affords companies is this very scalable turnkey solution that can go to large groups of employees. And so that really helps move. If you look at the research that we conducted on Lehman, last year, you know, that there’s a broken wrong challenge, right, and that women are not getting promoted at the same rate as men at the first promotion stage, if you will. And so what tone does is tone is a tool right that organizations can use and provide to their female employees to help move them along and to help move that you know, narrow that gap if you will.

Will Bachman 10:00
And what are the some of the things that that you suggest companies can do to fix that broken wrong?

Gemma Toner 10:09
Right? I mean, look, there’s no one solution, right. But certainly getting access to development, which is what we do. Development, leadership development, personal development, that is certainly a part of a very complex question, right, there’s a lot of other challenges that need to be addressed, there were what I can speak to, is, you know, when there’s a lack of access, when there’s a lack of support, we can be a part of that solution, where we’re providing a supportive community, and also access to knowledge and experts that people women typically wouldn’t get access to until much later in their career.

Will Bachman 10:50
Right. And so is sort of providing leadership development Look, what are some of the specific gaps that you see that you’ve been addressing with the video, the videos as well as executive coaching? Maybe that, that you have determined that maybe women aren’t getting that, that perhaps men are in the workplace? What are some of the gaps that you’re trying to fill?

Gemma Toner 11:15
I can tell you, what we’re seeing is most popular, because again, women are so self selecting that, right, so we have videos, over 1000 videos so far, and we continue to be in production. So there’s no shortage of content, it’s really finding what’s relevant, so that it gets consumed and hopefully implemented, right. So what I would say is, you know, consistently, executive presence is a topic that is always viewed and watched also, you know, some basics like stakeholders, you know, who are the stakeholders in meetings? How do I, how do I identify that, you know, there’s are things that you know, you may not know, early on in your career. So it’s, it’s that those type of skills that are, are not necessarily a hard skill that you’re training for, but really a soft skill as to you know, how to manage how to ask for more responsibility, how to raise your hand, those type of questions on the work front, on the on the life friend is a lot of balance, right? It’s a it’s the work life balance, it’s mindset, it’s confidence, those are the areas that are most popular, and what seems to be resonating most with women.

Will Bachman 12:40
You know, that’s interesting. I interviewed nyla Bari on this show, just a few episodes ago, and she did some research on what happened to folks who were high powered professionals, and got laid off after the 2008 recession. And what she noticed in her research was that a lot of men who got laid off, would be like, Oh, no problem, I can go do some consulting. Right? And right, what women, a lot of women in her research, said, Oh, well, you know, I maybe I should go get another degree, because they didn’t feel in her research, like confident that they could go out and just like, be a consultant or contractor, or sell them their expertise.

Gemma Toner 13:26
Yeah, you’re spot on. And so she, we actually have a study that we haven’t published yet, which is all about confidence. And it’s a it’s a significant driver. But it’s also a significant challenge, right? There’s there in that that’s a very complicated concept, you know, how do you build one’s confidence? And it’s definitely very different between men and women. So is the concept of promotion, promoting yourself? Right self promotion. These are also things that, you know, where Little Women learn that it’s not okay to self promote, but guys are great at it, like good on for them, you know, these are things that we need to address because, again, to your point, you know, what are the things that are holding back? You know, some of it is institutional, some of it is not, some of it is, you know, developmental we just need to learn. Come, we’re aware of it.

Will Bachman 14:23
Yeah. Tell me about just the kind of process of producing these videos. How do you can decide what video you’re going to produce next. And then, like, get the script written and have the Sure, like, how’s that whole process? Yeah.

Gemma Toner 14:39
So I’m not very data driven. I love consumer research, and market research. So we pretty much are always in field testing, you know, what are the topics that we need to cover? as well as even though you can see we’ve covered a particular topic like executive presence. There’s a With different takes on it and different ways people approach it. So we’re always looking to bolster that as well. So one, it’s based on market research and the feedback we get from our memberships. So that’s one piece, then the second is really identifying experts, and I mean experts, not influencers. So these are women, we actually have recently had our first men, man join, join us as an expert, Dr. Steven Jones, and he did a bunch of videos for us on unconscious bias. But it’s really finding people that this is their life’s passion. And this is their body of work, there is the credibility, the credentials, credibility, oftentimes, they’re published, where they are, you know, true experts, if you will. And they want to be a part of a community that is helping women. So once we identify the topics, and we identify the experts that have the right tone, you’ll see, when you watch some of our videos, they’re they’re very how to, they’re very encouraging, very positive. Not a lot of shaming, not a lot of sarcasm is definitely a formula there, then we actually, through our research, again, created a format for these videos. So you know, there’s a few outliers, but the majority are all under five minutes, you know, to really fit into that micro learning idea. What we also do is the videos have on how to a focus, so we’re really looking to deliver in a very short period of time, specific, here’s what it is, here’s why you need to know about it. And here’s what you do. And then at the end of every video, we have what we call our tone, takeaways and your tone takeaways, or your executive summary. They’re your 123. And here’s what you need to remember, oh, that’s done for a couple of reasons. One, it reinforces what you’ve just learned. Secondly, what we know and this is also science based, is, if you were you need to ask him, if you were actually just watching that video, that information is encoded into your brain. And so the next morning, what we actually send, or is a tone takeaway notification, whether that be on our app, or whether that be an email. And it basically is Thanks for watching, hear your tone, and takeaways. And if you do open that and engage, it does help you recall what you learned the day before. So that’s part of the process and the production process. All of our content, for the most part is lightly scripted. So it’s produced. It’s not just someone talking off the cuff. And that’s the process it takes, you know, it’s an investment, it’s carefully curated. So that we have, you know, really high rated videos, and high engagement

Will Bachman 18:04
from being in volved. In this for for what is your takeaway on what sort of Keystone habits are you kind of some of your top recommendations that people have found most helpful from, from the whole set of videos that you’ve that you’ve run?

Gemma Toner 18:22
Oh, my goodness, you know, so the feedback, I think there’s, there’s, there’s perceptions of them just feeling appreciated, you know, when we do research, and it’s their companies is buying this for them, they feel appreciated, they feel acknowledged, they feel like they belong, I think that’s something that’s really important to notice, and to recognize that that is important to feel like you belong, and that you count, if you will, what I would say the, the, the big categories are obviously the confidence category, and there’s a variety of lots of videos there. Because you can come in confidence on a whole bunch of fronts. And confidence, again, crosses between personal and professional, right. So that’s one large area and just building confidence. And again, everybody builds confidence in a slightly different way. And also the flip of that is the things that don’t build your confidence, it’s those behaviors that actually pull your confidence down. And there’s tons of videos that we have on that whether that be negative self talk in your head, to you know, getting into environments or relationships that are toxic. So those types of videos are very, very popular. So the the areas confidence are huge. And then again, just some of the basics when it comes to being more assertive. And realizing that assert being assertive is not negative and being comfortable. With that, again, that’s a little bit tucked under confidence. And then some of the basics on you know what I would call some under the executive coaching, right, which is, again, how you show up is how you’re perceived. And that has a very broad swath of videos underneath it, right? Whether that’s how you’re dressing how, what your attitude is how you’re presenting, that’s a very big piece of what we’re helping women with, as well as again, the stakeholders, the warning meetings, the asking for that promotion, asking for that raise the It’s okay, if you ask for the reason you didn’t get it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask again, those kind of basics that oftentimes there’s not someone in your organization that you feel comfortable asking how to. And so we’re third party resource that can help.

Will Bachman 20:55
Let’s talk about the coaching piece a bit. There may even be some listeners to this show who might be interested in in joining in joining the ranks, if you’re looking for new ones, tell me the types of coaches that you have and kind of the process that you have for pairing up people with the right coach, or maybe people opt in and just choose one just how does the coaching work with your

Gemma Toner 21:18
Yeah, so the coach, so the way our coaching is, you know, we’re, there’s the live stream events where you have access in a community environments. So that means you’re among lots of others. And then there’s access to the coaching on demand, video play, right. So how we do that is we’re not necessarily matching you up based on a specific coach, we’re actually matching you up based on topics. And then those topics are then served to you. So we could have several experts that we would then push content to you based on what your interests are. So you’re interested in confidence, we may have four executive coaches, and three PhDs that we’re going to push their content towards you, we also make sure that when we do push content to that we’re not looking to overwhelm you. Because we actually, with women, oftentimes being the last on their list, we really want tone to be an experience that you look forward to, and you actually kind of have the experience of accomplishment. So it is not an experience a content experience. That is an endless scrolling of videos. When you do arrive to your personal page. It’s designed for your your interest, so we’re serving you videos that you’re interested in. So the difference would be if you and I sat side by side, and you logged into town, the algorithm would not be serving you the same videos, we would have a different experience.

Will Bachman 22:53
So is there any kind of one to one interaction between coaches and individuals? Do they you know, do they do like kind of private sessions? Or is it more like you’ll know? Okay, none of that. All right.

Gemma Toner 23:04
Yeah, no, we’re not facilitating that there’s plenty of other companies out there that are doing that one to one, our area of the market is really, for those women that aren’t necessarily going to get access to that one to one where we can actually bring it in a community based learning environment with again, the short form on demand videos.

Will Bachman 23:25
Great. And what Tell me about your events? What have you learned about and I are these in person events or virtual and

Gemma Toner 23:34
yeah, so they’re both the in person events are usually sponsored with a specific partner. And companies that we’re working with what I will say is, where we get the largest attendance is on our live stream events. And especially in the world we’re living in today, we see an extraordinary uptick in attendance and participation. And these events are about an hour of a experts of who basically is live streamed into our interface. All of our members join. You can come in as yourself or you can come in is what we call she cognito. She cognito is basically giving you the ability to step into someone else’s shoes if you don’t feel like being yourself today. You know, we’ve had topics like narcissism to today again, sleep, we’re going to be taking on anxiety really taking on loss. We’re very tuned to what our membership needs today. Right? What that meant is that this past month, we’ve actually had live stream events every week, based on what our members are needing and asking for so we had you know, trying to stay sane as a work from home parents, then we had, you know, mental toughness, how to make sure you know, you’re building your resiliency. Now we had sleep You know, where we We also would have been diversity month, we also talked about how, in times of crisis and inclusive mindset is mission critical. So those are just four examples of what we did in the, you know, literally in the past 30 days to serve our audience.

Will Bachman 25:19
Fantastic. And what, in terms of some of the practicalities of running an effective, you know, a large event that’s virtual? What are some of the lessons learned that you have in terms of to make it interactive and dynamic?

Gemma Toner 25:34
Yeah, you know, it’s a great question, because I have to tell you, so many people is like, wow, you know, I’m, you know, going to these live events, and it’s like watching paint dry, what we find is, I think the kids are so authentic. And there’s such a level of self selection, and that you have women who are interested in the topic are already part of the tongue community. We have people, the majority of people that are coming into the event staying with us for the full hour, which is extraordinary. And they’re very interactive. What I will say is, when you have 1000s of people there, we always are concerned, Are there going to be too many questions. We have not bumped into that yet. You know, it is a curated experience. So that, you know, people are just barging in, there’s, you know, the expert is talking about a specific topic. And then there’s some level of q&a. So it’s very curated and calm. And what’s kind of extraordinary is, I think, how quickly our audience becomes very vulnerable fast. And I do think it’s because of the online environment where questions are asked that I’m not sure would be asked in a live situation.

Will Bachman 26:52
Yeah, that’s an interesting observation that somehow sometimes virtual events could actually get even more vulnerable or, you know, have a deeper experience than in person. Yeah.

Gemma Toner 27:05
It’s been pretty amazing. Yeah. I mean, that’s what we’re experiencing. As of late.

Will Bachman 27:12
What have you seen any other you know, data points or trends, you know, with with the Coronavirus? Have there been certain topics that you’ve seen, kind of increase in interest from from from subscribers?

Gemma Toner 27:28
Yes, yes, was definitely. So again, part of why we’ve been doing the topics that I just mentioned, is also a function of the usage of the videos that we’re seeing being viewed. Right. So it’s the work life balance, it’s the parenting struggle. It’s the mental mindset. It’s anxiety. It’s all of those videos. are getting extraordinary high usage right now. So we’re seeing a major uptick in that. So anything that’s stress related, anxiety, parenting, work life balance? Nope. Your I guess that’s not surprising. Okay. I think because everyone’s experiencing that to some degree.

Will Bachman 28:13
Yeah, no, those mean that that’s sort of in line with what with what I guess I might have expected with many of the listeners of this show are selling into a larger corporate buyers. Could you tell a little bit about how you go to market? And what’s your best approach? On the business development side of opening up conversations with with the right people to talk? Yeah,

Gemma Toner 28:37
yes. Always a journey. And I would say, for us, what has been most impactful is really getting those first couple of clients, which are always tough, right? That it’s just getting the person that believes that has a need. And then when I would say for us, what we found is that referrals are really what is probably most impactful. That, once we get in, and we know the product works, we can prove it pretty quickly. We then actually find that our clients are like, I’d like to introduce you to. And so that’s what has been a pretty extraordinary experience and a very generous one from all the clients that we work with.

Will Bachman 29:20
Yeah, that’s the best and do any specific tips that you have on helping to open up those referrals? And we do kind of building on your own copy? Oh, yeah.

29:31
Yeah, I do. Well, you know, what, usually, yeah. And I basically just say, you know, our business is built on referrals. And usually, it’s pretty quick that we get really good results with super high engagement. And it’s like, Look, if you’re, if you know of anyone, or any company that you think would this would make sense for that. You know, we’re like minded. We would love to meet them. And that’s pretty much opens it up. You know, people are a, I think when people have a real person, a buyer at an organization that has a has a product that they purchased, that then has a really good impact. I think they’re quite happy to help. Because it reinforces their buying decision.

Will Bachman 30:19
and to what degree are you kind of proactive in terms of, you know, reaching out to, you know, I don’t know, heads of HR or the right person at corporate, you know, to sort of initiate conversations? How do you go about doing that?

Gemma Toner 30:35
I think again, it’s really more more from an introductions perspective, where we really look to find a more strategic way in than simply just making sort of a cold call. We also find, quite frankly, that it isn’t, it’s not always the HR person we start with, you know, oftentimes, it’s someone that this idea of empowering women is resonating with. And then that’s how we kind of move into an organization and HR is kind of comes to the table.

Will Bachman 31:10
You mentioned community a few times beyond the interactions during the live events. What other ways if any, do you create to enable the members of tone to kind of connect with each other and have discussions and you know, support one another? As a community?

Gemma Toner 31:33
Right, so there’s two things. One is that all of our videos are shareable. And so that’s part of what we encourage, is if you see something, please share it with a friend or colleague. Right. So if you are a team member, that shareable video, you get the entire video, if we’re you’re sharing it to someone who is not a team member, they get a video promo, and then they can become a member of fetlife. The other piece that we do, which we haven’t really spoken about a lot, is the customer learning experiences that we work with organizations on and so when Tom launches in an organization, we actually create a co branded environment for our partner. This environment is basically a place where messaging goes when it comes to any learning and development and DNI initiatives or anything at all, that is relevant to the group that are actually experiencing tone, it also becomes a place where we do custom playlist for the companies that we’re working with. So let’s say we’re working with a company that has a specific type of busy season, we would create playlists based on their direction, that are about managing stress, you know, short on sleep, that sort of thing. So that’s another piece that we customized for our corporate partners. But we also do is, and this is a piece we didn’t really talk as much about, which is role modeling. Women need role models, to, you know, to see and track towards. And so one of the things that Tom does is make it very easy for executives and organizations, one to share videos with the other women in their company. But also the way the interface works, we can also easily do livestream events with executives, basically, there to have a quick chat with the tone community within their own company. So we’re there to really facilitate connecting the women together. And oftentimes, we’re working with companies that are global. And so we just are really make it very easy for companies to turn this on, and to begin to make it happen. How

Will Bachman 33:51
you mentioned earlier that you’ve done some measurements, how do you measure your impact?

33:57
We measure impact today with research, right? So it’s actually quite, that we go out into against all of our members and ask, you know, Raj, a battery of questions about retention at impact. Brother down the road, when we have more longitudinal metrics, we’ll also be able to look at how we’re impacting retention and our growth with our corporate partners.

Will Bachman 34:30
Fantastic. So Jim up, if someone wanted to find out more, where would they go online if you want to share? Sure. Yeah,

34:40
thank you for asking. Yes. Yeah. Thank you very much. Yeah, it’s Tony networks calm. Please check us out. Email us. You know, just we have, you know, info at tow networks on janitorial networks. happy to hear from your audience. And really, it’s a It’s a very intense time that we’re all experiencing. So we’re happy to have people come join

Will Bachman 35:05
us. Fantastic. And if you and we’ll include those links in the show notes, as well, agenda if there’s any other social media that you that you want to share will include those in the show notes. Thanks so much. Fantastic. Yes. Thanks so much for joining and talking to us about Thank you. Alright, take care of Thanks for having me.

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