Don’t Settle for 81%: Meet Jordan Sale, Founder of 81cents
Jordan recently sat down with me for an Authentic Career Conversation, check out her story and amazing company below. If you're inspired by Jordan's story and want to provide guidance and support to individuals in need? Consider joining her company as a reviewer. Reach out at: [email protected].
JF: We met in 2017 while you were completing your MBA at UC-Berkeley-Haas. What inspired you to get your MBA?
Jordan Sale: I wrote my essays about wanting to “explore the intersection between business + social impact.” While it was genuine, it was also a bit of fluff, and I’m not really sure what I expected to learn.
In reality, I think I was feeling burnt out after just under four years at a high-growth startup and perhaps also felt some pressure that, as a woman in tech who happens to look a little younger, I needed all of the credentials I could get to demonstrate that I deserved a seat at the “table” people kept talking about.
JF: While you were in business school, you came up with the idea for your company 81cents. How did this idea come about?
JS: Salary negotiations have always been fascinating to me. After a particularly tough negotiation early in my career, I started to read negotiation books and talk more openly about negotiating with my friends. Occasionally, I’d help a friend talk through their negotiation or research market values to help them come up with a salary request.
When I got to Berkeley I started to think about the problem more seriously and posted in a few Facebook groups that I was thinking of starting something in the space. I offered to hop on the phone with anyone struggling with a negotiation and talk through it with them, provide accountability, etc.
After about 30 of these conversations, I started to notice a few patterns, one of them being that confidence was directly tied to the amount of data the individual had to reference and how prepared they were. I started to wonder how we could find better, faster, more personalized ways to source data, advice, and support for an individual in advance of their negotiation.
JF: Tell me more about 81cents. What would you want people to know about your company?
JS: Our mission at 81cents is to support underrepresented individuals through tough career conversations (annual reviews, new offer negotiations, promotions, etc.). For every individual we work with, we source market data and personalized negotiation advice from 5 – 10 recruiters, hiring managers, and professionals in similar roles – all which gets compiled in a custom 30-page report. Our users also have the chance to connect with these experts for additional 1:1 support.
The results have been pretty amazing so far, with the average individual seeing a 16% increase in pay after using 81cents.
JF: You recently launched a social-media series called Transparent Tuesday to share amazing real-life stories around pay and negotiations. What has it been like to find and share these stories?
JS: Transparent Tuesday is an initiative to create more of an open dialogue around how tough, awkward, and sometimes amazing / life-changing conversations about pay can be. Each week I post a different story on LinkedIn – either one we’ve come across in our work at 81cents or one that’s been sent to me privately.
Often they’re quite demoralizing accounts of individuals who have encountered bias or struggled to negotiate in the past. However, I’ve also received several inspiring stories where people describe having managers who taught them how to negotiate and talk about money.
JF: Entrepreneurship can be a roller-coaster ride. What’s been the hardest part of starting and running a company so far?
JS: I can only choose one?!
One of the hardest parts by far has been the mental side – navigating the ups and inevitable downs and figuring out how to stay positive along the way. Building a company can also be a very isolating experience, which I honestly hadn’t really considered before I was living it. Either way, the highs vastly outweigh the lows.
"Our mission at 81cents is to support underrepresented individuals through tough career conversations."
JF: You’ve had so much growth and success with 81cents since launching. What kind of milestones are you hoping to achieve in your business this year?
JS: I remember trying to set goals for 81cents for 2019 (after launching a few months prior) and really, really struggling to figure out what to focus on and why. That’s been a much easier process for 2020 – I think we know a lot more about who we are as a company and brand and what matters to us. That being said, we have a lot we want to accomplish this year.
A big focus for us is on growth. We haven’t done any proactive or paid marketing and have a lot to learn in that department, which I’m excited to dig into.
Another important focus is around inclusion. 81cents represents the amount that women earn for every dollar men earn. However, there are groups of individuals who earn substantially less than 81 cents. Our community needs to be a place that feels inviting and supportive for anyone who feels underrepresented or uncomfortable at work so we’ll spend a lot of time this year thinking about how to best make that happen.
JF: At FinkDev, we define an Authentic Career as one that taps into your strengths, values, and interests. What strengths, values, or interests would you say are aligned with your current work?
JS: There are two things that come to mind immediately:
- I’ve always been quite curious and borderline nosy, so getting into the details of compensation packages (which I do all day every day at 81cents) is absolutely fascinating to me.
- One strength that I think lends itself really well to getting a startup off the ground is that I’m a doer. I can usually get lots done quickly and am extremely hard-working. However, it also means that I’m somewhat impatient. We’ve been working directly with individuals in active negotiations since day one of the company. Getting that immediate feedback and validation is incredibly motivating and keeps me going on the really tough days. I can’t imagine working on a product and spending months and months in R&D before going to market.
JF: As 81cents grows in the next year. Who would you love to connect with, hear from, or be introduced to?
I think we still have a ton to learn about the problem space we’re working in, so I would love to hear from individuals who’ve struggled to negotiate in the past. What did it feel like? What was the hardest part? Who did you turn to along the way? If you have answers to share, reach out, I'd love to connect!