To me it always starts with self. First look within yourself and do a true assessment. Does your team reflect the world, your community? Can you sit or zoom with your team and see a true representation of the world? What about your circle of friends? Does your close circle reflect the world? The first step is always self because if we all changed, the world would too. As a Founder and CEO of my company, when I hire talent for our team, I look at expertise and personality to determine if someone is a good fit for the project. And after 14 years, I have a diverse team with an excellent track record of delivering above and beyond for our clients.
As part of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure to interview Shonda Scott.
In 2006, CEO Shonda Scott created 360 Total Concept as part of the solution by providing management services to organizations needing support in public relations, monitoring and compliance, logistics, and facilities management. 360 is headquartered in San Francisco/Bay Area, with an office in Los Angeles, projects nationwide, and an international footprint. 360 has a portfolio of projects totaling over $1.7 billion, which has included giants such as BET, Uber, Comcast, Kaiser Permanente, major transit agencies, and several international airports. 360 has provided support services such as creating diversity spending strategies, which has helped generate over $100 million reinvestment back into historically underserved communities and increase the utilization for small businesses. In 2012, Shonda was appointed to President Obama’s Platform Committee. Based on her civic and community leadership, in 2006 Congresswoman Barbara Lee recognized Shonda as a CBC Young Leader. Shonda was inducted into Alameda County’s Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018 for her business acumen. In addition to her entrepreneurial and civic work, Ms. Scott is the executive producer and host of a talk show “Spotlight with Shonda Scott,” a lifestyle show highlighting local and national influencers and unsung heroes. Shonda is a lifetime member of UCLA/CAL Alumni Association, achieve member of UCLA Bay Area Bruins, and Arthur Ashe Foundation: 360tcpr.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Laura! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in a household where my parents instilled in my brother and I the importance of community and always giving back. I was born and raised in Oakland California. My parents in the 1980s owned one of the top 100 black-owned businesses in the US. They employed over 800 people, primarily people from our community. Their team was diverse before that was a buzzword. I began working in our family business when I was in middle school. This is where I learned from watching behind the scenes the impact entrepreneurship has on a community. When you can provide a job for people in your community, you can transform people’s lives by opening up doors of opportunity.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Yes, the Bible and Malcom Galdwell’s book “Outliers.” Both books changed and shaped my life. I am often quoting both. You can hear me say “I can do All things with God” one minute, and then talk to someone about the importance of mastering your craft by getting in your 10,000 hours of practice at your life’s passion. You have to read Gladwell’s book to fully understand the significance of 10,000 hours.
Both books helped shape my thinking on how to achieve success. The Bible scriptures give my balance and spiritual guidance on how to live my best life. While “Outliers” puts things into proper perspective in terms of how to follow your core principles and put in the work so that your level of mastery excels. With faith and 10,000 hours of work, you can achieve greatness.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
If you have a choice between money and passion, choose passion. Commitment to passion will open doors and the rest will follow. Passion is connected to love, and love is the highest principle. So if you do what you love you will always be fulfilled. I started my business 14 years ago on this principle, and I haven’t looked back. I love what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and the impact I’m having while doing it.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is when you have power and you use it to shape and help others execute in a way where your team grows collectively and individually. I lead with love, encouraging people to see more in themselves and use their skills to do things they didn’t imagine.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
Wow this is a great question. First thing I do is give up sugar. I found that sacrifice increases discipline and my focus. I pray and meditate more, which gives me balance and more courage to achieve higher heights. And as I tell my team, practice is everything. In the words of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson “This is why we rehearse.” It is the rehearsal and practice that give you those 10,000 hours of mastery. It is in the preparation that you perfect your craft so that when it’s show time, game time, you are ready to excel and execute at your highest level. Recently, because of the quarantine, my team like the nation had to pivot, so we pitched to a new client the idea to produce a virtual conference, which they had never been done before. Since my team had been using Zoom’s virtual platform since 2016, we were ready to take the leap to the next level — well at least we had confidence to take leap. To execute, everyone on the team was a part of the brainstorming sessions on how we could make an in-person experience virtual and have the same impact. We rehearsed, studied and expanded our knowledge. And on game day we delivered well beyond our client’s expectations. As I said, with God and putting in the time you can do all things.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
I think there are several factors that led us as a country to this moment. One, our country has continually turned a blind eye to the injustices that have been endured by its African-American population since the end of slavery. Next, the pandemic and the shutdown forced all of us to be at home and, when we weren’t working, we were on social media since we didn’t have our usual distractions like sports, movies, bars, and nightclubs. Lastly, the callousness of the murder that was caught on video. I mean, kneeling on another human being’s neck while he’s handcuffed for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. And that was also the third such incident involving the death of an unarmed Black person in less than a month, so it was the final straw that broke our nation’s back. For the first time, we as a country, have to face our societal ills and make real change.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?
Most of the work my firm does is about diversity and inclusion. One example of our work on shaping policy to increase utilization of historically underutilized firms had made our work a noted best practice and me a subject matter expect. We began work with a client to improve their contracting numbers with small, local businesses from 6% when we started to over 55% when we completed our tenure. It began with engaging the very community we were trying to serve. Often times entities don’t include the people to ask them “how can we better serve you.” From there we began working with every internal department. If you want to change an outcome or the exterior, you must first change internal. We were very intentional in our work every step of the way, and when we achieved one milestone or goal we celebrated and then stretched ourselves more, never settling with what we just achieved as our best. With each milestone we raised the bar, and we raised it for everyone around us. In the end, over $200M was reinvested back into local community through utilization of many small, diverse and local businesses. More African-American and Latin businesses worked on the client’s $500M program than ever in the program’s history, and we created a national model for others to learn and see what is possible when entities who work collectively with intention and commitment.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
You can really only achieve true diversity and inclusion when you operate with intention. If not, you will fill the room with a bunch of the same people. CEO’s have to be the one who understands the importance of a diverse executive team. It is the diversity that breeds excellence, because people from diverse cultures have different viewpoints on the same issues, which can lead to a variety of innovative solutions. Having multiple opinions is always a positive when they’re geared towards the improvement of the company. The most obvious reason that it’s important is because it’s good for the bottom line. How many times has a company or store been hit with a lawsuit or a boycott because they’ve released a racially insensitive advertisement or product? If those businesses had diversity in their decision makers, then someone would have voiced concerns on the questionable campaign and it would have never have made it to the marketplace. Instead of having to issue an apology and doing image rebuilding for your company, a diverse executive team allows your business to avoid those unnecessary and costly pitfalls.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society.” Kindly share a story or example for each.
Step 1: To me it always starts with self. First look within yourself and do a true assessment. Does your team reflect the world, your community? Can you sit or zoom with your team and see a true representation of the world? What about your circle of friends? Does your close circle reflect the world? The first step is always self because if we all changed, the world would too. As a Founder and CEO of my company, when I hire talent for our team, I look at expertise and personality to determine if someone is a good fit for the project. And after 14 years, I have a diverse team with an excellent track record of delivering above and beyond for our clients.
Step 2: America must atone for our ways of the past as a nation. We must as a nation recognize and acknowledge the contributions African-Americans and people of color have made to this country. Imagine a world where, no matter the color of your skin, we all can win. Recently I watched the series “Hollywood” on Netflix and I cried like a baby at the end. My tear weren’t tears of sorrow, but were more tears of joy and disappointment. Joy because when everyone wins, we all win; and disappointment because the world isn’t like this: open for all the win. It is possible, not just in the movies. We just have to make decisions that consider others, and know that if everyone is winning then there really aren’t any losers.
Step 3: Realize that to reach equity as a society we must create opportunities above and beyond for those historically underserved. I once saw a photo of three people of various heights needing to look over a fence. In one side of the photo it showed all three of them standing on equal-level platforms, and only the tallest one could see over the fence. Then on the other side of the photo, all three of the people of various heights received a platform of various heights with the tallest receiving a shorter platform and the shortest person receiving a higher platform — so they all stood at equal heights for equitable view over the fence. This means in order for this to be equitable, we have to give the one who have least, more; and one’s who have more, less. It has been unfair for so long, and the disparities so vast that the only way to make a true paradigm shift is to give in an equitable fashion not necessarily equal.
Step 4: Economic development is key. As a country we would have to create a system that distributed wealth to bring balance. My team goes into communities to help increase diversity in the contractors and vendor pool, so those historically underutilized now have an opportunity to work on projects. In order to do this, specific, required goals have to be set so that large companies have to use small, diverse companies to win the work. In other words, we are requiring the large companies share the wealth. And interesting enough, in the final analysis, we found that large firms grew tremendously even when they were required to share work with smaller firms. However, they weren’t the only one’s growing, the small firms grew too. The more we create programs with robust utilization requirements and enforce them, the more we all will expand. I feel it is the responsibility of businesses to create innovative ways to increase the utilization of the historically underserved with every opportunity they pursue.
Step 5: Local government must reinvest in underserved communities. In many cities across America, money has been taken for various departments and put into the ever-increasing police budget. This has lead to an imbalance in the system. Put the money back in the community, in parks and recreation. Put the money back in education; put the money back into health and human services; and put the money back into supplier diversity. Now is the time for local communities and government to self correct and locally reinvest. If every city across America did this, we would see a wave of change move throughout the nation.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
Yes, I am very optimistic. I feel that right now we are in cocoons and, based on our faith, focus and determination, we can come out of this a butterfly or moth. It is all in how we use this quiet time. If you use this time to create, build and develop yourself, and dig deeper, you will come out better and stronger like a monarch butterfly. And if you don’t use this time wisely, and waste it, then when things open up, you’ll be behind and left in the dust like a moth. Now is the time for us to make a paradigm shift. It is up to each of us to do our part, starting with one’s self to make the change that the world is demanding for us to do.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.
There is not one person, but since this is my vision — and although I have had dinner with them both at different times — I have never had a private breakfast with just me and the two of them. So my vision is a private high-tea with Michelle Obama, Oprah and me. I would love to have both of them as my thought partners to advise on strategy for my next launch. I would love to sit and talk for hours sharing stories, and make plans for how we can all collaborate on a few projects.
How can our readers follow you online?
Readers can follow me on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter @shondascott360, or at my website www.shondascott.com.