Do Your Work: An Open Assessment of Tory Johnson

I received an email from a client with a forward from Tory Johnson of Good Morning America, Women for Hire, and Spark and Hustle fame.  It was titled, “Haters gonna hate!”

ToryIn this email, Mrs. Johnson discusses her new book/movement, “The Shift” and the praise and critiques she’s received since its launch.  Approximately half way through the email, Tory revealed the criticism that cut the deepest.  Someone wrote her and said, “You don’t care about helping other women lose weight. You just want our money for your book sales.”   While Tory is writing this off as someone being a hater (at the advice of her 16 year old daughter) I see something totally different.   I see a client having a negative experience with Tory Johnson, her brands, or both.  What could be awry with the PR Princess’ brands? As I dug a little deeper, here is what I found.

  1. Same Thing, Different Name (Same Face, Different Place).  All three of Tory Johnson’s brands (Women For Hire, Spark and Hustle, and The Shift) have the exact same business model.  Each includes a book and a conference, where once in attendance, premium products and services will be sold to you.  To boost your feeling of influence, you are invited to work for Tory by being an ambassador or host or sponsor for an additional investment.  But does it really boost your influence or only Tory’s bottom line?
  2. Brand Confusion.  While Mrs. Johnson’s movement from Women for Hire to Spark and Hustle appeared seamless, this latest venture, which has the exact same business model, is clearly not.  Women definitely maneuver from the workplace into entrepreneurship, but not all women are on a weight loss journey.  For those who follow Tory Johnson, the turning of a life experience into a movement can make one feel abandoned.  I thought we were Sparking and Hustling??!! Now you only want to talk about how you lost weight and created a better life? I’m confused.
  3. Stop talking about it and Be About it.  The real reason this person wrote Tory Johnson with her “hate” is because there is a disconnect between the image, or promise, that Tory Johnson and her brands emits and the experience.  Based on my research, this disconnect was created when Mrs. Johnson STOPPED staying connected to the audience that propelled her into the limelight.  She stopped working with them and started talking about the work she did with them.  Women for Hire started in 1999.  Spark and Hustle appears to be in the hands of affiliates with programs like Daring Doers and the BBF initiative. Her work was not speaking and writing books—those are tools to spread the word about her real work. And more speaking and more books won’t fix the problem, either.  When you spend so much time writing books and speeches and preparing to speak, coupled with the other responsibilities she has as a wife, mother, mentor, and community leader, there is no time to actually connect with the struggles and triumphs of your fan and customer base. When this happens, your core customer feels abandoned, frustrated, and devalued—thus the “…you just want our money for your book sales” comment.

Tory Johnson, I implore you to take a second look at the “hate mail” comments you received and referenced in your eblast.  Then, I want you analyze where you started and what steps you took to get where you are.  Lastly, I want you to remember that most of the women who look up to you are somewhere in the middle of that staircase. You cannot just speak to them from the front of a crowded conference hall.  They don’t want to just read your story on their Kindles.  That may work for some other mediapreneur, but it is not working for you.  Your customers are telling you that they miss the “Tory in the Story”—they need you back at work. Your work is being an awesome connector and conduit of entrepreneurial energy.  Once you return to that, you will get true hate mail—the kind where the only thing they can say is “I thought you looked better fat.”

See the CAREER Conversations™ webisode on Ego’s In Employment and Entrepreneurship

Rules without Relationship cause Rebellion!

Saturday, I was heading to a birthday brunch for my very first friend, Lisa.   She lives about an hour away so I decided I would tune in to SGN The Light (ironically, the first radio station to ever interview me and tell 2.5 million listeners that I exist).   Often, when you get a room full of women together, there is drama (have you seen Basketball Wives?)  So I thought I’d would get myself prepared Spiritually and mentally by tuning in to some good Gospel music for the drive.  However, there was no music.  Just preaching!   Ironically, the message that was on was being brought by Dr. Claybon Lea, Jr. (whose father was my first Pastor and the man who baptized both Lisa and I together in 1978).  I thought…hmmm… this must be a sign!  Once Dr. Lea began his message, I was at full attention!  His sermon topic was “Rules without Relationship cause Rebellion”

While I certainly didn’t intend for this blog to be a “bible lesson” this was just too good not to share.  One of the Scripture references Dr. Lea used was Colosians 2:7 and it’s full of nuggets that will help us in both our personal and professional lives.

Col 2:7 rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

To best relate this to  workplace relationships… let’s go over some key words found in that verse.

Root[ed]:  The part of the body of a plant the develops; begin to grow.
Built:  To Increase or develop toward a maximum; prepare in stages
Strengthen [ed]:  To make or grow stronger
Taught [teach]:  To impart knowledge of or skill in; give instruction
Thanksgiving: An expression of thanks; a public acknowledgment

As I drove down the road, I though, hmmmm, I wonder what would happen in the workplace if people would simply :

  • Began a relationship with co-workers instead of saying through word and action, I’m the boss.
  • Take the time to grow relationship in stages and grow them for maximum result instead of writing people up for insubordination, just because they are mad about something.
  • Build each others workplace confidence instead of seeing everyone as competition (which makes the team and the organization become and grow stronger as a whole)
  • Impart knowledge and skill into others instead of withholding information as a form of job security.
  • Say Thank You and publicly acknowledge those members of the team who help them pull things off.


I just think if we get back to understanding how vital relationship building is we would stop through titles and demands around and realize , if you don’t treat people right, they will rebel against you and your rules.  That includes your company, your brand, your products and every esle that is attached to you.  The bottom line is people do business with people they know, like, and trust. Relationship building is crucial in both personal and business affairs.   The Rules of “Relationship” haven’t changed along with trends and the ups/downs of the economy.  One thing that has remained the the same is relationships built on the ‘What’s In It For Me? Model” DO NOT WORK!     Relationships that are built on mutual respect and understanding will always garner a positive response.

If you are new to the company, new to the team, new to the department, new on a particular project, new to a networking group, etc – - be kind, be respectful, and in some cases, just be quiet.   It helps to understand the culture of a thing before trying to change it.   If you haven’t added anything to the pot, please don’t criticize what others are brewing, or better yet…don’t criticize what’s in the pot until you’ve tasted it!

Oh and the birthday bash was beautiful…and full women with awesome Spirits.  Pure fun!


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