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CEW at 65: Lisa Klein on Driving CEW’s Development Side

Sponsorship accounts for almost half of CEW's annual revenues.

My very first job out of college was as the associate beauty editor at Harper’s Bazaar, where I worked for Carlotta Jacobson, who was the beauty editor. We both left the magazine in 1992, and I moved to Scarsdale, N.Y., and raised my two children. When Carlotta started to work for CEW in 1999, she brought me in. I started gradually, a day or two a week. I’d put the kids on the bus and race into the city. I would do whatever they needed me to do.

When I started full-time, I became head of membership. We had 400 members then, versus over 10,000 today. I also went to the events department when I started full-time. I say department, but I’m speaking loosely — there were four people in CEW when I started.

When I was doing events, one of the areas was raising money for sponsorship. Because I had contacts for beauty executives from when I was an editor, it was really very easy for me to transition into this area. I moved into sponsorship full-time around 2003.

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Today, paid sponsorship is CEW’s second-largest revenue stream, and if you add in the value of our in-kind partnerships, it becomes half of our total revenue. This money allows us to do most of what we do — especially the benefits we offer members that don’t pay for themselves, like the web site, Beauty Insider, our new app, the career center and MentorNet.

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I don’t find it difficult to ask for money. CEW’s mission of empowering women resonates with so many people, it’s hard not to get behind that. Because our membership is so large and diverse, basically a microcosm of the industry, the fact that we can put sponsors in front of that group is a powerful promise.

We have relationships with sponsors that are quite long. Some companies, like IFF, Arcade and Givaudan we’ve been working with since I got here 19 years ago, and others, like WWD, Meredith, Firmenich and 24 Seven, are over 10 years.

I view my role as the sponsor’s advocate within our organization. The ways we work with our sponsors changes continually, because business changes and goals change, but there is the overarching theme that we are on their side — we talk about short- and long-term goals, what we can deliver.

People can always find other places to spend their money and that’s why it’s so important that we deliver more than we promise. I remember coming back after an Achiever Awards dinner and hearing from a sponsor who was there for the first time, who said, “That was everything you described and more. Sign us up for next year.” We exceeded his expectations and that was music to my ears.

There are five of us now on the development team, and combined we have 48 years of experience selling sponsorships for CEW. They are an incredible group of women, passionate about their work. As an organization that celebrates female achievement, it has been wonderful to watch their growth happening here.

The toughest part of the job is the natural churn of sponsorships. People’s goals change, their priorities change, they might get new leadership, someone decides they are cutting their budgets.

I never thought I would be doing this. I’ve never looked at it as being in sales. I look at it as being a steward of relationships. We’re problem solving, coming up with solutions to business problems, finding ways to help other people. I am a nurturer by nature. I have two kids, I’ve been married for 36 years, it’s part of who I am. It makes sense that I nurture and protect these relationships. That feels very comfortable for me.

When it comes to successfully negotiating, everyone has to walk away feeling like they win, that they’ve gotten what they need. Compromise is really important. Sometimes it’s looking long-term and you give up a short-term gain, because you know in the end you will get it back. I’ve learned patience, I’ve learned to sit more with uncertainty. My mantra is “it’s not a problem until it’s a problem.”

Carlotta and I have had a very long relationship. She really pulled me back into the industry and kept me engaged and involved, and that is why I’m here today. I understand the way she thinks and I can often predict her responses to situations, so that makes me the go-to person here to run things by and to gauge her thinking. We’re very different people — we have different perspectives, which is good because it reminds both of us there is more than one way to look at a situation. But there is a mutual respect. She trusts and empowers me and I will always be very grateful for that.