Dia Simms at Know Your Value 2018

If you haven’t heard of her, I’m about to introduce y’all.

Dia Simms started out working as Puff Daddy’s assistant.

She is now the president of Sean Combs Enterprises.

She has a government background. She was a contract negotiator for the Department of Defense. At 21, she was trained in how to negotiate. For things like helicopters and jets. She said it was the best training she ever received and that really, we should be teaching this stuff to girls in the 8th grade because we need it.

When she took the stage this past December at the Know Your Value conference, I was transfixed. I was asked to attend and host the “Coach’s Corner” by Mika and her team, and I felt like a student among incredible entrepreneurial women who were so gracious and open with their experiences and advice.

Dia talks as fast as I do. But I still managed to take ferocious notes because everything this woman said was precious, real world advice that came from a woman who has been there, done that.

Key things I learned from Dia:

  1. On negotiating: Base it on the math. How are you clearly establishing what your value is and what value you bring to the deal?

  2. “Don’t be scared to be audacious.” Dia said she learned that, not at the D.o.D but working for Diddy. She said, “What I do find in real life when I’m negotiating with women vs men: women are enormously reasonable and pragmatic. You have to be comfortable thinking ‘God My value is three times what I think it is. I want to come in with an audacious obnoxious intergalactic request because I’m worth it.’” Her point was: we don’t have time to sit and wait for pay parity. “We are on our 200th year of humankind. #MeToo started last year. This is a 911 emergency. If we keep status quo at changes in pay scale, it will be 2059 for the average women to have parity with average man. For Hispanic women , it will be 2224. For black women, 2119. I would be 144 years old,” Dia said.

  3.  Do  more than quietly bemoan our challenges to our girlfriends. If you have the opportunity to teach, mentor, or be mentored, do it.

  4. During Dia’s conversation onstage with Mika, she was asked “Did you have a Know Your Value moment?” Dia’s story was amazing. She had been with Daddy/Diddy/Combs for 13 years. They launched his vodka label and sold 60 million cases around the world. She was leading this incredible new part of the business but she was still his chief of staff, literally on one phone talking about “What’s going on with distribution?” juggling another call about “Send the jets” jumping on another call “It’s the girls’ birthday party.” They had a monster year and she said she wanted to launch a new company to get behind the Ciroc label. He agreed but wanted her to replace herself. 12 months and three replacment chiefs of staff later, she was still doing EVERYTHING. She said, “Hey you know what, this is my first and last time because I don’t want to make idle threats. I sent my lovely letter of resignation. I love the organization, I love working with you but I don’t want to do anything half ass. My reputation matters because I know my value.”

    Two weeks later, after Sean accepted her resignation, she got a call from the chief financial officer and he said, “Sean said just to give you whatever you want.” Definitely a mic drop moment.

  5. Dia also said: “Nothing frustrates me more than this obsession or concern or feeling like  money is a dirty thing the reality is this is just a common day currency. If you were paid in scenarios, for example, instead of Robitussin and Band Aids you get health insurance, you would negotiate the hell out of that. You’re negotiating for apples or steak. Your day of work is as valuable as that day of pay, treat it through that lens.”

 What was equally impressive: she was so gracious and friendly. I ran into Dia in the conference hotel and told her how inspiring and energizing she was. Such a class act and it’s easy to see why she’s a huge success.

vicky nguyen