Jennifer Justice, Entrepreneur and former Entertainment Executive, on How to Negotiate
LEADERSHIP
August 16, 2023
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Jennifer Justice is an entrepreneur and former entertainment executive known for her expertise in building artists’ careers and business portfolios by marrying art with commerce. From the beginning of her career, JJ as she is known, has championed gender equality & diversity in the workplace and beyond.

As EVP of Strategic Marketing and Business Development and General Counsel at Roc Nation, she helped structure the vision and growth of Roc Nation. She served as Jay-Z’s personal entertainment attorney for a total of 17 years as well as Beyonce’s personal attorney while at Roc Nation. In 2019, JJ founded The Justice Dept. – a business strategy & business development company as well as a law firm that works with female entrepreneurs, executives, talent, brands and creatives to build and maximize their value focusing in the areas of consumer product, tech, finance, media, entertainment and fashion. JJ also hosts the fast-growing podcast, “Takin’ Care of Lady Business”, has been named a “Game Changer” by Goop, by InStyle as one of the 50 Badass Women Changing the World, and on Billboard's Women in Power list three times. She has been featured on the TODAY Show, Tamron Hall, CNBC, Yahoo, Intermix, The Skimm Podcast, Kara Goldin Podcast and is a regular contributor on NBC News.


You’ve worked with a number of big name celebrities (Jay-Z, Beyonce, Mark Ronson) to help them negotiate bigger deals. What are the big tips you’ve learned along the way?

When working with clients of the celebrity caliber I do, it’s great intel on how far people will go to get a deal done which leads me to three big tips I have learned.

The first tip when negotiating for celebrities is to know when they are comfortable walking away – what are their non-negotiables? How badly do they want this deal to happen and why? What is this deal doing to propel them even more forward – is it money? Exposure in a new sector?Once I have these questions answered, I can determine how much leverage I have to push the other side beyond my client’s expectations.

Which is my next tip – know your worth and how much you can push the other side to get the maximum without blowing the deal. One part of knowing your leverage is understanding what the other side wants as well – what do they want/need out of this deal?

And the third tip is when you are in the last stretches and just about to close, act as if you have a few open items but save the one big thing that you want more of – like a bit more money – as your closer. In otherwords, I’ll drop everything else if I can get this one point.

Now, you help women negotiate for more money. Can you share one or two of your favorite tips?

When speaking to women specifically, I have a million tips but the two I really emphasize are:

  • NEGOTIATE NEGOTIATE NEGOTIATE!!!!!

I am always surprised when I get new clients – most of which are C-Suite that have not negotiated their deals! At all! Which means they have left millions of dollars on the table over the years. If you just start by getting 10% to 20% more, that amortizes over the years to get much more over time. And it isn’t just salary that should be negotiated – it’s title, reporting, severance when fired without cause, equity, bonus target and all other perquisites available to that particular position.

  •  HIRE SOMEONE TO DO IT FOR YOU!!!

Yes, self-serving, as it’s one of the services that we offer at the Justice Dept, but I can’t stress enough how commonplace it is to hire attorneys to negotiate all aspects of your employment agreements, severance agreements or any agreements for that matter! We negotiate salary and all of the other above terms from the beginning. If a contract is given to you, an attorney should negotiate it – an attorney drafted that contract for your to review, they expect you to hire an attorney to negotiate all aspects of it for you. We can even get you signing bonuses to cover the legal fees!

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What is the big secret to great negotiation?

The big secret to a great negotiation is the ability to create a win-win situation for all parties involved – both sides have to feel they won most things and lost very little. Negotiation isn’t like the movies where there is some twist or some forgotten punctuation which changes everything – it’s about both parties finding a middle ground where they can move their relationship forward (or dissolve it).

What do most women do wrong when they are approaching negotiations?

I don’t know we do anything wrong necessarily – we often just don’t want to rock the boat and have been outwardly criticized for wanting more in our career. Regardless, we deserve it and some tips I give women to get all they deserve in negotiations – which is a LOT more than we have now are as follows:

  1. To restate above – negotiate. If you don’t negotiate for yourself, will the company think you will negotiate for them? And if you don’t negotiate for yourself, how will they treat you in future promotions, raises etc. I see it all the time – when a woman finally realizes how much she’s underpaid, she’s mad understandably so. While we can get her more this next time, we can’t make her whole. So who she ends up being mad at is herself for not negotiating for more, for believing the company didn’t have more for her or whatever reason she was told.

  2. Brag about your accomplishments – write down all the ways you have made the Company / partnership (whatever it is) money or how you saved it. Make sure you write it ALL down – even if it makes you uncomfortable and even if it wasn’t you alone – you were part of a team that did that. Be prepared with that and get comfortable owning those accomplishments.

  3. If you aren’t great at face to face, don’t negotiate that way. Not everyone can negotiate on their feet, it is intimidating! I have trouble negotiating for myself even at times – “any attorney that represents themselves has a fool for a client”. It is fine when confronted with offers to say, “Let me think about it” and get back to them – don’t feel forced to give a number or a ballpark. It also makes the other party nervous and want the deal more this way.

  4. And more on that – don’t make the first offer. In NY they have to give you salary bans and can’t ask what you make before. Likelihood is that they will offer you more than you will ask for anyway!

  5. And we hear this a lot as women – don’t get emotional – which I hate to hear but I have repurposed that phrase and see it differently. Think about this a business. This isn’t your family, it’s not your best friend, it’s not your kids. You work with co-workers at a place that you get paid. You may love every minute of it, but if that company is not doing well financially, you very well get let go – so you have to have that same mentality. For instance, they may say they aren’t doing well financially overall, but your department is – so that is their problem, not yours. So don’t make it personal is the way I look at it. We love to love our jobs, but love yourself more.

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Is there a difference in the way that founders versus C-Suite executives think about negotiations?

Yes there can be differences the way that founders and C-suite execs approach negotiations mostly due to what is at stake. Founders have more emotion built in – this is synonymous with them – it’s their company, their baby. They often underpay themselves for the health of the company. They have much more autonomy and control of the decisions of the company and are more agile and flexible. They are more long-term and vision driven knowing that they have an end goal to get to so may be willing to take more risks or take longer term look at certain deal terms.

C-Suites have more stakeholders and potentially board members that needs to weigh in on decision making and negotiations. They are typically focused on maximizing profits and driving value shareholders if public as they have heightened responsibilities to them, not just their employees or themselves. All of the above can lead to being more cautious / less risky in their negotiations.

Who is a woman you admire right now?

Seriously every single one of us needs to be applauded on the daily at how much we do in a day – I used to tell my male partners I do more in a day than they do in a week, and they never disagreed. But I am filling this out 5 days after Barbie was released so as in RIGHT NOW, Barbie and Greta Gerwig have my vote. The amount of pissed off white male republicans due to this movie is truly everything. What is the saying “You are nothing until people are talking shit about you”. So well done Barbie and Greta Gerwig.

What is one trend you see coming in 2023 that you’re interested in?

The trend I am most interested in is women making a shit ton more money. ☺

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