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Inside the Office with

Nic Cober, Esquire WWW.CSUITECHICKS.COM


INTERVIEW WITH NIC COBER, ESQUIRE 2

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Tell me about your day job. I am a business consultant. I’m the Principal Managing Partner of Cober Johnson and Romney, a business, legal strategizing and consulting firm in Washington D.C., and Maryland. I am the operations gal in a lot of respects. I am responsible for the financial planning, the branding and marketing, client procurement of our firm, setting the strategic vision along with my two partners. We tend to focus

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on two areas. One would be what my partners’ do, which is more of real estate redevelopment, commercial real estate redevelopment. They advise on how to redevelop communities with new shopping centers, townhouses, residential buildings, et cetera. We also focus on small business development strategies, so everything from training a small business on how to grow is what I focus on. I do a lot of outreach in the community with small business owners and help them with not only their business strategies, but any legal need that they may have. I also help them with any marketing and branding strategies that they may have. To that end, I do a lot of work with the media. Locally, I am an analyst with News Channel 8 and Fox 5. That not only helps my business’s brand awareness, it also helps my clients because I can put together media and PR strategies for them and their small business as well. I am simply like a kind of one-stop shop, or a one-stop legal and consulting firm for businesses.

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Who have been your sheroes, heroes or mentors? The first one that comes to mind is my mother. My mom, Barbara Cober. She just personifies the three ways that I try to live my life: brilliance, beauty, grace. She’s one of the smartest people I know. She has great common sense. She’s very supportive and my biggest advocate in the world. She helps me avoid taking myself so seriously; to laugh not only at myself but at situations and this kind of keeps things moving. She has always just handled herself with such grace, style, and beauty. I love her to death. I think my second mentor, professionally, would be Chief Judge Annice Wagner. She is the former Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals. She was my first boss as an attorney, right after I got out of law school and I worked for her for two years. She is just the personification of class and intellect, where they intersect. She has always had just great judgment; a funny lady, but never had to be…what do I want to say? She never had to be loud and disrespectful in order to get respect. She really handled herself with diplomacy and grace. That intentional wisdom and grace balance is something that I’ve just always respected, and try to do myself.

What is your best childhood memory? I had a great childhood, period. My whole childhood was great. I think it’s because my parents were just so much fun. They had about eight to ten couples as friends. They were always getting together on the weekends. We were always celebrating something. You’ve got Marvin C - SUITE CHICKS MAGAZINE - INSIDE THE OFIFCE

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Gaye playing downstairs, and they’re dancing.

as a child. On one of her first report cards,

They would let the kids come down and shake it

that was the feedback from the teacher.

up for a minute and then we’ve got to take our

“She’s so mature for her age.” I remember

behinds back up stairs. You know, let the grown

that. I also remember being very focused, like

folks be grown folks. The support I saw so

hyper young. One of my favorite memories,

consistently was just such a great community

I actually remember it; I had to be younger

of black love. Not just with my parents but their

than seven because I was in our first house.

friends, and my god parents. It was just a really

I was probably four or five. I learned how

strong community.

to write my name in cursive, early. I loved

That was really the foundation of my life.

cursive writing. I just remember hopping up every morning, like I always wanted to go to

That sounds just so beautiful. I wish

sleep so I could wake up and practice writing

more children had that.

my name!

I know, I know. My adult life was literally the exact opposite of that. I have been divorced more than once. I think I talk about that in my book. That extension of family and that extension of couples, and black love, and fun, and humor, and just community, I thought everybody had that. I thought everybody

I think that focus and maturity is definitely ever present in my type A personality. I like to get things done. I’m enthusiastic about new challenges. If I don’t have enthusiasm and excitement, it’s hard for me to get motivated to do things. I think that that was something that surfaced pretty early.

lived like that. It was only when I got to be an

How has that manifested in your work

adult and moved from Oakland to D.C. that I

now?

learned the hard way that that was atypical unfortunately. I just really worked my entire adult life trying to recapture that I guess. That probably explains a lot.

What traits did you possess as a child that resemble traits of a leader? Do you have a funny story?

I am very goal-oriented, and I am also focused. Things that I’ve put together and accomplished like, starting businesses, writing books, focusing enough to have some influence on television as a legal analyst and a business analyst. I think those things are all ignited by my enthusiasm for not just

Well yes. I absolutely do. It’s literally a story

starting things, but completing them. Some

my mom tells every other time I go home. She’s

people don’t like to get started. Some people

like “Nicole was always so mature, so focused

don’t like to finish. I kind of like to do both. By all accounts, some people would consider

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wanted to finish things strong. In law school I happened to do well. I focused on doing my best. It led to this legal career that was not my natural affection, but I wanted to do well. Also, something happened to me that happens to a lot of people. I got fired from a really prestigious job at a law firm that I had been working at for about four years. I had a decision to make. Did I want to continue on that law firm track which really wasn’t my natural affinity? Or could I do something different? I started researching about starting businesses. What kinds of businesses were out there and what kinds of things that I had an interest in. I opened a day spa and hair salon. I did that, attaining professional goals a pretty successful

which was totally unconventional, but very

track record, but I don’t just do things to do

much consistent with my personality of

them. I do them because I love them and have

not being scared to try new things. Led by

an excitement for the thing. Nobody can force

enthusiasm, I did that for almost a decade.

me to do something that I just don’t have a

I had two day spas in the D.C. metro area

natural affection for.

until the economy crashed. I was there again,

When did you decide that you would be

forced to turn the page and figure out next steps. That led me to my current business-

a consultant, or an attorney...that this

consulting practice, focusing on how to help

would be your journey?

other businesses grow and how to help them with their legal strategy. This also includes

I went to UC Berkeley for undergrad. I was a communications major but I was afraid that I would not get a job doing television. I hedged my bets and went to law school. I don’t know too many people that do that kind of crazy thing, but that was me. I never was a big legal scholar. It wasn’t something like that but I just happened to be, again, very focused and 8

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how to help them with their media strategy. I am so happy. I’m happier than I’ve ever been because I get to do so many things that are in my wheelhouse and so many things that challenge me and excite me. Any day, I can go from doing public speaking on small business, or being on television about small business, CONNECT . REFLECT . INSPIRE .


to mentoring a small business. Today, in fact, I am teaching a class of 20 existing business owners how to scale their small business. Everything has a natural intersection with business and business development. It allows me to wear all these hats and use all of my strengths on any given day. I’m just very happy. I didn’t plan it this way. But it’s come full circle where I get to really be of service and live on purpose through my business. We have a lot of people that are just unwilling to crack that surface and be authentic. Here’s the thing, when you crack the surface, it’s so empowering. Number one, you don’t have any secrets. You don’t have to hide or be found out. Number two, everybody comes up to me and they’re like, “Girl, that happened to me. Oh my gracious, that happened to me! You’re so brave!” I’m not brave. I just overcame it. I just acknowledge that it happened, I acknowledged that life happens. I’m going to be 47 in July. You cannot get there without any adversity. That’s the truth that I know. Just because you don’t say it does not mean it didn’t happen so I just carry that little truth around. No matter how wonderfully dressed people are, no matter how good their house looks and how lovingly they look into their husband’s or their wife’s eyes, I know that they have cussed each other out at some point in that 30 years relationship. I know these things. I’ve just lived. That gives me peace and it gives me courage to get other people to be authentic. You’ll live longer. You’ll be happier. You will be quoting me on that. C - SUITE CHICKS MAGAZINE - INSIDE THE OFIFCE

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If you weren’t doing this work, what

community that I participate in through PTA.

would life look like for you?

I also participate through my Twelve Days of Christmas as a leader there. I just love the

If I wasn’t doing this, but I still pulled on the

diversity and richness of my life. Again, if I could

strength that I have, and my husband will

get over, it’s a daily, daily process of shame for

cheer from the bleachers on this; I’d probably

things that I’ve done that I wouldn’t do today, I

be in some political office. I have developed

would still ultimately come out with “I’m very

leadership skills that I didn’t possess earlier

proud of who I am and what I’ve overcome.”

in my life. I do like public speaking. I am an

Had I not made those mistakes I wouldn’t be the

advocate for those who are underserved. I’m

same person. That’s my answer.

passionate about issues and I think having a legal background would help all of that, making decisions and being strategic. I would probably do something, and I’m open to doing that in the future as well.

Someone once told me, “You don’t have to make the mistake to learn from it.” What’s the toughest lesson you’ve learned that you hope another woman can learn from you?

If you had it all to do over again, would you do anything differently?

This is where my faith has developed and nurtured me. Really put God first and let God fill

Oh gosh. I go back and forth on this, I really

those holes in your spirit. Do not let the Louis

do. Because I talk a lot about being authentic

Vuitton bag, or the men, or the degrees, or your

and genuine, but it still hurts. I DOfeel pain

bank account fill those holes. It’s like a colander.

about being married multiple times. I wish

It will seep out. I’m not in church every day. But

that my husband and I had been married 20

once I really felt the weight and received the

years, for one. I wish that. However, if I had

blessing of God’s love for me, not just saying it

to do it all over again and get the life that I

intellectually or writing it down, but absorbing

have right now, I absolutely would do it in a

that love, the love that your parents have, or

heartbeat. All of the bumps and bruises and

your best friend, or whomever. I felt that it was

horror shows that my life has kind of been at

overwhelming. It really filled up a lot of the open

different chapters. I feel like all of that pain

wounds that I had experienced over time.

has a purpose and I don’t feel that it was just self-inflicted pain. I really did grow.

That is it for me. That’s it. If I could encourage people to just feel and receive authentic love

I love the woman that I’ve become. I love my

from a higher source, that neediness will

family. I love my children. I love my extended

dissipate and you will be able to make lot of

family. I love the community that I serve, the

better decisions based from a place of strength

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instead of a place of neediness or weakness.

Reflect on your first major challenge in a leadership role. It may be being fired. It may be before that. What is your first major challenge as a leader? What resources did you have or need and not have to overcome it? My first one was with my first small business, Soul Day Spa. I was relatively young, in my early to mid-30s. My strength as a leader was that I was very much a visionary and I was very positive. I felt that I led by example. I wouldn’t have other people do the things that I wouldn’t do. My weakness was again, needing people to validate me, to understand me, to be appreciated. These things that really should be reserved maybe for more personal relationships. It’s not to say that, as leaders, you don’t want to be respected and you don’t want to be liked. Those things are important. But, I needed them more. I needed that validation of my employees, and my staff, and things because that was a hole that I had. The person I am now understands that leadership is making tough decisions. It’s still about being respected, but you don’t have to be liked by everyone in order to be a good leader. It shouldn’t be a personal affront to you when somebody doesn’t agree or doesn’t like you. That was just

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immaturity but now I’ve grown. I’ve learned how to be more of a strong person. I believe I’m respected. I believe that I’m liked. But, I believe that that’s not why I do the things I do, to be liked. My motivation has changed as I’ve gotten older and become a better leader. I know the difference now.

There is a lot of research demonstrating the value of diversity in leadership. Tell me about your experience as a female leader in your industry. What has diversity looked like in your work? I’ve had a unique experience. I’ve been an owner. I’ve been in a position of authority and autonomy for a big portion of my adult life. I like that. I very much know my personality inures itself to being a leader. As a woman, I was just raised as a black girl in Oakland. I really don’t know why, but my parents, I really didn’t focus on much but working hard and loving their children . They didn’t pay attention to politics. They really didn’t pay attention to religion or civil rights issues. They were just like, we love you. We think you’re awesome. Go on and get your education. There were no limits. There are times when I’m faced with people who maybe interrupt me, men that may interrupt me. I note it but I just accept the package. I love the package that I’m in and I just presume that every package, whether it’s a white male or black woman, has different stuff that comes along with it. You just adapt. You’re agile. Try not to focus

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on whatever limits there are. I don’t; I just face challenges. I face them head on. I don’t focus on the limitations. I focus on how I am going to get the objective, whatever the goal is. I don’t know if that answers the question at all. I believe the diversity of experiences is great. I think that we should never focus on whatever limitations there are. Just do the thing with whatever cards you have, with whatever resources you possess.

Top businesses have a board of directors to help govern the business effectively. Who is on your personal board of directors?

much so. I’m the strategic planner to the nth degree. Until I see a clear path forward, one,

My husband is my business partner and my life partner. He has a lot of experience as an entrepreneur and is a very positive person. He really encouraged me to grow into who I’m becoming, who I’m evolving into and clearly my parents as well. I’m like a broken record on this because I don’t think you need an extensive board, but I think you need a board that sees you in the best possible light, even when you

two, three, the sequence of how to accomplish something, I stay in planning mode probably a little too long. That’s what keeps me up at night. That’s really it but a personal level, my children. That’s where my faith kicks in. I’m very proud of my family. I know that as much as I could worry, that God is ultimately in control of all of those things beyond my control. That gives me peace. It really does.

don’t. A board that pushes you past your limits. I don’t have a big board, but mine believes in me

The things that are solely within my control

and supports everything that I want to achieve,

give me stress. So, God is not going to go and

and is strategic and challenges me to keep

write those checks. God is not going to write

going.

that proposal. I’ve got to write those things. It is a partnership and collaboration. The things

What keeps you up at night?

that I have to do stress me out, everything else, I’m cool with.

Really what keeps me up at night, unfortunately, is what I haven’t done. That’s not positive. I’m very goal-oriented, sometimes too

It’s a constant hour-to-hour practice. We are inundated with up to date, breaking news

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and the need to be perfect. My complexity is, I really don’t desire to be perfect. That’s not my issue. I like to get a lot done. That’s my albatross. I like to do a lot of things. Sometimes what I would say to people that have that desire to be perfect is work on your faith. It is a discipline. Practice makes perfection. When you find yourself spiraling about a particular issue, which I’ve definitely been prone to do, you need to breathe and you need to pray. You may need to be quiet and try to feel your thoughts and allow for some space between that spiraling and where God can offer some suggestion or input.

What do you do for yourself that brings you absolute joy or peace? I eat cupcakes. Full Stop! (laughing). I have several favorites. I wish I could do a cupcake road tour. I need a sweet frosting. I don’t want any whipped cream. I don’t want any sour cream. I want sugar, straight sugar. Straight sugar, I get that from a couple of places. I love Sprinkles. Their cupcake is good. Their frosting is sweet. And I just tried another one the other day, Danielle’s Desserts. She’s a woman of color, and a beautiful friend of mine. These are just amazing, homemade confections. I love her. She’s in Tyson’s Corner Mall.

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Tell me about your favorite book, any genre. And what are you reading right now?

pleasure reading.

What’s a skill you want to learn and why? I’d love to learn a different language. I see

I don’t read (for fun). It’s just awful. But when I used to read, I loved Agatha Christie. I really do. I take that back. I loved reading as a little girl. My brother was always the one riding his

myself as a communicator and I eventually want to travel more for business and pleasure. I would love to be able to communicate with more people from different backgrounds.

bike in the streets. I was sitting on the curb reading Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High, all

When do you feel the most confident?

the series novels. Then I worked my way into mystery. I loved Agatha Christie. When I got

I think when I’m public speaking because to beat

older, I think going to law school and reading

a dead horse, it’s a very spiritual experience for

for content just drained me. But, there was a

me. When I’m writing, I feel very connected to

period within the last five years just a lot of

God. I feel like a vessel. Sometimes it’s almost

good self-help books. Those things were healing

like an out of body experience that answers

and helpful to me but I’d love to get back to just

come, the words flow. I touch people. I connect

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with them. It is not me, per say, but I feel like I’m being used in a very meaningful way. That gives me confidence that I am using my purpose that God has put me here for. Yeah. I mean, it’s a shock to me. You’re talking to a person who was very shy growing up. I’ve had friends. But I’ve always gone for authentic connections. That’s hard to do just generally. People tend to be on the surface and want to keep it light. I like deeper connections. I talk to my mom about it all the time. I was like, when did this happen? Who is this new person? It makes me chuckle, but it’s a blessing. It’s just a blessing and I see it as that. I struggle with it, quite frankly. I am a private person. I’m private. I’m quiet. I am the person that can go to the movies by herself, or sit in a café and just feel totally comfortable in that solitude and quiet. I like my own company. It’s very much a surprise to me how I am being used and strengthened in this area. I feel a responsibility to do it because I know I really don’t have a choice. I’ve got to do it and be assertive. That does give me confidence, ultimately.

If you had to describe yourself in five words, what would they be? Funny, excited about everything, hopeful, loving, and kind.

What would you like your epitaph to be? She never lost hope; She always tried to help. 18

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If your life were a movie, what would be your theme song? “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” just popped into my head. That’s hilarious. That’s really it. Or, “I’m So Excited” by Oakland’s own…The Pointer Sisters! They’re very corny but any soul song, quite frankly. I love to dance. I love any good, little funky background.

Is there anything else you wish I had asked you? I really do think CEO of My Soul, the book that I wrote, is a very insightful journey on resilience and how to overcome adversity and deepen your faith in a practical, meaningful way. I am very proud of my life and not for the surface accomplishments. It’s just because I did not quit. I didn’t quit on myself. I didn’t quit on my children. I did not allow other people to define me based on my mistakes. I kept going until I won. I kept going until I loved myself enough to really be loving and kind to myself first instead of being kind and loving to other people all the time. I think that that’s what that book, and my life, shows. How to get in order to love God, love your personal self and then love others, in that order. I think everybody would benefit from at least being reminded of that fact.

How can readers connect with you? I am on all social media platforms as Nic Cober Esquire. C - SUITE CHICKS MAGAZINE - INSIDE THE OFFICE

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Images by C-Suite Pics® Interview by Lydia Kearney Carlis, PhD Graphic design by Daniella Marooney

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Inside the Office with Nic Cober, Esquire  

Nic Cober is an executive coach and business strategist who specializes in developing management, legal, and branding strategies for leaders...

Inside the Office with Nic Cober, Esquire  

Nic Cober is an executive coach and business strategist who specializes in developing management, legal, and branding strategies for leaders...