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Delightfully Capricious

Mar 21 '12

This one time, at BRAND CAMP…

It’s no secret that People Report is one of my all-time favorite companies. In my mind, they represent the very best aspects of working in the restaurant/retail industry. Not because they are always looking for ways to improve their service offerings, even though they are. And not because they’ve embraced the digital age and encouraged their partners to do the same, even though they have. It’s because the team at People Report is genuinely passionate about their clients, employees, colleagues and business partners. And let’s face it; those restaurant and retail companies that really succeed in the industry are passionate about serving their customers and employees. See a pattern?

That’s why I’m so honored to be a “Camp Counselor” for People Report Summer Brand Camp conference. They’ve selected an incredible team of industry experts, thought leaders, brand marketers and innovative digital gurus to guide the content and structure of one of the coolest conferences out there. Not quite sure how I managed to Forrest-Gump myself onto this board of incredible people. I am in total awe and admiration…

This really is unlike any conference you’ve ever attended before. The speakers are insightful and will provide actionable items for improving your brand. They include a philanthropic effort that creates an awesome atmosphere for you to truly connect with fellow attendees. The People Report team makes everyone feel like they are a member of this tribe, and there are no titles, hierarchies or competitors. Everyone is there in a spirit to help the industry they love grow to new heights.

If you really want to take some time to connect with incredible people, learn how to truly improve your brand, and contribute to your industry, I strongly encourage you to join me at People Report Summer Brand Camp. See you there!

http://www.summerbrandcamp.com/

Dec 9 '10

What makes a business successful? What will be the “Next Big Thing” in the business world?

What makes a business successful?

I’m fortunate in that I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some of the most intelligent and insightful business leaders in the world.  It’s so interesting to hear their thoughts on why companies succeed and examples of businesses that are getting it right.  A few companies come up again and again.  Multiple times I’ve heard about the success of Chick-fil-A, Southwest Airlines, Zappos, The Ritz-Carlton and, most recently, Tom’s Shoes

I often wonder, what will be the “Next Big Thing.”  What company will we hear about in two years?  Will we still be discussing the companies above?  What case study will business leaders be discussing over dinner?  In short, what makes a business successful?

In my experience, these businesses have a few traits in common.  I sincerely believe that regardless of what company is the “Next Big Thing,” they will embody these characteristics.

They’ve clearly defined who they are (and who they are NOT) – We’ve all heard the saying, “You must know where you’re going or any road will get you there.”  Companies that have a definitive, strategic vision for their business, and do not compromise on this vision, are the companies that get noticed.  While it would be silly to say that these companies are not out to make money, they refuse to make money in any way that compromises their vision.  It’s important to note here that I am not talking about a generic mission statement that could describe thousands of businesses.  I’m talking about a specific definition and vision, criteria that every business decision must meet upon careful examination.

They have an affinity for people – Just as these companies will not compromise their vision, they will not compromise their employees, customers or philanthropic interests in pursuit of the almighty dollar.  They empower their employees to create a customer experience that is meaningful and positive.  They care about the people they serve – employees, customers and community – and demonstrate that in very real, tangible ways. 

Their business models are (at least slightly) unconventional and unique – More than once, I’ve heard people question how these companies remain profitable.  While other companies look for ways to cut corners in tough economic times, Chick-fil-A continues to close on Sundays, Southwest Airlines continues to let bags fly free and Zappos continues to provide free (and often upgraded) shipping. 

In a nutshell, these companies are doing exactly what they say they’re going to do.  Nothing is lip-service.  They don’t say they care about their employees, but then limit growth and strategic input in a hierarchical structure full of red tape.  They don’t see an opportunity to make money and take it, even though it goes against the defining characteristics of the brand.

What makes a business successful?  What companies will be the “Next Big Thing?”  I would love to hear your ideas.  Please leave a comment!  Let’s start a discussion!   

Dec 2 '10

Share Our Strength - Yes, YOU! Share your strength!

I’m the first to admit, I don’t give my time or money to good causes as often as I could or should.  I like my free time and I LOVE to shop!  However, when I do give, I mean it.  I choose how I give and to whom I give only after careful thought. 

imageShare Our Strength is one of the most noble organizations I know.  Not only do they have a critically important agenda, they are aggressively taking actions to make it happen.  Their goal is to END CHILDHOOD HUNGER by 2015.  Could there be a better vision for the betterment of our world?  My good friend and the Dine Out for No Kid Hungry Director of Share Our Strength, Sheila Bennett, once told me, “I hope to put myself out of a job.  I don’t want there to be a need for an organization like Share Our Strength.”  She means it.  Her passion and enthusiasm is contagious.  How that woman can keep a smile on her face with such a daunting (and frankly depressing) task in front of her is beyond me.

In America, 17 million children – that’s almost one in four, face hunger.  It deeply angers and shocks me that childhood hunger is even a problem in this country, where so many of us are living large.  I’m not saying we don’t deserve to spend the money we earn at our own discretion.  But the children in this country don’t deserve to go to bed hungry because their parents can’t or won’t provide for them.  If they are to develop hope for a better future, they need to see that good does exist in the world.

If I were in Sheila’s shoes, I’m not sure that I could find it in myself to look at the future with such a sunny disposition.  Maybe her optimism and positive energy comes from seeing what Share Our Strength has already accomplished.  As of 2010, Share Our Strength has invested $280 million to fight hunger in America and around the world.

I’m climbing down from my soapbox now.  I encourage you to help Share Our Strength meet their ambitious goals not to be the change we WANT to see in the world, but to be the change we NEED to see in the world.

Please take a moment to go online and take the No Kid Hungry pledge. Together we can make “No Kid Hungry” a reality.  www.nokidhungry.org

Nov 22 '10

The Price Is Right!

At some point in my life, I will buy myself a Cartier Tank watch.  It’s one of those items that I want so badly, that no substitute will suffice.  I’m a fashion junkie, and I like nice things.  I love, love, love to shop.  It’s almost a sport to me – determining what to buy, where to go and how to get the best deal possible.  Because I am not (yet) a billionaire, that last item is of extreme importance.  I RARELY pay full price for anything.  I’ve spent too many years in the world of retail.  I know that markdowns typically happen on Tuesdays, and I stalk my favorite brands online so the second a really great item is marked down, I’m there. 

I firmly believe that one should shop often, and buy only occasionally.  I believe it.  I do not, unfortunately, have the will power to practice that principal most of the time.  The holidays are my shopping kryptonite.  Shopping for others is as much of a sport for me as shopping for myself.  I love selecting the perfect gift and put a lot of effort into giving a special and thoughtful present.  This makes it difficult not to overspend.  Not to mention, for every item I buy one of my dearly deserving loved ones, I struggle not to purchase something for myself.

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Thankfully, the internet has made it easier to shop wisely.  I’ve become a discount search junkie.  My current favorite site is Definitive Deals, an online source for discounts at tons of great stores.  I like this site in particular because their team actually makes sure that the discount codes are valid before posting them on the site.  They post their deals on Facebook and Twitter, so it’s easy to keep up with what they’re sharing. 

I’m also pretty fond of Groupon and Living Social, but Definitive Deals kind of has an edge when it comes to holiday shopping because they have so many discounts available at one time.  With resources available like this, everyone should be able to stay on budget.  It may be wishful thinking in my case, but that’s my goal!

Nov 6 '10

Thanks To Those Who Do It On Purpose

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"Find out who you are, and do it on purpose." - Dolly Parton

This week, I was reminded, more than once, of this quote from one of my favorite people.  That’s right, Dolly Parton is one of my role models.  She is unapologetically exactly who she is supposed to be. A savvy business woman, creative spirit, and fashion icon, she is uniquely herself and has built her personal brand without compromise.  I admire Dolly, but I don’t want to be her.  I admire her for being herself, and inspiring others to do the same.  When I look at people like that, it fires me up to become the best possible version of myself!

In my life, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by female leaders and innovators, who have been successful by being exactly who they are.  They are not afraid to be themselves, even in male-dominated situations.  They wear beautiful clothing, expertly-applied makeup and incredible footwear, all while commanding respect at the office, on the stage and in the boardroom.  I am so grateful for this incredible group of leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators and mentors.  I hope, one day, to count myself among them.

It’s taken me a long time to get to know myself, and even longer to like myself.  But I find that the more I do, the more I do.  (Does that make sense?)  I’ve developed faith in my capabilities, my intellect, my creativity and my instincts - all gifts from my Creator.  The more I learn to appreciate those gifts, the more I appreciate the gifts of others.  Namaste…

Oct 4 '10

It’s ALL About The Experience! Impressing Gen Y Customers

As a Gen Y’er with a Gen X rising, I see traits of both generations in myself.  I’m driven and like my independence (Gen X traits).  I’m also a bit entitled, don’t like paying my dues, desire constant feedback and demonstrate a genuine desire to help my fellow man (Gen Y traits).

One of the most interesting – and likely most defining – traits of my generation is that we care more about experiences than almost anything else.  We spend our resources planning ski trips, hosting unique dinner parties or helping others.  We yearn for the opposite of routine and ordinary.  In fact, the experience is so important to us, that we work to create a story - an adventure - out of every aspect of our lives.

This is probably magnified because we post our lives online.  No one wants their Facebook or Twitter feed to read, “Another boring day at work.  Gonna nuke a Lean Cuisine meal and watch The Office.”  We want our feed to say things like, “Enjoyed working with 1 of my favorite clients today!  Now hosting the girls at my place for drinks, tapas and Must See TV.”  Same basic activities – work, dinner, TV, but the latter is an experience, a story worth sharing with all 1000 of our closest online friends.

It’s not news that without a doubt, the customer experience is more important than ever before.  Generation Y will not only do repeat business with an organization that provides a unique, meaningful experience, but we will also share it with our friends.  We don’t mind providing free advertising to the businesses we love.

So how do you create an experience without trying to become a theme park?  Think about anything in your business that is exciting, interesting, refreshing, informative, philanthropic or unique.  Any one of these aspects creates a memorable experience if properly highlighted.

What should your experience look like?  What can you do that would make your business “Tweet-worthy”?  What will drive them back for more?

In my almost four years at Service Management Group, I’ve learned that the answers to these questions are different for every concept.  But the answers are there.  You can know, with certainty, what creates the experience your customers crave and the stories they want to share.  From there, it’s just a matter of taking action.

Here are a few examples of unique experiences I’ve had.  Please share yours!

  • On a road trip with my girlfriends, a convenience store clerk (who was clearly empowered to customize his service behaviors) had little signs on the produce at the counter saying, “Orange you glad we have fresh fruit?”  As we left the store, he said, “Ladies I wish you safe travels and hope you have a happy, fun and productive day!”  His sunny and genuine demeanor was contagious.  We all left smiling, laughing and TWEETING about the store as we left.  This was before I used location-based social media, but now I would have left tips on Yelp, Four-Square and Whrrl as well.
  • When planning a bachelorette party for a friend, I learned that a local lingerie store would host the party after hours.  They provided light appetizers and champagne while offering bra fittings and consultations to the guests.  We all learned something and many people purchased items for themselves as well as gifts for the bride.
  • When I worked in a mall retail store, there was only one establishment in the food court that served breakfast.  They encouraged store managers to call in breakfast orders and would even bring the order to us when we didn’t have time to pick it up.  This special, personalized service was always delivered with a smile and encouraging word.  We knew the manager and staff by name and would make a point to recommend them to hungry shoppers.

I look forward to hearing your most memorable experiences!

Aug 25 '10

All Channels, One Voice - My social media marketing philosophy

As I work to create a more integrated strategy for building a stronger client community, it reaffirms my philosophy on social media.  Social media is not a stand-alone avenue for communication.  It must be integrated into a company’s overall communication strategy.  Why is that so hard to do?  Because social technology has rocked the face of the marketing world as we know it.  Rather than shift and completely restructure an entire marketing plan to accommodate for this change, if feels easier to put social media in a separate bucket – on a shelf, by itself, typically ran by a young person who has little interaction with the rest of the business. Because, why should the whole company have to participate in this “social media fad,” right? We’ve got IMPORTANT things to do…

This is absolutely the wrong approach.

Web 2.0 has broken virtually every traditional marketing/advertising/public relations model we know.  A company no longer owns its brand.  The consumer does.  So we need to start over completely, examining each of our communication channels – any way we speak to and interact with our market, determining the changes needed in order to reach today’s audience.

There are two vital parts to this examination: listening and integration.  It’s impossible to know the needs and interests of your consumer without listening first.  Understanding what content interests and engages your market is the only way to be successful.  Integration is equally as important.  These channels do not work independently in silos.  One message, one voice, should speak across all channels of communication as you interact with consumers.

This is where the job actually gets easier.  Because our world is completely customized, from the “special” way we order our morning Starbucks to the widgets on our browser homepage, we each get our information in unique ways and at unique times.  This means a company can use the same content over multiple channels.  In fact, that’s the most effective way to not only promote valuable content, but to start a dialogue around it, ultimately creating a community.  This means transparency, and an understanding that while giving up control of the conversation may feel scary, it ultimately creates a better company and stronger customer relationships.

Aug 20 '10

My Five Day Juice Cleanse

imageOne of the items on my 30 Day Bucket List got a lot of attention this week, which was perfect!  The more people knew about the five day juice cleanse I was doing, the more I felt accountable to sticking to it.  Speaking of accountability, if my dear friend Sarah had not volunteered to do the juice cleanse with me, I wouldn’t have made it through the first day.  I think she considered murdering me for talking her into it, but she stuck with it.  She rocks!

Why did we do it?

Well, I think Sarah is still wondering why I talked her into this!  I wasn’t experiencing any health problems or symptoms that led me to believe I needed to detoxify my body.  It wasn’t about trying to lose weight or crash diet.  I wanted to try this for two reasons.  First, I don’t think our bodies were necessarily designed to eat a bunch of processed foods.  I wanted to experience firsthand using food as fuel, understanding what my body needs (and what it doesn’t need) in order to function at its best.  Second, I think it’s good to temporarily do without the things we need in order to find the edge of our strength and the limits to our patience.  I discovered that my willpower is much stronger than I thought.

What did we do?

We didn’t do a packaged program.  Like I said, this wasn’t about detoxifying so much as changing habits and thoughts.  After some research, we decided on the following.

- Fresh juice – Sarah and I juiced organic fruits and vegetables for most meals.  This is the best way to get maximum nutrients and enzymes out of the juice.  Pasteurized juices and even juices that are more than 12 hours old lose a lot of their nutritional value.

- Naked and Odwalla juices – Realistically, there was no way we could take the time to make fresh juice at each meal.  So we supplemented with Naked and Odwalla Superfood juices.  They do not contain any added sugars or cane juice, just fruits and vegetables.

We also did a little low-sodium vegetable broth and herbal tea.  We tried to keep our calorie intake up in order to make sure our metabolism didn’t slow down. 

How was it?

Speaking only for myself here, it wasn’t so bad.  OK, honestly, at times it was pure hell.  At other times, it felt pretty normal.  I didn’t experience any weird side effects.  It did exactly what I wanted.  I pushed myself and successfully tested my limits.  And I have a healthier view of food and my body in general.  It’s amazing how little your body really needs if you are filling it with the proper nutrients and vitamins.  I’m also hungry for more fruits and veggies, not the heavy, greasy stuff I usually indulge in more often than I should.  Overall, it was a success, and I will definitely do it again if I ever feel like my body needs a little refresh!

Aug 10 '10

30 Day Personal Revolution

“Change works best when you have an accountability and support system.” -  @culturebabe

“I need my community. Can’t do it alone.” - @MOgulnick

“Knowing friends are waiting for me = good motivation.” @cmcphillips

With Tweets like this coming through my Twitter feed, there’s been no ignoring the 30 Day Personal Revolution movement that my friend Amanda (@sexythinker) and the rest of the crew at Talent Revolution started.  People everywhere are publicly submitting their 30 Day Bucket Lists, a list of things they want to accomplish in the next 30 days, improving their physical, mental and spiritual health as well as the world in which we live.  I’ll admit, I kind of wanted to ignore it – pretend I was somehow immune to the tons of posts referencing #TR30days.  It’s scary to publicly admit the places in my life that need change/improvement.  It’s even scarier knowing I’m going to be held accountable for the items I put on this list.  But it’s also comforting.  I’m not doing this alone.  I have a support system, and I am committing to supporting others.  That’s a pretty powerful thought.

So, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and putting my list out there, in hopes that others will be encouraged to do the same.  We can be the change we want to see in the world.  It just takes focused effort.

  • Begin volunteering for Operation Breakthrough
  • Attend church every week
  • Deep clean my house
  • Complete a 5-day juice cleanse
  • Spend at least 5 hours a week with myself – no TV, no computer, no phone, just me
  • Learn how to cook something new (OK, just learn how to cook something)
  • Send personal notes of thanks to 10 people who inspire me
  • Read more
  • Workout 6 days per week adding variety in my workout routine
  • Write 3 blog posts (in addition to this one)
  • Walk to work at least 3 days per week
  • Introduce myself to 5 people in my office that I don’t already know
  • Introduce myself to 5 people at the races that I don’t already know
  • Have a conversation with each of my mentors about my lifestyle goals and development
  • Only eat lunch alone at my desk when absolutely necessary
  • Organize a group hike
  • Buy lunch once a week for one of the homeless people in my neighborhood
  • Take time to connect with the people in my life that are important to me
  • Remember daily that calm determination is just as effective, if not more effective, as frantic determination (thanks Ben)
Jan 28 '10

2009 - Lessons Learned

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2009 was a year of lessons for me.  I think I grew more, personally and professionally, this year than any other year of my life.  I didn’t always love it.  But I am grateful for every experience, good and bad.  Here are a few of the things I learned (or in some cases re-learned) this year:

  • Count your blessings, help those in need and your problems become miniscule.  If you have food to eat and a roof over your head, you are one of the most fortunate people on the planet.   
  • Nothing is as hard as it may seem if you just ask for help from those you trust.
  • If you break the wine cork off in the bottle, use clean nylons to strain the wine into a new bottle or pitcher.  Or just drink it.  A little bit of cork never killed anyone.
  • Good friends make life full of adventure and color.
  • Trust God, especially when things don’t make sense.  He knows what He’s doing.  And it’s OK to get angry with Him.  He can take it.
  • If an item of clothing doesn’t make you want to do a little dance in the dressing room, don’t buy it.
  • All of your stuff is just stuff.  You can live without it.  You can replace it.  Stuff doesn’t matter.  People and experiences do.
  • Sometimes your friends and family really do know you better than you know yourself.  Listen to what they have to say.
  • Often, things will come easier if you stop thinking and just do it.
  • There a fewer blondes per capita in San Francisco and New York than other major cities.  This bit of trivia can be leveraged if you are, in fact, blonde.
  • It’s not what you sell.  It’s what you stand for.
  • When you reach your breaking point, you do not actually break.
  • Don’t doubt your instincts.  If you have a gut feeling about something, there is a reason.
  • Be honest and genuine with everyone.  Then you don’t have to remember what you’ve said. 
  • Whether it’s good or it’s bad, this too shall pass.  Don’t take the good times for granted.  Don’t let the bad times get you down.
  • Don’t let your inner rock star get buried.  Let her shine!