What’s in a Name? Everything.

What’s your name?

Gieriet.

Pardon me?

Gieriet.

Oh.

Rhymes with Harriet but with the sound of ‘J’.

gsbcard

 

 

 

 

But what is in a name? Everything. Yes. Everything.

Last week my husband returned from the dry cleaner elated because Julie, James and June said they would do anything to help repair his frayed pants because he is one of their “favorite customers.” Why? Well, I suspect it is because he is a really nice guy. Also, he is a good (paying!) customer. But that’s just not enough to make the “favorite customer” mark. The real reason? I truly believe it is because he took (and takes) the time to get to know names. Dry cleaners, doormen, repairmen, crossing guards – you name it: he takes the time to ask their name.

Can you even imagine how flattered I am when someone takes the time to not only ask my name but also remember it? I will tell you: it is meaningful. Very.

Become a “favorite customer.”

It’s all about the name.

Ask it.

Remember it.

Best part? It will cost you nothing.

 

 

Advertisements

Why My First Tweet Said: “finally.”

In honor of its 8th birthday, last month Twitter set up the ability to find a user’s first tweet. If you are on Twitter, it is fun to see.

My first tweet:

My First Tweet

Why on earth would it say “finally”?

Here’s why. Crystal clear. I had worked full-time at Jones Lang LaSalle in consulting until I had my fourth child. Stayed home. Had a fifth. “Worked” at home as a mom but stayed current on all things business, still loving startups, entrepreneurs, etc. In addition, I had a few board and advisory roles. In early 2010, before Google made their offer to buy Groupon, I literally drove down to 600 West Chicago Avenue to sit in Groupon’s lobby to see whether I’d be too “old” to work there! I could see that they were going to be big..and I was ready to go back to full-time work and be part of the changing landscape. I so vividly remember sitting with my old HP12C calculator trying to “back into” Groupon’s revenue model! To make a long story short, I ended up landing a job at Plum District, which satisfied my desire to be in a rapidly growing company and not hide – but rather benefit – from my experience as a mom.

What did “finally” mean back in January, 2011? Here’s what it meant:

I am finally back in the game.

I am finally rolling up my sleeves to jump back in to the crazy frenzy of a venture capital backed start-up in the newly developing space of “daily deals.”

I am finally going to embrace ‘all things social’ even if I have no idea what I am doing.

I am finally going to adapt to the “new” way of doing business: working remote, embracing every social tool required for “social selling” such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, mom blogging community, Twitter parties, social media contests, daily deals, etc; affiliate links; widgets, no phone calls (rather, schedule gmail invites via calendar), onboarding, echosign, docusign, the resumator, Salesforce, Chatter, Intacct, people as dispensable and peers hired and fired with very short runways, churn on steroids, blogging for Patch, manual pivot tables, ExactTarget, dashboards,  Zendesk, webinars, stand-ups, all-hands, customer acquisition, screenshots, Compas, GAN (Google Affiliate Network), Radian6, Klout, social capital, gamification, data analytics, videos, and much more! Phew.

I jumped over the hurdle to get to the other side.

And it feels great.

Finally.

Why I am Taking My 13 Year Old to Hear Mark Cuban

My son was thrilled when I told him his early birthday present will be a ticket to hear Mark Cuban speak in Chicago at 1871, Chicago’s tech innovation hub. NOT the usual birthday present. Why Mark Cuban? Because we love to watch Shark Tank. [To those of you who were unable to obtain a ticket for the sold out event I am sorry to have this one seat taken by my son. I hope you’ll understand why.]

What are the “teachable moments” from Shark Tank and Cuban? Observing the importance of:

  • Telling your story (What makes it good? What makes the founder and his or her company investable?)
  • Math:  (Quick: what is the company being valued at if the entrepreneur is offering a 10% stake for $250,000?!)
  • Tenacity (Often times a founder ‘sticks with it’ in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.)
  • The importance of listening (It is shocking to see how frequently entrepreneurs ignore the advice of the 5 experts sitting in front of them!)

and lastly,

  • Good old fashioned hard work pays off.

My son is “hungry”. Maybe not the I’m-going-to-change-the-world-with-my-disruptive-idea hungry. But hungry to work. He sets his goals and works to accomplish those goals. He currently has his eyes set on buying a certain type of fishing rod (he  loves to fish.) He picks up any job he can to earn money – nothing fancy: snow blowing, mail collection for people on vacation, babysitting, lawn mowing, etc. He runs all of his correspondence from his iPhone – I have nothing to do with it. He has learned the importance of customer service both from providing a job well done…and an occasional job not well done. I have been awakened at night when he realized he had forgotten to bring in the neighbor’s mail and to let me know that he planned on walking to get it..in the dark…in his pajamas. Nothing glamorous about forgetting; just another lesson learned.

I’d like to think that Shark Tank, Mark Cuban and the other sharks had something to do with my son’s will to take ownership of work. It is my hope that we will get a chance to say thanks to Cuban for being part of a movement to make hard work and corresponding results “cool.” 

Hard work is cool. Especially cool for kids. They are the future of our country.

If Renting Is the New Owning, Will I Be Cured of “Stuffocation”?

Not the Typical Birthday Present.

When I turned 40 I got myself a dumpster. Worse, I did it again when I turned 42. Why? Its mere presence in my driveway forced me to literally “clean house” in a short 5 days. Even though I am not much of a shopper, things simply “collect” –  I guess it comes with having a family of 7.

I can officially say that I am “stuffed”..suffering from what trend forecaster James Wallman coined “stuffocation” (‘How we’ve had enough of stuff and why you need experience more than ever.’) Today, technology has caught up with the desire to “shed stuff.” I have watched and embraced the new “renting is the new owning” movement (aka “the sharing economy”) and completely agree that today people would like access to certain items but do not necessarily desire ownership. Whether it’s:

  • Airbnb (rent out your room; no need for a hotel)
  • Lyft (car/ride sharing)
  • Spotify (rent the music you’d like to listen to)
  • Uber (get a car when you need it and no need to take out your wallet!)
  • Chegg (rent your textbooks rather than own them)
  • Rent the Runway (rent your black tie dress)
  • Chicago-based MoxieJeanKids (“upscale resale made easy for busy moms”)
  • Coursera (college courses for free)

 All of this begs the question: Why buy or even own if I do not have to? Better yet, if I already own it, is there an opportunity to derive revenue from it??!

Just look at Patagonia’s new partnership of used gear for sale by Common Threads + eBay members. The Patagonia message is clear “Don’t buy our stuff unless you really need it.”  In addition, perhaps the old way of being “showy” [e.g. I have a fancy watch therefore I am successful and you can see it] to the new way of being “showy” [e.g.here’s my Facebook post: look where I traveled to this year and look what I did!] has solidified the need of experiences over stuff.

This year I turn 50.  Will I finally find a cure to “stuffocation”? Maybe I’ll start looking at everything in my home with new eyes.

Tandem in the garage…can I rent it out? Or will it be more work to manage that?

tandem My dumpster rental and purge used to be:

Give, toss, sell or keep.

My new motto might be:

Give, toss, sell, keep…or rent out and earn?!

My “Stay Smart” Quest: 7 Tech Lessons Learned in 2013 + 7 Goals for 2014

Lessons learned in 2013:

1) Following/learning from/watching Gary Vaynerchuk (aka @GaryVee) is worth every moment. And it’s free. I think he is a marketing genius and is one of the few people who seems to “get” it.

2) Learning to code is important. Duh. It’s where the jobs will be. It’s what our kids need to understand.  If there is one thing to teach your children – start talking about computer code. Learn about toys like Goldieblox, or apps like Tynker, Scratch, Hopscotch, Daisy the Dinosaur, etc. Don’t believe me? Have a daughter? Check out  Girls Who Code.

3) Taking the time to learn to improve your digital literacy (and even code yourself) is worth it. OK – maybe not learn to code – but learn the language! In my quest  – or even mandate – to “innovate myself” I just “finished” taking Skillcrush 101 How to Get Started in Tech. For what equated to about $6/day I enrolled. [In retrospect, my move was not perfectly timed as far as the calendar goes: Oct 21-December 6th…when running a household of 7, hosting 16 for Thanksgiving and prepping for Christmas – a different month might have been better..but I really did not want to wait!] Several online places offer some free coding or courses for a fee: codecademy and general assemb.ly, coursera, and, of course, Skillcrush. In my opinion, the founder of Skillcrush, Adda Birnir, is someone to watch! BTW, Skillcrush uses Mightybell as its community platform (similar to Chicago-based Big Marker) – working in a community platform is a learning experience in and of itself~

 4) TRYING is still the best way to see whether a new technology makes sense. Don’t just read about something new: try it. When peers in my Up n Running group suggested I try several time-saving apps I did just that. As it turned out, Mosaic is now one of my “go-to” apps to create photo books from the camera roll on my iPhone. Even my kids have started using it and creating gifts for their friends. Cost per book: $25.

5) USE Twitter lists – it saves time. I think the lists are the absolute best feature of Twitter. I have spent some time creating several lists and my personal “required reading” every morning comes not only from my go-to news sources but also my Twitter lists.

6) Try something new..and be willing to pay for it. I bought a one month subscription to TheInformation. Why? I want to “try before I buy.” The world is noisy. I read a lot; the firehose of information is coming at me – I am trying to simplify by going digital..but I still like print, too. When I received my Chicago Tribune renewal notice and saw the price increase – I immediately was willing to try spending $ on The Information. Why? Because I hope to “swap out” some expenses (maybe I’ll unsubscribe from the Trib and be willing to pay for a different form – or even type – of news.)

7) Unless I make change a habit it will not happen. When my sister turned 50 last year and we went on a yoga weekend (I had never even done yoga OR meditation) I returned refreshed and willing to change my patterns to include meditation. That lasted only a few months. I tried meditating each morning before the kids awoke. No luck – I found myself praying. And thinking. In my most recent email from Lift I was reminded that 1) I need Goals Beyond Habits  and 2) Finish Lines  – I guess if I want to impact a certain change and make it a habit, I really need to “own it”!

In conclusion, to me, it is all about leveraging myself to save time. We all know time is our most valuable resource.

Goals for 2014:

1) Continue to follow/learn from/watch @GaryVee and I will read his latest book (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook)

2) I will re-take/review my  Skillcrush material, which is still available to me from prior enrollment – this time, I will sit with a friend and learn together. While I am not committing to building a site per se, I did learn through my Skillcrush class that I am not good at learning technical material sitting alone at my computer.  Thankfully, I ran into a friend who took the same course: this time we will sit together to review the material!  

3) Install 1Password on my computer. Our Up n Running group reviewed the various options for secure passwords and concluded that 1Password is worth the $.

4) Increase my security/identity theft coverage – especially after the Target breach. Whether through Identity Guard or others, I will make it a priority.

5) Get on Snapchat (reluctantly) It’s where kids are spending their time…which means it is where brands will start to be. I need to understand firsthand how brands are using social.

6) Improve my Hootsuite use to save time.

7) Last and most importantly: continue to stay smart; (stay Up n Running) by reading about/curating and trying new technologies, apps, platforms. Reading includes but is not limited to private equity/venture capital reports, blogs, print and online news sources, local magazines, etc. If I do not “own” my skill set no on else will!

It is 7:00pm. Who is minding my children?

These are the opportunities (school and parent-related topics) “available” to me this week:

For my high schooler:

Monday, November 4, at 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, November 6, at 7:00 p.m.

For my grade schoolers:

Thursday, November 7, at 7:00 p.m. [Not on the actual calendar..but you get the point.]

How did we get here?

Said another way: Who will mind my children?

How on earth did we get to the point whereby working moms, “stay at home” moms, working dads, “stay at home” dads are asked to be somewhere on school nights at 7:00pm? As if jobs, school, sports, and extra-curricular carpooling are not enough, we are being “asked” or “invited” to evening “opportunities” out of the home. In no way am I suggesting that the 7:00pm meetings and opportunities are not meaningful or important…it’s just that I am scratching my head. Why? Because I am a rule follower and it’s hard for me to not “do the right thing.” When someone tells me that I should come hear a great speaker on successful parenting that the school is sponsoring…well, I should do it. It’s “what you do” as part of being a good and supportive parent; it’s “what you do” to be part of the school community.

This year: enough head scratching. I am not going. Sorry. I happen to be incredibly lucky: there are  fantastic schools in our neighborhood; more importantly, the administrators, school boards, etc. are not only super-qualified but also really nice people and often friends of mine. But I can’t do it any more. I need to be home. That’s where I should be. So should my husband. He should be home. That’s where I am most valued. That’s where he is most valued.

So here’s a start-up idea for someone: grab it. Please create a central repository of Vimeos, (password protected for schools). Every parent in America can stay home on school nights (when not carpooling for sports and extra-curricular events). Yep. Stay home. Cook dinner together. Eat dinner together. Read a book together. Just be together.

After the kids are in bed, mom and dad can take out their computer and “go” to the 7:00pm meeting via Vimeo.

The “opportunity” of a lifetime.

Have YOU Ever Gotten a Retreat From Tory Burch?

Several months ago I woke up to this text.

TBtex

Oh my goodness? Did I win some sort of contest?! Did my husband surprise me and give me a retreat weekend with Tory Burch, a woman whose business acumen I really admire?! How thoughtful. [Frankly, I didn’t even realize there was a Tory Burch retreat for businesswomen or mothers.]  I happen to be fairly impressed by Tory Burch the brand. The woman, too. She built a very successful company and, since its inception in 2004, she has not only built a desired and recognized brand but also become a millionaire in the process. Her former husband and business partner, Chris Burch, recently launched C. Wonder in New York and is trying his hand at building a brand without her. Between prior marriages, they have a combined six children…and unfortunately a very messy divorce.

The day prior to receiving the aforementioned text I was sitting in the airport reading the Wall Street Journal waiting for a flight departure. When I turned the page I saw a full-page highlight of Tory Burch, WSJ Startup of the Year (“SOTY”). I didn’t realize it at the time, but the WSJ was beginning to feature startups and chose to highlight various entrepreneurs and mentors.

Tory Burch

Clearly Tory Burch was on my mind.

After hours of trying to figure out the ‘surprise’ I burst out laughing!!

THIS is what my friend was referring to in her text:

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 11.24.33 AM

A RT.

A RETWEET!

I laughed to myself. I guess I should have been “happy” that Tory Burch “retweeted me” but to be honest – I was merely doing what I like to do: celebrating others’ success. In observing on and offline behavior I mostly look for beauty. Beauty in good times – but also in bad times. There’s beauty all around us – you just need to look for it. In reading  about Tory Burch and tweeting a picture of the WSJ/SOTY feature, I was merely trying to celebrate and share one woman’s success. I know that her success has come with a price – but isn’t she like any other female (or male) in the world: trying to figure it all out? Cute that my friend called a RT “‘cool”. I think it’s much cooler, though, celebrating success and knowing that each woman (and man) out there shares a common bond: we are all doing the best we can! That’s cool.

21 Years of Love in a Banker Box

 BirthdayBoxTHIS is a photo of our daughter’s 21-year-old birthday present. She LOVED it. Even better? I loved giving it to her!

Total cost: 21 years of love + $18.99 for the box and file folders.

For 21 years I have been diligent about keeping file folders with notes, photos, mementos, etc. One file each year for each child. If it sounds fancy or complicated, it is not.  Basically, I keep a folder under my bed into which I place “memories”: perhaps a concert program, a block party invite, a golf scorecard of a child’s best round, a cute letter received from a teacher, a class photo, etc. I’ll also jot down funny stories as they occur  – the kind that you say to yourself as a parent: “oh my gosh – I must remember how hilarious this is so that some day I can use it in a wedding toast!” [Like the time my then 4-year-old saw a tour group from India in the airport and without missing a beat opened his backpack and took out a red circle-shaped file folder sticker and stuck it on his forehead so he could be like the Indians and use a bindi!]

Every few months I  take a few hours and sit near my banker boxes and sort out the memories and photos per child and place them into  manila folders. After reviewing all of the little tidbits in the manila envelope, I’ll jot down a list of other day-to-day details in that child’s life (e.g.who his friends are, favorite foods, basketball teammates, sibling rivalries, family vacations, etc.) as well as activities the child has done or passions he may have  (e.g.choir, drawing, sports teams). For the child(ren) who has most recently had a birthday I write a “birthday letter” incorporating details from the year.

Here’s an idea of an item I might save (that would be a note from my 21-year-old when she was 7 stating in her beautiful cursive, “Mom, I wanted to tell you I think I’m not being paid enough attention right now. So maybe we could work that out”!! )

Letter from Grace age 7

WHY I decided to write a letter to my daughter 21 years ago I’ll never know. HOW I decided to keep files on each child every year and write a heartfelt letter incorporating funny, sad, truthful parts of his or her life I’ll never know. But I do know one thing: my 21-year-old LOVED her gift. I loved giving it. I had dreamed about giving the gift when my child turned 21 and the hours we spent going through the various folders was priceless. We laughed. We cried. We were amazed at how some of her  traits from  youth  developed  and really formed who she is now as a 21-year-old [read above – what child asks her mom with such respect?! She still is that way!] It was a joy to share a review of the past 21 years with her.  My banker boxes and birthday letter files are the ONE thing as a parent about which I can honestly say I am proud.

If imitation is the highest form of flattery: copy this and give the gift of a banker box birthday!!

Grace reading birthday letter

WHAT is KNAAC?! It is NOT Greek to Me.

My daughter took four years of Ancient Greek in high school. We often had a phrase around our house if we had no idea of the answer to a question, we would chuckle and say “I don’t know, it’s Greek to me!” Today, one can no longer pull the “it’s Greek-to-me” card.

If you are not aware of a MOOC you need to be. Same with SEO, SEM, “Big Data”, Social media tools Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and lastly but most importantly: coding. A recent WSJ article by Kirk McDonald entitled “Sorry College Grad, I Probably Won’t Hire You” encourages college grads to take ownership  of their continued knowledge base. I couldn’t agree with him more! “Teach yourself just enough of the grammar and the computer logic of computer languages to be able to see the big picture.”

I am obsessed with “staying current”. Always have been. And now, with the speed of technology the race is getting faster and faster. So what to do?

Do. That’s the answer. Do.

Learnbydoing

Make a pact with yourself. Do NOT let technology be something to watch from the sidelines. TRY. Engage. Learn. Make a pact with yourself. I am. This summer I hope to learn some coding from Codecademy. Or maybe I’ll take another Coursera class. Free online. If I am a really good mom (or bad?) I will require the same of my five children, regardless of age. WHY? Because today it’s no longer college; it’s knowledge. It’s what you know, not where you go. Knowledge is your currency.

Knowledge As A Currency = KNAAC.

Don’t let it be Greek to you.

Dear Women: Do What You Do and Do Not Ask for Permission, Ask for Forgiveness

Dear Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Anne-Marie Slaughter and even Susan Patton:

Thank you.

Each of you is “right.” Whether it’s: “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” (Slaughter, who returned to a manageable professor life at Princeton after a stint in foreign policy at the State Department); the importance of “leaning in” to your career and taking a seat at the table (Sandberg, COO of Facebook on the importance of speaking up); eliminating tele-commuters (Mayer, CEO of Yahoo and new mother, who recognized that innovation occurs at a central location; productivity works for telecommuting, but less so for innovation); or encouraging Princeton women students to find a husband while in college (Patton, professional, mother and Princeton grad). Perhaps each of you is trying to say something similar? Let me sum it up the way my mom does: YOU DO WHAT YOU DO. Yes. Just like that. YOU DO WHAT YOU DO. In other words, we all make choices.

Over the last few years I have really tried to grasp the whole working mom thing. Every mother – parent for that matter – is trying his or her best. Make your decisions and make them with confidence!  Perhaps I am an anomaly? I have played sports my entire life. I competed with boys and men at a time when many girls and women weren’t into sports..so perhaps I had a confidence that most women didn’t have? I have never felt slighted by men. I’ve always chosen to speak up when I thought it necessary, lean in at the table when I wanted to lean in, and request a promotion/raise when I deemed it earned. I’ve never had a problem rolling up my sleeves to make cold calls, knock on doors to sell, or simply “put myself out there”..because I believe in myself. Moreover, I’ll do whatever it takes to go the extra mile.

I struggle with the same balance that every mother struggles with: what is the right blend of work and family? I’ve worked full-time, part-time, corporate HQ, telecommute, Fortune 1000, ecommerce Kleiner-Perkins funded digital-startup, WAHM, etc. I had my first child ten days after being graduated from business school, worked full-time until my fourth, left for a while and had a fifth. I returned a few years ago to a job that on paper was “below” my qualifications. Why? Because it was a fast growing company in ecommerce and the potential for personal and professional growth in a rapidly scaling industry and the company was amazing (my employer was competing against Groupon.) I chose not to worry about career level but rather focus  on potential experience to be gained and value to be added. As Eric Schmidt had told Sheryl before she took the Google job,”When companies grow quickly there are more things to do than there are people to do them.” Very true. And today? I’ve shifted, and  have founded my own small start-up which I’ll manage on my own schedule. I am on the “career jungle gym”, not the linear  corporate ladder (a reference to Fortune’s Patricia Sellers who said, “Think of your career as a jungle gym, sharpen your peripheral vision, and look for opportunities all around.”);  With five kids (all athletes) in four schools – I am just like any other mom in the world: trying to figure it out.

Let’s take it one step further: How about we women DO WHAT WE DO and then take a line from  most men’s playbook: DO NOT ASK FOR PERMISSION rather ASK FOR FORGIVENESS. Perhaps that’s what each of the aforementioned formidable women is trying to say? DO WHAT YOU DO..WITH CONFIDENCE! It’s what Marissa Mayer did when she changed the option of a remote workforce for Yahoo: she’s doing what she’s doing with confidence. She thinks it’s the right thing for Yahoo. (For what it’s worth, I must agree with her: she is trying to turn around a sinking ship and needs innovation.) It’s what Sheryl Sandberg is doing by speaking up and encouraging women to “lean in” to career advancement and not “leave before you leave.” She’s doing what she thinks is the right thing and using her power with confidence to remind women to speak up and lean into their careers. (For what it’s worth, I think it is brave of Sheryl to speak up; I reluctantly read her book and was pleasantly surprised by the nuggets of raw truths she was willing to share with the reader.) It’s what Anne-Marie Slaughter did by going back to Princeton as a professor of politics and international affairs: she’s doing what she’s doing with confidence – doing it HER way. (For what it’s worth, I have two daughters, one of whom happens to be at Princeton; I found Anne-Marie’s article to be brave and spot-on: we make choices in life.) And lastly, Susan Patton is doing what she’s doing: speaking up to the young women at Princeton. Maybe I do not agree with her but I commend her for DOING WHAT SHE’S DOING and NOT ASKING FOR PERMISSION..but forgiveness. (For the record, I do not agree at all with Patton but commend her for speaking up.  With CONFIDENCE!)