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April 2016

Every Day May Not Be Good…

By | Motivate Others | No Comments

…but there’s something good in every day.

Jacqueline is taking a short break this #Telltaletuesday, but don’t worry, she’ll be back next week. She and her family were involved in a small car accident over the weekend (everyone is healthy and safe!), so she asked me to guest blog for her today. I should probably start by introducing myself. I’m the Director of Marketing for SoapBoxSample and I’ve been with the company just over a year and a half. During my time working with Jacqueline, I’ve had a front row seat to her amazing journey. In just the short time I’ve known her I’ve seen her overcome a series of obstacles — physical, personal, and professional. Even one or two of these would make any normal person lose their minds and completely give up. But Jacqueline is not normal. (Yes, I am allowed to talk about my boss that way.)

For those of you who know Jacqueline, you won’t be surprised to hear me describe her as insanely tenacious*. Fifteen months ago she and her family were involved in a devastating car accident that left her unable to walk or even stand up. Her recovery was long, slow, and painful. But for Jacqueline, impossible challenges are what she lives for. She suffered through the pain and mental anguish, constantly pushing herself to be better than she was the day before.

Jax.running.memoryLast Sunday she re-posted a Facebook a memory from one year ago, that said the following:

The morning of the accident I did my last mile at 7:23. Today I did my first post accident mile run at 17:23. Lots of tears and had to hold on the sides at the end as my foot was dragging. You have to start somewhere. #fightingforrecovery #noexcuses #nopainnogain #icandothis #iwillrunagain #recoverytears #iwantmylifeback #ihatecaraccidents

She loved, no LOVES to run, and is/was determined to run again after the accident. But despite her best efforts over the last year, the damage to her legs may be too severe to allow it. In true Jacqueline style, she overcame this setback with pure mental grit. The accident may have taken away her ability to run, but that just gave way for the opportunity to become a competitive cyclist.

“Roadblocks can be stopping points, or pivot points. It’s up to you. I can either be ‘someone who used to run’ or ‘a road biker’. I choose to be a road biker.” — Jacqueline Rosales

Last weekend Jacqueline faced a roadblock yet again when she and her family were rear-ended. Thankfully, this car accident was much less severe and I’m happy to report that they are doing fine physically although you can imagine the memories this brings back. When we spoke on the phone and I was carrying on about how f*cked up and unfair it is that they have to go though this experience, she pointed me to a meme someone had posted on her Facebook page, based on this quote;

“Every day may not be good…
but there’s something good in every day” —
Alice Morse Earle

Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she immediately started thinking of the lesson to be gained, and how she could use what had happened to her to help other people. The Telltale Ten is a source of joy for Jacqueline because she loves to mentor, support and inspire people. Although a car accident (temporarily) took away her ability to write she pivoted and we found a way to get it done. Other people would have put it off for next week, or reposted something old. Jacqueline is not one to take the easy way out. And if I do my job correctly, the result will be something her readers will find helpful and uplifting.

She applies the same resilience, tenacity and guts to running SoapBoxSample.** Lots of leaders talk about being authentic, and the importance of having grit and determination, and all of the other buzz words flying around in corporate culture. But Jacqueline actually lives it every day. And she encourages others to do the same. When Jacqueline’s accident happened in January 2015, not only was I new to SoapBoxSample, having joined only three months prior, but I was also new to the market research industry. Seeing her recovery gave me the opportunity to learn much more from Jacqueline than I could ever have learned from a typical boss. I have gained a true passion for research, learned to take ownership of my mistakes, and I believe I am more committed to SoapBoxSample than I have ever been to…basically anything.

So now I’m encouraging anyone reading this, when you need to really dig deep and get something done, think of Jacqueline running on that treadmill with one foot dragging behind her. (Not even sure how that’s possible. If it doesn’t inspire you it might at least make you laugh.)

If you have your own story of resiliency you would like to share, reach out on Twitter @jax_rosales or email Jacqueline@telltaleten.com.

*The insanely part is not hyperbole. She goes after her goals with an almost inhuman focus. (She’s my friend and she knows it’s true so my statement won’t offend her.)

**A message to SoapBox staff: Don’t think you’ll be off the hook for too long. Jacqueline will probably be back in full swing before you’re done reading this article.

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2016. The Year of _________________

By | Inspire Ideas | No Comments

I am a firm believer in the power of starting over —  even multiple times in a single day.  I also realize that a big chunk of people rely on a change of date, or some other milestone, to start over. 2015 was a rough year for me personally [read here if you want to know the gory details), and it also impacted the SoapBox staff.

From their perspective, we were rapidly scaling a brand new startup (maybe too fast for our own good) and BAM I was gone. I was physically and mentally taken out of the game for months. They were left to fend for their own – to keep the company running in the absence of a very hands-on leader. Not only did they succeed in keeping things going, but they managed to grow the company and just not a little. We grew by 50%.

As we kicked off 2016, my goal was to reset the team. I had spent a significant part of 2015 dealing with my grueling recovery. I wanted to convince the team that the year of hell was over – or at least was not going to repeat itself. I had to get everyone moving from defense to offense and inspire positive thinking. Everyone was tired. And am I not talking about missing-a-few-nights-of-sleep or had-too-much-to-drink-last-night kind of tired. I am talking about the kind of exhaustion born out of an impactful, unplanned life event.  The kind of tired that makes you question why the hell you are hanging in, and start to think you should just walk away.

I am a tangible, action-with-a-purpose kind of gal. I kicked off the year asking each member of the team (regardless of tenure and seniority) for 2 things each:

  • I would like each of you to think of ONE word to describe 2016 for you. One single word. We will use this word for a fun exercise.
  • I would like each of you to send me an email asking what you would like most from me in 2016 to help you have a successful year – this can be professional or personal goal related.

This exercise yielded a few key things:

  • The awesome word cloud that we have framed on everyone’s desks, and pictured above. It makes me smile.
  • The ability for each team member to connect, and ask me for something specific to them.
  • The opportunity for me to get to know the staff better – most of the staff asked for help with personal things. I love that.
  • Me trying to find ways to support everyone and wish I hadn’t asked – I’m kidding. Sort of. Mostly – but how about that WORD cloud?

What word would you use to describe 2016 so far? Tweet me @jax_rosales #leaderlessons

No Budget Isn’t an Excuse for No Brains

By | Create Value | One Comment

6 Lessons on Marketing a Startup with a Shoestring Budget

As an entrepreneur, I crave endorphins – I love the way they make me feel. I am a straight up endorphin junkie. Launching a new business is like standing on the edge of a cliff and looking out. You are exhilarated by the view you see in front of you and scared to death of falling.

When I was asked to launch SoapBoxSample, an Online Market Research Company, three years ago, we were a self-funded initiative under a larger corporate umbrella. After more than 15 years in the market research industry, I knew the marketing challenge we faced. We had to stand out amongst the bland, interchangeable, scientific “data-y” branding. The websites all looked exactly the same. We are suffering from “Eddie Bower color addiction” and the taglines were generic. It was all pretty much interchangeable. We were a new player, in a mature space. Besides being good at what we did, we HAD to stand out or we would be falling off the side of that cliff – without a parachute.

We were determined to get ourselves noticed. We were determined to stand out and be part of the consideration set. We wanted to change the conversation from “why should we consider you” to “can’t wait to try you.” To do so, we had to be creative, outrageous and leverage existing relationships to be successful.

Not one to shy away from taking risks (one of SoapBox’s Telltale Ten values) – we, and by we, I mean our giant team of three, jumped in feet first with a brand that looked totally different from the rest of the industry’s. We focused on being bold, authentic, different, edgy and human. We focused on our tagline “Wanna Get Fresh” – grabbing attention, but also getting our clients thinking. Is there a new way we could do things? Is there a new approach out there? Am I stuck doing things the same old way? We are not perfect. We are probably not winning any “advertisement of the year awards,” so what did I learn?

Act Big. From day one, we focused on the type of company we planned to be – a big company, even though we weren’t (yet). A few years ago, I overheard someone talking about SoapBoxSample at an event – “They are like cockroaches… they showed up with their damn frisbees and stressballs and now they are EVERYWHERE!” I could only smile – as an entrepreneur, being considered a cockroach is a pretty amazing compliment. You know who has survived thousands of years – the cockroaches! While you definitely have to prioritize your spend, have a presence at industry events when you launch – don’t sneak into events. Choose sponsorships that give you high visibility for the most economical price. Negotiate and/or do trades for advertising along side the bigger companies.

Be Scrappy & Have Fun. To me, scrappy means feisty, tenacious, determined, and creative. Even as we have grown over the years, the scrappy, grassroots approach remains a critical element of our marketing because it works. Our team has fun and our clients want to be a part of it.

We selected a tagline that would make people laugh (and thus remember us) — “Wanna Get Fresh?” also had relevance to our industry. At industry trade shows, we created a booth covered in bright blue bubbles and stood in the aisles tossing Frisbees and throwing stress balls. Not only did we stand out like a sore thumb in a room of conservative exhibits but more importantly, we caught people’s attention causing them to stop, ask questions and start booking business with us. We walked the line carefully between being fun, real and smart and absurd, foolish and childish.

Perception Is Reality. We focused on an area where we knew we could play a big role, even though we were small – Thought Leadership. The result? In a very short time, we were no longer viewed as a small startup but a true industry player with a significant role in driving the industry conversation ahead. A couple of years ago, we were invited to become Founding Members of SampleCon*, the only sample-focused industry event. This leadership role put us at the forefront of a major conference in the Market Research space and more importantly, at the table with some of the largest players in the industry. People took notice!

*Side note: When I first went to our President and asked him for the funding to become a founding member of SampleCon, which was like double our budget, I knew my chances were slim. But I was pleasantly surprised by the yes. He has since then told me that it was one of our best moves ever and that he highly doubted the success but I that I must have been extra convincing that day – he now takes credit for HIS yes, being the driver of our success (if you know him this is funny. If you don’t, it is still funny).

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Feet on the Street. When I started SoapBoxSample, I thought I could do it all and while I gave it the old college try. The reality is, one person cannot be everywhere doing every job. Invest in feet on the street — this will balance out the relationships you can leverage and help you get ahead in the race faster.

Don’t Stop At Failure I often laugh when I look back at our early marketing efforts. Having no budget, we hired a designer from 99 Designs who clearly had no idea what “fresh sample” meant. The designers created a series of ads featuring sliced bread, avocados and even shrimp. (Click here to see the original ads.) I am not sure what part of Online Market Research screamed “food service business.” Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, but we actually considered using some of them. We didn’t notice that the ads call-to-action was to CONTACT US but had no contact information. Thankfully, the husband of a senior leader in our sister company jumped in with a humble “would you like me to give it a try?” We did, and we’ve done ok since then. Thankfully, we had a least one sane human on our side watching out for us.

Know Your Brand While many companies will transition after launching to more traditional, mainstream marketing strategy, we remained focused on the tactics that helped make us the company we are today. The styling and messaging has gotten more sophisticated, but the branding has stayed the same: young, fresh, vibrant and fun. It’s important to know who you are as a company, and mold your branding into something that will stand the test of time, not just copy what’s trendy that year.

Have Some Tips of Your Own to Share? Message me on Twitter @Jax_Rosales with #BigBrain

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Be Reasonable

By | Be Reasonable | No Comments

adjective: reasonable

rea·son·a·ble

ˈrēz(ə)nəb(ə)l/

  1. (of a person) having sound judgment; fair and sensible.

Reasonableness is probably one of the most important, yet least recognized traits in great humans.

Do you like your boss? If you do, it’s probably partly due to their reasonableness – even though that may not be the first trait you think of. Conversely, when someone is unreasonable, we recognize – and bitch about it – right away.
If I had to pick the #1 (intangible) reason I accepted my current job, it was because the stakeholders were reasonable during the interview process. While it may not be the most intuitive or predictable answer, it’s the truth. Of all the people I know, both personally and professionally, I am most fascinated by those who are reasonable. Maybe it is because so many people are unreasonable (aka asses). It’s actually pretty easy to be an ass.

In my experience, there are few things more contagious that unreasonableness. If the leader is unreasonable, it makes it super tough for people to “buy in” and commit to the cause. Really, if any one person in any given situation gets the “unreasonable” bug, everyone else involved is pretty much f*cked.

I spent years surrounded by unreasonable asses, who sucked the life out of me and made the game hard to play and even harder to win. But the truth is, outside factors are only part of the story. I also need to be reasonable with myself. I push myself harder than anyone else ever has, and likely ever will. It’s a characteristic of mine that can be a great asset, or a huge liability.

If I set unrealistic expectations of myself (financially, physically, spiritually, mentally) I become unreasonable. I begin to think differently. I react instead of respond. I push and struggle. I’m unwilling to accept anything other than the unreasonable expectation I set for myself. It impacts my overall happiness, in turn affecting my goal.

My recovery from my car accident has been mired with unreasonableness. I have suffered irreversible damage that prevents me from doing some of the things I did before the accident. Yet, I have continued to make the mistake of setting expectations for myself that are not reasonable.  Self-will, grit, determination, sheer unrelenting determination, tenacity and perseverance get a person like me far. But none of those attributes trump reasonableness. Once you bump up against reasonableness, you will lose every time – no matter how hard you try.
We should take advantage of the power and merit behind reasonableness. At SoapBoxSample, Be Reasonable is one of the Telltale Ten principles we embrace. There are also few powers greater than reasonableness to fuel contentment, happiness and freedom. If you want to be happy, in or out of the office, start with awareness. Ask, “Is this reasonable?” If not, what can you change?  How can you help lead change in others?

Bottom line. Be reasonable. With your own expectations of yourself and with your expectations of others – whether it be in personal relationships or the workplace. Remember, reasonable = sanity. Unreasonableness = insanity.

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Hilarious Early SoapBox Ads

By | Be Honest, Create Value | No Comments

There are two amazing things about these ads. One is that I’m fairly sure the designer did not know what our company did. I think she thought we were a food service business. Secondly, the call-to-action says to “Contact Us,” but there is no contact information. Sleep deprivation is a dangerous thing.

Click Images to View Larger

Watermelon

April 4, 2016

Sliced Bread

April 4, 2016

Oranges

April 4, 2016

Avocado

April 4, 2016