Monthly Archives

May 2016

Don’t Let Business Get Personal – I Disagree

By | Be Genuine, Create Value, Have Fun | 69 Comments

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the wedding of Mike Chavarria, SoapBox’s Director of Business Development. The entire event was perfectly, perfect. This was NOT an obligatory “invite your boss to the wedding” type of event. It was a small, intimate affair with less than 50 people. All traditional wedding convention was thrown out the window. They got married in a super short ceremony conducted by Jessica’s brother (which was so authentically funny). Even Becker, the dog, was there. If you have ever had a conference call with Mike, then you know “of” Becker. The ceremony was in the coolest loft space ever and their love of each other, and craft beer (equally important), was present in every single detail. We ate burgers and fries from a food truck, chatted and danced.

Mike and his new wife were both beaming with pride, love and honor. There was so much raw emotion. I loved every minute of it. Hearing speeches from Mike and Jessica’s college and childhood friends and their families was PURE awesomeness. They were funny, heartfelt and so spot-on with their descriptions of who the couple were growing up, and who they are now.

I was so in awe of the whole event because the people were incredible, and it gave me more insight into how Mike’s past has influenced who he is today. I’ve known Mike for 6+ years now. He first worked for me when he was JUST starting his career in MR at another company. When we hired him, he was energetic, tenacious, eager to learn, and very, very loud. He stood out. He is exactly the same now (just with more experience and drive.) Mike is SUPER easy to like. He is passionate about everything he does – even if he is not good at it. Apparently, he is a really sucky golfer as his loved ones mentioned repeatedly in their speeches.

The “instantly likable” quality is part of the SoapBox culture. You may be super smart, talented and experienced, but if you aren’t someone people are instantly drawn to, you won’t make it as a SoapBoxer. The wedding was a living, breathing example of SoapBox’s Telltale Ten value – they were ever present throughout the evening. I was proud and humbled.

Create Value – The couple created value for every single guest. How? Providing a thoughtful, genuine, heartfelt experience for all. There was a total value add if you were there. Enjoying a pure, authentic, and memorable Saturday evening. Good stuff.

Inspire Others – This event was SUPER inspiring. It screamed “we are who we are” and got me so pumped up to continue down this path of authentic leadership. Watching how Mike and Jessica support each other with their personal and professional lives was truly inspiring.

Motivate Others – I had the pleasure of sneaking in a brief 1X1 chat with Jessica. She shared with me how much Mike has grown and that she loves the rare opportunities when she comes home early and gets to hear Mike on the phone with clients. It 1) makes her proud and 2) motivates her as she finishes up her last few months of schooling for Physical Therapy. They have been an incredible team, motivating each other through the toughness of going back to school and building a career.

Take Risks – The whole event went “off script” as to what a traditional wedding would be. As the bride and groom said themselves, “it was either going to be a disaster or wildly successful.” It was definitely the latter.

Be Genuine – There were tears and speeches. All unscripted (for the most part). Mike and Jessica planned the whole event to be reflective of them and their lifestyle. It was about as genuine as you can get.

Be Honest – Mike and Jessica wrote their own vows. When Jess shared she was “not feeling it” on their first date, it evoked a lot of giggles. It was refreshing to hear the “real” story (and how Mike’s mustache tattoos on his finger that he randomly holds up to his nose was what really won her over.) The mustache tattoo was a big hit – we also heard how it was the result of a drunken evening with his buddies who lovingly paid for it J.

Be Clear – The bride and groom were super clear on what they did, and did not want, their wedding to be. They had a vision and made sure each element spoke to that vision.

Be Reasonable – The whole event was sane. I have been to too many weddings where things are just over the top and people do not even enjoy themselves as they are caught up in the show. Not the #chavastemwedding.

Have Fun – Funniest, fun event. People were laughing and dancing and interacting in such a unique manner. It was like being at the coolest ever craft brewery happy hour with the goodest of good peeps. Yes, I realize goodest is not a word.

I love seeing and interacting with staff in their own personal element. Mike is a true SoapBoxer – in and out of the office. His lives his life aligned with Telltale Ten principles. SoapBoxers need to be all in. They need to possess the innate qualities that make great people great, before they ever come to SoapBox.

As a leader, how can I ask them to be “all in” if I am not all in? It was a privilege to be there for this special event – times like this motivate me to continue to grow our culture and not make (sometimes tempting) exceptions to the rules. If you want to box, you need to be a Boxer in and out of the ring.

Back to Basics

By | Be Clear, Be Honest, Be Reasonable | 50 Comments

My injury and health recovery over the past 19 months has had its ups and downs. Some days are good; some days are not so good. I have also had some long periods where things only sat on that not-so-good side. It is a humbling reality, requires patience, gratitude and the willingness to start over – on repeat.

Recently, after about an 8-week “I’m too sick” hiatus from Crossfit and regular workouts, I was able to make my way back into the Crossfit Box. My first day back was an in-your-face reminder of how important the basics are. I had to exercise a level of self-control that I often let run wild before my car accident. I had to go slow, ask the Coach to watch my movements and stop me if I am off, modify the Workout of the Day (WOD) so I did not cause injury and/or work myself so hard that I couldn’t move for the days that follow. I also have to accept, and be proud of, my performance – even if my name is at the bottom of the board. I need to focus on the fact that I am at least ON the board – that is more than I can say for those still sitting on the couch.

Recently, at SoapBox, we have also had many not-so-subtle reminders to get back to basics. I will spare you the details, but we netted out 5 Key Takeaways.

Information Sharing – As your organization is growing, it is crucial to find an efficient and effective way to share information across teams and divisions. It is especially important to ensure there is a line of communication between Sales and Operations. Not sharing can result in missed opportunities, doubling of work effort, missing input form key players and a total breakdown when it all comes to a head. As a leader, you also have to protect the organization from oversharing, or you end up with groups of people wasting time, not staying focused, getting involved in what they should not, and limiting your ability to scale as you have too many cooks in the kitchen (did I just say that – I sorta hate clichés like that).

Job/Role Defining – As a startup, everyone likely does a little bit everything. Everyone you hire has to be a jack of all trades, master of none (did I just do that cliché thing again?). Once you get to a certain size, you need to set up the organization to divide and conquer (I now hate myself). Team members need to know their role, what they are responsible for and start dividing ownership of tasks. It can be super tough to undo the “all in” attitude, but at some point it becomes critical. It means being super CLEAR (Telltale 10) about what individual’s roles are, and are not. I may mean reallocating tasks that people don’t want reallocated. Se la vie.

Ongoing Training – With growth, comes a tendency to think that everyone just knows how to do “things.” Things like manage, interview, delegate, co-manage, oversee company initiatives etc. It is simply NOT the case. Training is key at all stages of the employment tenure. Many companies and leaders get hyper focused on new hire onboarding and training and then “set it and forget it” (who remembers that commercial). Doesn’t work. Even the senior people can benefit from training.

Reporting/Metrics – We fell into the “report on everything” but “assess nothing” trap. You know the trap where people are running and sending reports, but not looking at or analyzing what they mean? Not super helpful. Having people run reports, that are ultimately not the owners of the outcomes, tends to lead to a lot of numbers and not much else. It is certainly acceptable to have admin level people running reports, as long as there is an owner who is analyzing, evaluating, assessing and making recommendations based on the data – otherwise there is no point. Our Market Research clients don’t just pay for reports and then not read or take action on them. If they did, the Research business would be out of business. So why let that happen INSIDE our companies?

Feedback Loop – This may seem like such a basic thing, and likely we all think we are “doing it.” But I am betting most of us think we are, but aren’t. Or we are giving feedback, but not the kind that actually moves the needle forward. People need specific feedback, with specific examples and a related call to action step. I know it can sometimes seem easier to ignore, assign the task to someone else, complain to another member of the team etc. In the end, facilitating an environment to give AND receive feedback is crucial for both employee satisfaction and scalable growth.

I Ran Out of Gas. Literally. True Story

By | Be Genuine, Be Reasonable, Take Risks | 63 Comments

I ran out of gas today. Like for real. Car on the side of the road, would not move. It wasn’t like I didn’t have any warning. My tank was on empty. I knew this because it clearly said I have _ _ miles to go. That _ _ means 0. I drove with _ _ miles to go, about 5 miles to my house and then 12 more miles to the chiropractor. On the way back home I decided I better take care of that _ _ flashing on my console, or I may ACTUALLY run out of gas. What if _ _ really did mean 0?

I had picked up my car from the mechanic earlier that day, where it had been repaired from a recent fender bender. As my car started to sputter and spit I had some sort of lapse in perception and thought – OMG – the shop messed up my car. Almost immediately (almost) after that, I thought…..”Could I really be running out of gas? How could this happen? It could not have anything to do with the 30 miles I drove on _ _. “

I called my husband. I can only imagine what it is like to be him. I am a special kind of crazy with some sort of mini-crisis happening pretty much all the time. He tells me to pull over. I tell him I can see the gas station. He tells me to pull over while I can so I don’t get stuck in the intersection. I say, I think I can make it. He says don’t do it. I do it anyway.

So we were both right. I did get stuck in the intersection. But….after a few push button starts, I sputtered to the side DIRECTLY in front of the gas station. Not close enough to be able to actually pump gas into my car, but close enough to be ridiculous. Turns out the whole ordeal of using a tank to put a gallon of gas in is WAY more complicated than when I was in high school. I was a PRO at running out of gas then. Now, there are no-spill spouts, and safety valves and a bunch of other features that basically resulted in me spending about 30 minutes to put gas in my car while parked right in front of the gas station – and needing help. Yup, help.

Obviously, it all worked out (or I wouldn’t be typing this BLOG). I have been thinking a lot about ways to improve my overall quality of life from a mental health/self –preservation perspective. I thought to myself after this whole ordeal, “What should I do to prevent MYSELF from running out of gas”? So, I made a list of ten things and committed to doing all ten, every day for the next 30 days. Let’s see how I do. Here they are.

  1. Start my day with 5 minutes of meditation. That is a mere 300 seconds of the 86,400 seconds I have each day. That is .0034722 % of my day. I got this.
  2. Close out all of my programs on my Surface each night (it should help ease the aggravation of why everyone was ignoring me and didn’t reply to my email when I find the minimized email at the bottom of the screen).
  3. Physically shut down my computer each night. Like off. I know it means I have to wait like 30 seconds for it to start up in the morning, but I am tough. I can do this.
  4. Drink a full glass of water as soon as I wake up. It just makes me feel good. Whenever I do that, I feel fresh and tend to drink more water for the remainder of the day. Water is good.
  5. Start my day over when things go off track. Consciously make an effort to stop the avalanche. Here are some ways I will do this:
  • Meditate for 5 minutes
  • Drink a glass of water
  • Do 20 jumping jacks
  • Do 10 pushups
  • Do 25 sit-ups
  • Do 10 burpees
  • Sing really loud to a song I like
  • Send a friend or colleague a thoughtful email/text
  1. Unplug from work at least 2 hours before going to bed. This one is a TALL order for me. Tallest of tall. I vow to do my best. I also vow to not push back my bed time to 2 AM to accommodate this.
  2. Read 30 minutes before bed. From a book. Not on any electronic device. Nothing that needs to be plugged in or charged – yes, I am talking to you Jacqueline. Who me? Yes you.
  3. Plan and accomplish [1] “I wish I had time to_______” thing each week. I made a list over the weekend of people I wished I saw or talked to more often. I made a decision to make at least one visit/call to someone from this list every single week. Not text. Not Facebook message. Actually meet with them in person or speak with them on the telephone.
  4. Exercise a minimum of 30 minutes per day. No. Matter. What. I typically do this anyway, but lately, work is very busy, I still have an excessive amount of medical appointments and things get harder to juggle. I need the Adrenalin, release and sense of accomplishment. It is also one of the few ways I consistently practice self-care.
  5. End my day with 5 minutes of meditation. That is a mere .0034722 % of the 1,440 minutes I have in a day. You are impressed by Math huh?

So many entrepreneurs I know put their companies ahead of everything else in their lives. Their single-minded devotion to success leads them to sacrifice friendships, time with family, health and even their sanity. It’s like driving a car that’s running out of gas. If you don’t put something back in the tank, by reinvesting in yourself, you’ll never get to your destination. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Take 5 minutes a day. Do something non-work related. Your business will be better off with a leader that’s refreshed. And it’s better than ending up on the side of the road.

Millennials – They Don’t Suck

By | Be Honest, Have Fun, Take Risks | 445 Comments

Why is everyone talking about millennials? Who they are (who they aren’t), what they do (or don’t do), why they suck (or are great), why they are self-entitled (or hard workers)…you get the point. It is endless. Millennials account for 23% of the U.S. population and spend 200 billion dollars annually. There are lots of funny videos pro and con millennials. You can check a few out here.

SoapBox staff is about 75% millennials. They don’t suck. They are annoying at times, but who isn’t? We thought instead of writing “about” millennials, we would ask one to share their story about transitioning from college to the “real world.” Sullivan, we call him Sully, has learned what life is like with a little structure, hanging out with old people (BTW I am 42 and in the “old” group), realizing that ignorance truly is bliss, and that his actions have impact on his life – both short and long term.

I wanted to poke fun at him, but instead, he backed me into a corner by writing a thoughtful, honest and reflective piece. I actually love it. I love that he is identifying lessons he is learning. I love that he misses his old life, but is all in with his new life. If you ever get to meet Sully, you will like him. He is cool. I might even buy him a beer after work one day – I think we would have fun.

PS – Sully, I am sure you are reading this. I think someone misinformed you about an 8 hour workday. That was part of the bait and switch. Get ready for 10-12 hour work days – that is when life gets super awesome. Congratulations. You have arrived. – JR

5 things I’ve learned from making the transition from college to having my first “real” job in California


1. 40 hour weeks are no joke.

I guess Cinderella was right. (The 80s hair band not the princess.) You truly don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Distant memories are the days where I could consider sitting through 3 hours of class and 2 hours studying a “long day”. Now I’m pinned to my desk for 8+ hours a day which leaves little time during the week for the social life I once had, no more long afternoons playing basketball in Johnson gym, and no chance to grab a beer (or three) at Marble. These were college traditions I still hold sacred yet now I’m learning ways to replace these routines as I’ve moved to a full time job at SoapBoxSample in a new state. (Disclaimer – that is Michael Jordan playing basketball not me, we have similar play styles though.)

Aside from finding new breweries and new basketball gyms I’ve had to learn how to prioritize my daily activities and manage my time better. Learning to optimize my time at work is vital to be able to deliver under the pressure of my daily deadlines.

2. I’m no longer surrounded by people my age.

My whole life I’ve been blissfully ignorant, thinking that wherever I go I’d be joined by a group of other people close to my age with similar likes and hobbies. I was awoken from this dream my first day on the job, learning that I will be spending most of my time with actual full grown real adult people (who would’ve thought). Initially I was confused by the common statement of “you’re my son’s age” or “you could be my kid” made by my colleagues and industry equivalents. Haven’t they seen a young man that’s about his business before? I’ve learned to laugh off these comments knowing that in a field such as market research the median age range tends to be over 30.

Hiring someone my age and placing them in such an active role truly speaks to the culture that SoapBox is trying to create. Being around Jaqueline as often as I have has also taught me that most adults are just older kids in their own right. So far I’ve enjoyed being able to gain some interesting insight and hear stories of some scary times known simply as “adulthood”.”

3. Mistakes come with consequences.

In college if I failed a test (happened more frequently than I had hoped) there was always some form of a redo available. I could work on an extra credit project, study harder and do better on the next exam, beg my professor for mercy, bribery, I’ve always had options. (Joking on the begging and bribery.. kind of) At any rate, I felt confident that if I performed poorly I could make it up in one way or another – I provided myself with a safety net. Having a career has completely altered my state of mind in regards to mistakes. Though I’m new to my role and make mistakes pretty often, they now come with real life consequences. Now I have to take into account my company’s reputation, my bosses expectations, and my job. Not just my GPA.

4. My career is in my hands.

It’s both an uneasy and exhilarating feeling knowing I’m truly on my own now. Being left to the wolves and expected to return with a fur coat is especially true in sales. My job is ultimately as fruitful as I want it to be. The harder I work the more I can attain from a salary standpoint. In school it was easy to coast once you received a solid grade, what is really the difference between a 93% and 98%? It’s very easy for people to let up after their first win and ride the wave of success for a while. As I grow, feelings of being content or rejected are things I have to surpass in order to be successful.

A valuable lesson I learned in baseball – keep a short memory. Whether I get yelled at by a client or land a $20,000 deal, I’m learning to celebrate or sulk momentarily, forget what has happened and move onto the next task.

5. Tackling the world’s worst question – “what do you do?”

To me this question is outdated and poorly designed. Asking “what do you do” quickly puts someone in a box and defines someone strictly by their career, but that’s beside the point. At family gatherings this question wasn’t as daunting as it is now that I’m out of school. I could easily answer this question by saying that I’m still in college (yes Aunt Paula I know you remember me when I was just a baby) and stating my major. Now that I work in market research I’m beginning to realize why this is such an uncomfortable question. My boss Jacqueline sums it up best when asked what we do in market research business development “we sell people”.

Moving from Albuquerque to Los Angeles hasn’t been the super seamless transition that I envisioned it being. Aside from learning many things about myself in the process, SoapBox put me in a role where I am tasked to learn an entire industry and learn how to sell our offerings as if it were a glass of lemonade at a lemonade stand. Sounds simple enough right? It’s definitely been a work in progress but with continued support from my team at SoapBox and weekly basketball and brewery fixes I’m confident I’ll end up where I want to be.

— Sullivan

You Have 30 Seconds to Sell Me This Pen

You Have 30 Seconds to Sell Me This Pen

By | Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Take Risks | 103 Comments

I’m not a “Where do you think you will be in five years?” kind of interviewer. I don’t really care. Ideally, if the candidate ends up coming to work at SoapBox, we get to work on that together. Don’t get me wrong, I want people to have motivation and personal goals, but I feel pretty adamantly I can get to the answer without asking dumb questions.  “Tell me your weaknesses.” Umm, really? Do you think they didn’t rehearse that ahead of time?

I actually hate traditional interviewing. People are always surprised to learn this about me. I feel like the whole concept of two people sitting in a room, trying to impress one another (or in some cases trip the other person up) is an archaic means of human communication. I would not rapid fire questions at any of my friends (unless that are being idiots and then I may fire out a series of “why” questions) and take notes while they are talking. Weird.

Truth is, I am not interested in traditional interviewing – AT ALL. I am not one to ask foolish questions and expect to get some sort of meaningful insight into whether the person is a good fit for SoapBox, and SoapBox a good fit for them. I want to get to know the person I am interviewing – their real personality. Not the “I-am-in-a-job-interview person.”

My goal during the interview is to get the candidate OUT of interview mode. I can read their credentials on their resume. I don’t want a memorized dictation of their written resume coupled with some added BS on top. Not cool. I like to ask things like:

  • What did you have for breakfast today?
  • How old were you when you started doing your own laundry?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What’s your best friend’s name? How long have you been friends?
  • What would your best friend say about you? Can we call them now?
  • What types of people annoy you the most?
  • What was your first job?
  • What was the last website you visited?
  • What is your favorite store?
  • In the last week, what was your happiest moment?

Don’t get me wrong. I need to ask some traditional questions to understand if the person has the ability to do the actual job. But at SoapBox, candidates interview with multiple people and I trust they will do a decent job screening the individual before they get to me.  Candidates need to be qualified and also instantly likable. They need to think on their feet. They need to perform under unexpected conditions. Asking traditional interview questions doesn’t get me there.

If you are going to ask your employees to think outside the box (I gag when I hear that phrase) then you need to as well. One of our core guiding principles at SoapBox is:

Scout out and find unique talent who may be otherwise passed over. Seek individuals with inherent values of self-motivation and the desire to be a part of something bigger. Hire those special people who already have the “non-teachable” skills which make great people, well, great.

And never, ever, ever ask someone to “Sell me this pen in 30 seconds.”