Category

Be Genuine

27

By | Be Genuine, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others, Take Risks

“Hello ma’am, do you have access to the internet and would you like to take a survey?”

As a young, bootstrapped startup, SoapBoxSample is fortunate in that we can draw from the vast experience of our parent company ISA (Interviewing Service of America). ISA has been in the Market Research business for 35 years. It’s humbling to think of how many lives have grown and changed over the years. Children have been born and grown into adults and had children of their own in that time.

Some of the ISA people still question my unconventional leadership style, but I’m happy to say I’ve made genuine connections with a lot of them, including Gregg Stickeler, Senior VP of Client Services, who celebrates his 27-year anniversary with ISA today. He may not admit it, but I believe his initial feelings toward me were disdain. I also think he now has grown to like me, or at least tolerate me. When I asked Gregg to guest blog he took it seriously enough to do some extensive research, which is fitting considering all of his years of experience. Congrats Gregg!

27

For me, the number 27 is much more than just a random number. It holds quite a bit of significance in my life. Here are just a few fun facts about the number 27.

  • 27% of the Earth is land.
  • It takes 27 days for a human cell to re-grow.
  • The Moon orbits the Earth every 27 days and coincidentally, the Sun revolves on its axis in those same 27 days.
  • The total number of letters in both the Hebrew and Spanish alphabets is 27.
  • It is the atomic number of Cobalt.
  • There are 27 bones in the human hand.
  • It is my daughter’s lucky number.

And on June 27, 2017 I will be celebrating the 27th anniversary of becoming a member of the ISA team. Yes, 27 years ago a young Gregg Stickeler uprooted his life from the East Coast and started a new career and a new life in Van Nuys, California. And boy what this guy has seen.

When I started with ISA in 1990, we had just expanded from 48 telephone station seats to over 55. Well over half of these positons were equipped with a CRT (Cathode Ray Tube), in order to perform Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI – which on the East coast we pronounced Kay-Dee and on the West coast, Ka – Tee). The majority of the interviewing was done in English though we had a handful of bilingual Spanish interviewers and an on-call staff of Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese speaking interviewers. We ran a number of tracking studies as well as ad hoc studies. Usually up to five different projects would be running at any given time.

But we grew and so did I.

In the next few years we expanded to over 100 seats, all CATI, now crammed into three phone rooms (all at 16005 Sherman Way in Van Nuys, CA). I moved from Manager of Telephone Operations to Project Manager to Director of Client Services. Our Quality Control department was renamed Quality Assurance and Interviewers were now dubbed Data Collectors. And we added a Focus Group Facility named Creative Data.

And the years passed. I was promoted to Vice President and my future wife (which I did not realize at the time) joined the company. We expanded our phone capacity by nearly 60 seats, opening a facility in Alhambra (just outside Pasadena with a large Asian population – at this point we were doing over 25% of our studies in a language other than English). Lopy Williams, who had served as my right hand in the phone room, opened that facility and quickly proved we can expand, without problems, beyond the walls of our Van Nuys Headquarters (yes, we were a Headquarters!).

But according to the normal ebb and flow of life, you’re up one minute and down the next. Soon after ISA’s expansion my father passed away.

As the seams were bursting in our office (we had taken over additional office space and were at 150 seats in Van Nuys), we moved a few miles east to 15400 Sherman Way, 4th Floor, the location we still occupy to this day. Our entire headquarters phone room was now in one area, sporting almost 200 stations. Our next great challenge, Y2K. The year 2000 was quickly coming upon us and it was time to convert all the data we had (study and internal) to comply with the new century. Months were spent rewriting software, reevaluating data, and figuring out how to put all the pieces together. Thankfully, I was nowhere near this issue. The phone work continued to expand and I was heavily involved in staffing and scheduling and client interaction. In 1999, that was the easy part of the work.

And time marches on. We made it through the Y2K conversion fairly unscathed, our phone work continued to grow, and we were again looking to expand. We opened a 75-seat facility in Lancaster, CA. (I was kind of hoping for Pennsylvania as it would have given me a chance to get some shoo fly pie).

Creative Data, our focus group facility, became Qualitative Insights (and eventually Q-insights), I got married and we had a son, named after my Dad.

And suddenly there was a buzz about doing surveys online. Yep, actually hoping enough people were on the world wide web to get enough surveys done that way instead of using phones. And we toyed with the idea. Around this time I received the title of Senior Vice President. My daughter was born.

Our ability to do surveys online was added to our product mix, my Mom passed away, and then, on my 54th birthday (oddly 27 times two), we launched SoapBoxSample, our division specializing in online sample.

During the first few days of SoapBox’s existence, I remember thinking to myself, “Why is Amy Poehler in our office, and can she keep it down?” I thought it was cool that ISA was entering the age of internet research in 2013.

Three years later, we added icanmakeitbetter, an insight community platform. Once I learned to stop calling it “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter,” I really got excited about the platform when I figured out that it was another way I could share photos of myself wearing outlandish costumes with my co-workers.

It’s been an interesting 27 years. So many things have happened in my professional and personal lives which have remained intertwined since I walked into the lobby at my new company that Wednesday. (I can’t believe I was three minutes late, but I was only living in California for two days and was still getting used to the traffic). I have found new friends and lost a few of them along the way. You can read more about my personal and professional adventures on my blog, stickeler.blogspot.com.

I’m Late! I’m Late!

By | Be Clear, Be Genuine, Be Honest, Motivate Others

I’m Late, I’m Late, for a Very Important Date

Cute for Rabbits, Not for People

 

Punctuality is the characteristic of being able to complete a required task or fulfill an obligation before or at a previously designated time. “Punctual” is often used synonymously with “on time”.

Punctuality can be the difference between coming across as a disorganized, disrespectful, self-absorbed moron (can you tell my position on this) or someone who has their sh*t together.

What people think about you when you show up on time:

This person respects me, my time, themselves and their time; and I appreciate that. I will not have to waste my dagger eyes on them today.

This is person is reliable. They must have one of those fancy cellular telephones that tells them what time it is.

He/she is accountable for their actions, which makes me think they can handle responsibilities. Make them the CEO!

I can tell that this person is disciplined; they must exercise self-control over other aspects of their life. I bet they don’t do crazy things like lie about where they are and then post themselves at a different place on social media. #dumbass

He/she would set a good example for the other people on my team. (Or could replace that person who is always late.)

What people think about you when you show up late (like always late – not every once in a while “life happens” late. I mean serial lateness):

How rude! This person is wasting my time. They suck. They are self-absorbed and have no regard for others. I want to punch this person.

Now my schedule is thrown into total chaos. This is stressing me out, because I don’t know when I can eat. Do I have time to pee?  And I can never figure out why these people come running in all out of breath and frantic. I mean if they were rushing, wouldn’t they be on time?

I wonder what kind of reputation this person has. Probably not good. Just writing this BLOG is getting me all worked up. I need to get my Sharpie as I am crossing “friends” off my list as we speak.

This person can’t figure out how long it takes to get somewhere, and that is dumb.  I’m pretty sure there is an app for that. (That was sarcasm.) This person’s life is totally unmanageable.

Did they think no one would notice or care that they were late? This person must lack self-respect. They probably post absurd things on social media. #getalife

Don’t be late. Just don’t do it. Leave extra early and spend 20 minutes sitting in your car catching up on Telltale Ten posts. It’s a win-win.

DO’s and DON’Ts of Public Speaking

By | Be Genuine, Create Value, Have Fun, Inspire Ideas

Let’s talk about “glossophobia”. What’s that? You don’t know what “glossophobia” means? Surprisingly, you could actually be suffering from it, and not even know the “official” name. It’s the medical term for stage fright, and a large percentage of Americans are affected by it — 28.4%.

Here’s the bad news. At some point in most people’s lives, they end up needing to present, speak in public, or otherwise put themselves on display. It can be awkward. I totally get why people hate it.

Here’s the good news. You can get better at it. You may even start to like it. The main thing is to keep it simple. Start practicing one or two things at a time, starting with these basic tips:

 

DO — Make eye contact with your audience.

DON’T — Stare like a serial killer.

 

DO — Show enthusiasm for the topic.

DON’T — Come off as so fanatical that your audience believes they are being recruited to join a cult.

 

DO — Establish your expertise.

DON’T — Announce that you know more about the topic than anyone who ever lived. Ever.

 

DO — Speak slowly so that the audience can understand you.

DON’T — Speak so slowly that your audience can’t follow your sentences because your pauses are so long.

 

DO — Avoid reading word for word from a script.

DON’T — Decide to wing it and forget everything you were going to say.

 

DO — Try to relax before the start of your talk.

DON’T — Knock back a few cocktails and go onstage drunk.

 

DO – Wear something you feel comfortable in.

DON’T – Wear your pajamas or sweats.

 

DO — Speak from the heart.

DON’T — Reveal overly personal information, like the time you peed your pants in 5th grade.

 

Have any public speaking tips of your own to share? Tweet me @jax_rosales

 

SoapBoxSample Bonnie Rosales

Bonnie Tyler’s Guide to Grammar

By | Be Genuine, Be Honest, Have Fun

Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart, and I need you now tonight… For those of you who just sang this, I warn you now, it will not go away for days. It is now stuck in your head. You’re welcome.

Why am I talking about this 1983 hit song and what does it have to do with grammar? Listen, there are millions of articles, online classes, books, memes, etc. about grammar. If you are on social media, you know the majority of people don’t even know the basics. I have a visceral reaction to the misuse of grammar on social media. Read the comments on a controversial topic and you will get your fair share of grammar incompetency first hand.

I have all but given up hope that people will ever get the proper use of the basics such as their, there and they’re. And there is even less of a possibility that the human race will ever understand plural and possessive. I have seen thousands of “fights” on Facebook where one person insults another saying “Your an idiot”, only to be rebutted with “try taking a basic grammar class. You’re the idiot.” They don’t typically say idiot, but I’m trying to swear less.

Anyway, back to Bonnie Tyler. I have actually considered unfriending people over the use of “apart” and “a part”. It is especially annoying when it is business people. Time and time again, I see things like “I am so blessed to be apart of your life.” – well if you hate the person, and are NOT part of their life, then great. But if you really are happy to be a part of their life, you are saying the opposite.

For clarity, I have provided the definitions for you:

Apart — /əˈpärt/ (of two or more people or things) separated by a distance; at a specified distance from each other in time or space

A Part — /ā pärt/ a piece or segment of something such as an object, activity, or period of time, which combined with other pieces makes up the whole

Why does this tiny space between the a and the p occupy such a large space in my brain? Because this tiny space completely changes the meaning of the sentence. And most people are totally unaware of it.

For most of you, you can just eliminate apart all together. Unless you are some sort of romantic whose heart aches when you are apart from your lover. Or if you are a basket case and your life is falling apart. Or if you have anger issues and plan to tear someone apart. For the most part, humans want to be a part of – not apart from.

So what does this have to do with Bonnie Tyler? Well, when you hear that fabulous song, and it inevitably gets stuck in your head, let it be a reminder to you of the proper usage of a part and apart.

Lessons From a Lunatic

By | Be Genuine, Be Honest, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others

Why Your Office Should Be a Pet-Free Zone

It’s Toss it Back Tuesday — which just happens to fall on Teacher Appreciation Day. There’s a reason why we have Teacher Appreciation Day, and not Teacher’s Pet Appreciation Day. I wrote a blog last year about why teacher’s pets make me insane. As a business leader, I need honesty and authentic responses from my team. And like any good teacher, I know some lessons are worth recapping. Also, I needed an excuse to share my fifth grade report card with you. Ever wonder what type of student I was? It’s not always the “good” kids who succeed. Sometimes it’s the ones with bad handwriting who need to “work on self-control”.

Save Your Apple — No Teacher’s Pets Here

What I love: positive people. What I hate: insincere people. If you agree with everything I say, eventually I’m going to catch on that you’re telling me what I want to hear instead of what you really think. Your ideas and opinions have value, but not if you don’t share them. Saying yes to everything just makes you a robot. I prefer to work with humans. Until robots are better than humans – maybe then I will like them as much as humans.

I need people around me to push back. I need input. I am not always right. In fact, I love to be wrong as that means someone either 1) came up with a great idea or 2) saved me from a bad idea. If I knew all the answers, I wouldn’t be working at a Market Research Company (I can think of about 5 people who just read this and gasped – get over it. It is true).

Be a disruptor. If you are in first grade, this may not be the best advice. As a matter of fact, when I went to my daughter’s first grade open house, her teachers told me she was a lovely, smart girl. The teacher said she had no doubt Antonella would be President one day. As I was smiling with pride, the teacher quickly added “But she is not the President of my first grade class and we need to work on it.” I then smiled bigger.

Advice of the day: Say what you really think. Even if you think it may not be well received. I challenge you to do so. The people I admire most know how to disagree without being an annoying ass. I get so jazzed when someone pushes back, states their position and makes a compelling case for me to change – that is what makes a good day.
So as long as you are not in elementary school – go for it. Disrupt, disagree, drive change.

Not All People Suck

By | Be Genuine, Create Value, Invoke Passion

MySoapBox Members Have Heart

In my first few weeks at ISA (before SoapBoxSample had even launched), I spent a lot of time in this small, somewhat dark office by myself trying to figure out what the heck I had gotten myself into. Launching an Online Research company from the ground up was complex.

The first week or so, I was in a panic. I wasn’t sure where to start or what to do first. There were a million things I needed to do, and had figured one of those out (after figuring out where to park my car and go to the restroom of course). I knew I wanted to create a company that fostered relationships.  One with a great culture that extended out to our clients AND our respondents.

The Telltale Ten and The Five Respondent Promises were pretty much the first thing that was” decided” on. The MySoapBox respondent promises are:

  • Your Choice
  • Your Rewards
  • Your Decisions
  • Your Impact
  • Your SoapBox

We are SUPER serious about fulfilling these promises to our members. We decided it would be super cool to have the MySoapBox panel members, submit the charity of their choice they would like us to donate to. We publish the names of three charities each month to the members, then throughout the month every single member can vote for the charity they want to receive the donation. The charity with the most votes, gets the check.

I love the members’ stories about why they are passionate around their chosen cause when submitting for consideration. I love the excitement when their charity gets picked. I love the letters the charities send us when they receive the donation. I love that people want to give back and this is a way for us to help them do so. I also love that this one small act, actually fulfills all five of our respondent promises.

There is a side benefit too. We find out what our panelists’ interests are and learn about causes we might not otherwise have known about. It helps us build a personal connection with our members. It helps build mutual trust and respect. I love that stuff.

Curious the types of charities our members have voted on? Well here is the list of all the winning charities since the launch of the MySoapBoxPanel. (Click the links to learn more.)

2017

The Humane Farming Association

Avery’s Angels Gastroschisis Foundation

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

2016

Children’s Swedish Hospital

Child-Soldiers.org

CARE

Arizona Basset Hound Rescue

DFW Pug Rescue Club

Heading Home

Shaam Relief Foundation

Center for Biological Diversity

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Epilespsy Foundation

Honor Flight Network

Mitzvah Circle Foundation

2015

Disabled American Veterans

First Book

Jake Koenigsdorf Foundation

Smile Train

Feed the Children

Covenant House

Autism Speaks

Islamic Relief Canada

Adopt Together

Operation Family Fund

United Methodist Committee on Relief

National Fibromyalgia Foundation

2014

Humane Farming Association

Ever After Mustang Rescue

Kidd’s Kidds

Children’s Hope Chest

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Doctors Without Borders

Growl Animal Rescue

Samaritan’s Purse

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America

United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation

National Down Syndrome Society

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

2013

Compassion International

The Humane Society

Free the Slaves

Samaritan’s Purse

World Food Program

Global Rescue for One

Keeper of the Wild

Community Tampa Bay

Women Speak for Themselves

Best Friends Animal Society

American Diabetes Association

The Smile Train

2012

Care to Learn

Wounded Warrior Project

Bags4Kids

 

 

 

Why I Love Infographics

By | Be Genuine, Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Invoke Passion

In the early days of SoapBox, like a lot of startups, we had a tiny marketing budget. By being selective with our dollars and as persistent as cockroaches, (yes, someone called me a cockroach – although not the worst thing I have been called), we managed to carve out a name for ourselves. You can read more about our early marketing efforts here.

Although we’ve grown as a company, I still love behaving like a scrappy, nimble startup (plus, we still don’t have much budget). That’s one of the reasons why I love using infographics as a marketing tool. Yes, and…infographics are:

Identifiable: Infographics help to convey your brand personality— using colors, images, and a quirky design. Visual storytelling leaves a lasting impression on your clients.

Digestable: They provide a large amount of information in easy to consume, bite-sized pieces. Not everyone has time to sit down and read a 10 page white paper? I always mean to, but it often gets pushed aside.

Shareable: They are spreadable – maybe they even go viral. People are always looking for something to spice up their social media pages.

Valuable: The infographic I’m sharing today helps marketers understand how people search for the things they want to buy. And it gives clients an insight into how SoapBox uses data to reveal these insights.

And they just make me happy.

You can download your own copy of the Digital Path to Purchase here.

SoapBoxSample Jax Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler — Improv Comic or Sales Guru? Part 2

By | Be Genuine, Be Reasonable, Inspire Ideas, Motivate Others
If you read last week’s BLOG, you are probably just as disappointed as me to hear that Amy did not reach out to me and tell me how brilliant she thought the BLOG was. That probably would have made an awesome BLOG for this week, but since she didn’t, here is Part 2 as promised. Blame Amy.
 

The Not-So-Obvious Characteristics a Sales Person Should Have Part 2

Sales people need to have the answers.
 
Yes, and…when they don’t have the answers, it is ok to be the “one” who knows how to get the answers. Often sales people are too afraid to not answer a question or say I don’t know. This is super dangerous. Some of the most successful sales people achieve success because they know how to connect prospects with the right people to get the answers. Don’t try to be a know-it-all. Just try to be a know-where-to-get-the-info-all.
 
Sales people need to know how to answer questions.
 
Yes, and…they also need to be curious. Genuine curiosity can often uncover clients’ needs sales people may not even be aware of. Asking “why” or “how does that impact you” or “what have you tried before”. Asking probing or follow-up questions in lieu of just accepting a response at face value can be the differentiator between you and your competitor.
 
Sales people need to close the deal.
 
Yes, and…they also need to admit when they are not the right fit. Staying focused on closing the deal may lead to overselling, undelivering and ultimately winning a one-time customer. Instead, if you are not a fit, admit it, offer an alternative solution and remind the prospect what you are a good fit for and what types of problems you can help them solve. A prospect is more likely to come back next time around as opposed to buying an un-needed product or service a second time.
 
Sales people need to keep the client happy.
 
Yes, and…they need to be willing to push back when the client has unrealistic expectations. Scope creep, intentional or unintentional can kill a relationship. Be honest with your client about what they are asking. Don’t just agree to everything and assume you have to say yes. Sometimes, clients are asking for things they may not even need which gives you the opportunity to come up with a solution that works for the client and your own company.
 
Sales people need to know their numbers.
 
Yes, and…well they need to know their numbers. What is the goal, how many calls, to get how many proposals to close how many deals in how much time? What is the average deal size? How long is it taking you?
 
Sales people need to be confident.
 
Yes, and … they need to trust the knowledge they have already gained but they also need to be coachable. They need to be able to take advice from senior management, and have the flexibility to change their styles or adopt new selling techniques if their industry demands it.
 
Click here to read the rest of the not-so-obvious characteristics. If you have any of your own to share, tweet me @jax_rosales
 

 

SoapBoxSample Jax Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler — Improv Comic or Sales Guru?

By | Be Genuine, Create Value, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others

Can you guess which one is me?

The Not-So-Obvious Characteristics a Sales Person Should Have

Do you know who you look like? Yes, and 4,000 other people have told me the same thing. I might be as funny as Amy Poehler, I’m definitely not as rich as her. But she’s pretty cool, so I’ll take it. But what does this have to do with sales?

Amy Poehler  began her career doing improv. Any improv fans could tell you about the “Yes, and” tool of improv. The “yes” essentially represents the acceptance of the person’s idea, while the “and” encourages a continual line of thinking. When it comes to assessing sales people, we need to continue the line of thinking, and investigate a little further.

I have probably read like 10 zillion articles on sales with a good percentage of them being about hiring good sales people, identifying good sales people, or how to be a good sales person. You can find lists of successful sales people’s characteristics ad nauseam. I find myself in a constant state of eye rolling, as while I often agree with some of the fundamentals, I always seem to be thinking “sure, but…”, I mean “yes, and…”.

So is there a a lot info out there on what makes a great salesperson great? Yes, and…

Sales people must know the products and services they are selling.

Yes, and….they also need to ask good questions of prospects and clients. Asking clients about their business, about their pain and about their need to solve the problem (and who else cares about it in the organization) allows the sales person to talk to them about the products and services that make the most sense. There is nothing worse than a sales person blabbing on and on about a product or service that is totally irrelevant to the client’s need.

Sales people need to be independent.

Yes, and…. they also need to ask for help and input from others. Despite how successful a sales person is, thought partnership from a colleague or boss can be invaluable and is often overlooked. The least attention typically gets paid to the highest performer which is not always fair. Brainstorming on how to tackle client issues and objective points of view may be just what is needed to close the deal.

Sales people need to be smart.

Yes, and…they need to be likable. People buy from people they like. You can be super smart, know EVERYTHING about your business and your client’s business, but if you aren’t able to get people to like you in short order, you are going to have a hard time.

Sales people need to be aggressive.

Yes, and…they need to be genuine. Often times in sales situations the “seller” forgets they are human – or worse, forgets the prospect is human.

Mind blown? There’s more. Next week I’ll be sharing the other half of my list — the not-so-obvious characteristics a salesperson should have.

I Know Something You Don’t Know. Wanna Know?

By | Be Genuine, Have Fun, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others

Bet you didn’t know…Sam Ashburner, one of SoapBox’s Project Managers, once worked at The Price is Right. His job was to warm up the crowd.

Get to Know Your Staff — They May Surprise You

Some people like to keep their personal lives and professional lives completely separate. I don’t really get those people. One of the things I enjoy most about being a business leader is getting to know my employees on a personal level. I’m super lucky to work with such an amazing group of people. Learning what makes them tick has been half of the fun. Although sometimes the things I uncover leave me shaking my head, these are totally worth sharing. Here are the Top Ten Most “Interesting” Facts I know about my staff…

  1. Aaron Cole, SoapBoxSample Director of Systems and Programming, spent 2 months traveling around in Japan. When he ran out of money, he survived by eating out of dumpsters. This was before he started working at SoapBox, and I’m happy to say that we pay him enough to buy food.
  2. Sam Ashburner, Project Manager, once worked on the TV show The Price is Right. His job was to warm up the crowd. (Pictured above. Look how warm that crowd is.)
  3. Kevin Moran, who does our panel support, practices fencing (sword-fighting) in his free time. In fact, he and his wife do it together. Makes me wonder if that’s how they settle arguments.
  4. Dan Parcon, who has been with SoapBox from the very beginning, has a weird talent for running into celebrities. The biggest star he ran into was Brad Pitt. They shared an elevator in 1996, but Dan didn’t say anything to him.
  5. Nicole Restivo, our Sales and Marketing Admin, appeared in the music video for the 2004 mega-hit “Hey Ya,” by Outkast. She shook it like a Polaroid picture.
  6. If you ever want to torture Kristin Muir, Junior Project Manager, act like you are going to touch your eye. It freaks her out.
  7. This one is not so much weird, as it is impressive. Bruce Tate, Chief Technology Officer at icanmakeitbetter, has written 10 books. All of them are about computer technology, otherwise known as Things I Don’t Understand.
  8. Meg Ryan, SoapBoxSample Senior Account Executive, collects political buttons.
  9. Andrea Spiros, Project Manager, likes to drizzle ketchup and mayonnaise on her pizza. Some people get very disturbed by this.
  10. At the age of 6, Kealan Crowley, Estimator and Vendor Relations Associate, appeared on The Jay Leno Show with his First Grade class. He wowed the audience by playing the slide whistle.

I could probably come up with a hundred of these quirky tidbits. I love knowing entertaining things about my staff, and sharing them with the world (through this blog) makes it even more entertaining.