Category

Take Risks

Why Tony the Tiger is My Idol

By | Be Genuine, Create Value, Take Risks

Recently I was asked if I wanted to achieve greatness. At first, I was pretty offended. What a stupid question. Who wouldn’t want to be great? What does that even mean? Do they really think I’d say “no, I want to be average?”

Oh, and by the way, when I think about great, I just picture a Tony the Tiger. You know Tony right? The Frosted Flakes dude? One could argue whether Frosted Flakes are great, but the marketing was certainly pretty great. Are you saying “They’re Greeeat” in your head now? Point made. By the way, Tony the Tiger has been around since 1952. I’d classify him as a great mascot.

Once I got over being offended (I was asked by a person whom I really trust and respect otherwise. I may have just lived the rest of my life being annoyed about the question, aka – never thinking about it again), I realized that is wasn’t so obvious. I found myself reconsidering my resounding “duh, obviously I want to be great”, to “what does that even mean?”

I was taken over by a genuine curiosity to explore what that meant to me. It went from being totally obvious to totally illusive. Oh, aaannnnnd, the question was not just asked as a standalone. There was a series of follow ups after the initial question – I was cautiously hesitant in how I wanted to answer the first part. After all, I wasn’t going to fall into some trap. I have no idea what the trap would be, but that is the natural skeptic in me.

So the questions went like this:

Do you want to achieve greatness?
In what areas do you want to achieve greatness?
Do you know what it takes to achieve greatness?
Are you willing to do what it takes to achieve greatness?
What obstacles are there to achieve greatness?
How to do you overcome these obstacles?

I felt like I was suddenly faced with the fucking prelude to my eventual obituary. Like what the hell?

I am in the middle of trying to manage a P&L, hire people, fire people, run operations, feed my child, make sure homework is done, hire a new Nanny, go to 10,000 doctor appointments, attend physical therapy, make it to a zillion meetings (most of which suck), chill with my husband on occasion, return my friend’s calls/emails, shower periodically and now I have to figure out this greatness thing? I am literally just trying to stay alive.

I spent some time with my google machine typing things like “what is definition of greatness” , “greatness quotes”, “inspiration quotes” and other nonsense before setting out to define my own version of greatness – by the way, the initial question actually said to create your own definition. I just naturally like to go in circles before getting back to the starting point.

I am still very much in the process of this greatness journey and intend to continue to be genuinely curious and humbly open minded along the way. My starting part has been a vision-board-style word dump. Here’s what I came up with:

Greatness
Satisfied
Content
Genuine
Authentic
Kind
Focused
Ambitious
Overcome adversity
Impactful
Nimble
Passion
Simplicity
Elegance
Humble
Teachable
Relentless
Curious
Grateful
Acceptance
Inspire

That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Sometimes the best questions have no tangible answers – they take you on an unexpected journey. So here I am, unexpectedly journeying. If you are up to it, ask yourself the same. I dare you…

 

Hack Attack!

By | Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Take Risks

Seven Amazing Hacks from One Unexpected Household Item

I’m a big fan of anything that makes life easier, more convenient, or less annoying. Any #lifehack posts that I stumble across on social media will immediately grab my attention. It’s possible that I spend more time reading about life hacks, than I actually save by doing the life hacks, but that’s a topic for another blog.

This blog is about one insignificant household item that can do about a million other things that it wasn’t even designed to do. (Reminds me of some people I know.) Here are seven of my favorite life hacks, all involving the humble dryer sheet. The best part is, for most of these hacks any brand will work, and they don’t even have to be new dryer sheets. Used ones work just as well.

  1. Remove nail polish. Glittery nail polish is a pain to get off. When you’re sick of looking like a Las Vegas showgirl, cut dryer sheets into small squares, soak them in acetone, and lay them on top of your nails. After a few minutes, the nail polish will rub off easily.
  2. Use instead of paint thinner to clean brushes. It’s not magic, it’s science. Science I won’t attempt to explain. Just try it. Lay a paintbrush over a dryer sheet, and pour water on top. The paint will slide right off.
  3. Clean your hairbrush. Instead of ripping out clumps of hair a few pieces at a time, soak the brush in warm water with a dryer sheet plopped in there. After a few minutes take it out and the hair just slides off.
  4. Sharpen scissors. When your scissors get dull from cutting up magazines, making DIY home décor, or cutting unidentifiable goo out of the dog’s hair, you can use a dryer sheet to sharpen up the blades again. Just rub the dryer sheet on each edge.
  5. Remove stains from the toilet bowl. Re-purpose a used dryer sheet as a toilet bowl scrubber. You don’t even have to scrub that hard. Gloves recommended.
  6. Scrub glass shower doors. A dryer sheet can remove water stains and calcium deposits. Add a couple drops of water, and wipe the doors down. You’ll want to share this one with everyone. Just don’t forget you heard it here first.
  7. Clean grease from pans. You can eliminate the crusty, burnt grease from your pans by soaking them in water, dish soap and a dryer sheet. Let it sit for one hour. Use that hour to catch up on Telltale Ten blog posts you may have missed.

Want more hacks? Check out Accessories to Make Your Traveling Life Easier — All From the Dollar Store.

SoapBoxSampleVidCon

No More Pity Parties

By | Be Genuine, Be Honest, Motivate Others, Take Risks

My daughter Ella’s response to her Instagram troll

Flip the Script on Negative Feedback

Even though I am often mistaken for Amy Poehler, and have been asked literally more than one thousand times, “Do you know who you look like?” I am pretty sure I could never actually BE a celebrity. The “online digital” age we live in is a breeding ground for meanness. Generally, cowardly meanness of those who hide their keyboard and throw insults (often anonymously) any and every chance they get.

We sometimes forget people on the other end of screen are humans. Yet cyber bullying of businesses, peers, and celebrities is rampant in our society. My ten year old is a working actor in LA and I am not sure I will be able to handle it if she ever actually “makes it big”. My daughter was recently the victim of an online troll who spent hours (it must have taken all night) to post negative comments on about a year’s worth of Instagram posts. Things like “You are so ugly how are you a model?” or “I don’t even know you, you are irrelevant as an actor”. My daughter was a total champion and handled it like a pro. She actually said “Mom, for someone who hates me that much, they sure spent a lot of time going through all my pictures and on my account.”

If you are a regular reader of Telltale Ten, or know me in a business capacity, it is no secret that culture and employee satisfaction is really what motivates me. I’ve said it before (and at the risk of pissing someone else of), will say it again, I don’t care that much about Market Research. What I do care about is creating an amazing work environment where people are fulfilled personally and professionally and love to come to work every day.

Recently, I visited Glassdoor to see how we were doing. We only have a handful of reviews on there and they are mostly positive. Like 80%+ are great. But it seemed like I could only see the negative ones.

“Stakeholders should hire someone who actually knows something.”

Or how about this one:

Pros

“There are no pros because this company is awful.”

Cons

“Everyone hates their jobs, but the COO and most upper managers are never there to see it.”

Advice to Management

“Bring in a CEO who knows what they are doing.”

Can you say OUCH?? Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Why the heck is Jacqueline writing a BLOG exposing bad things people say about her and SoapBox?” Good question (give yourself a round of applause – I was also referred to as condescending and disruptive. Up to you to judge that one). When I read these, my heart dropped. My feelings were hurt. I wanted to fix it. I totally get that there will always be a couple of disgruntled employees in the wake of a super-fast growing start up. And I am not everyone’s cup of tea. But I am human, so it bothered me personally, but also made me hyper aware that maybe not everyone is happy and we need to do better. After reading the negative feedback I was faced with the following options:

A. I could have stayed butt hurt and thrown a pity party, feeling sorry for myself and wondering why the work doesn’t love me

B. I could have just got self-righteous and pissed off and dismissed the negative reviews as “irrelevant” people

C. Or use the feedback (albeit unsolicited) as an opportunity to self-reflect and then take action to improve

I choose C.

I went from being sad, to wanting to take an honest look at what improvements I can make as a leader, and what improvements we can make as a company. I called a meeting and those involved were quick to dismiss it as pissed off people who were terminated for not doing their job. I get it. That is probably true. But maybe, there are a few things we can tweak to make things better too.

So we have set out on a mission built around a WRITTEN plan for improving culture led by our Marketing Team. We identified potential areas of dissatisfaction, ways to gauge an ongoing pulse of satisfaction, put pen to paper and came out with a plan that we will be rolling out starting this month. I am SUPER excited about it.

As you move through your days, I urge you to

  • Be kind – in person and online
  • Remember that people (including celebrities, bosses and politicians – ok maybe not the last one) are humans with feelings
  • When ill words are said, don’t dwell, be strong and also look for the lesson

 

SoapBoxSampleCollage

Who the heck are these people?

By | Be Genuine, Have Fun, Invoke Passion, Take Risks

Last year I attended VidCon 2016 with my 9-year-old daughter Ella and wrote extensively about the weird and wonderful world of online video influencers. (Read last year’s posts here.) This year I went back with my now-10-year-old. (Congratulations to me for another year of parenting. Yes, I do think there should be awards for this.)

After last year’s VidCon, it took us 300 of the next 365 days to figure out what the heck we had just witnessed. This year we had a decent plan for success — to identify, connect and partner with influencers and their audience to help us grow our online research panel. (Our plan for VidCon 2018 is so good that if we told you about it, we would have to kill you.) What also helped us out this year is that we brought along Nicole, SoapBoxSample’s new sales and marketing admin. Rather than explain how strange it is to suddenly be surrounded by “celebrities” you’ve never heard of, but thousands of tweens are going crazy for, I thought I would let Nicole explain it for me. Also, if you ever go, definitely try the acai bowls.

Connecting with Social Media Influencers at VidCon 2017

This was my first time attending a conference with SoapBoxSample. I was beyond excited to go to VidCon and honestly didn’t know what the heck to expect. I was attending with the COO of the company, wanted to make sure I was on my P’s and Q’s but was going into it scared as sh*t, and having no idea what to expect.

Ok…leading up to VidCon I did lots of research on who is who and what is what, and how we might connect with these social media stars and YouTube sensations. I stalked these influencers for months prior to the event and set up some appointments with them via Twitter. Looking at VidCon’s website and reading recaps from previous years, you can see there are thousands of people there. But actually going there and seeing for yourself the thousands of people is a whole other level of crazy. And call me crazy, I actually loved it. I loved seeing the performers, eating the acai bowls, and looking up to see a YouTuber getting swarmed by adoring fans.

Our mission was to understand the digital landscape in general, and to connect with the Millennial and Gen Y audience, so we can help our clients figure out how to market to them. I wasn’t there to just “look,” I had to do some gorilla marketing too, pass out cards and try to get sign ups to our online research panel, MySoapBox. I’ve done this in the past so it should be easy breezy right? Negatory. You have to know how to approach someone; whether it’s a parent, a teen or an online influencer. After all this was said and done I had to send a recap to both of my bosses. Geeze, this part was hard. How the heck do I recap VidCon? That place is nuts! My recap is going to sound nuts. Oh well, I am a firm believer in being upfront, and with that sometimes comes blunt phrases that I wish I knew how to make sound more “business-like”.

Day 1 Thoughts

  1. What the hell is this?
  2. Who are these people?
  3. Where do I start passing out Join MySoapBox cards/what do I say to engage them?
  4. I’m so glad I wore tennis shoes!

Day 2 Impressions

  1. Ok, I am ready to get these cards out – finding more creative ways/things to say.
  2. This is pretty cool, I need a YouTube channel!
  3. There are so many people, and they love getting “stuff”.
  4. I need a FREE fidget spinner for James (my son.) I don’t understand why I’m fighting adults for these.

Random Thoughts as I Was Falling Asleep

  1. Should I keep Jacqueline away from the Dunkin’ Donuts lounge? Unlimited free coffee and a fanatical COO is either the best or worst combination ever.
  2. I never knew my job would involve learning how to pull my phone out and take a picture faster than a sharp shooter.
  3. How much time does Jacqueline’s daughter spend on social media to actually know who all of these people are and what they do? She’s a pretty active kid so that makes it all the more confusing.
  4. I wonder if there are new rules about swearing in front of your kids. Jacqueline does it a lot, and her daughter seems pretty unfazed.

By the end of the conference, I wanted my own YouTube channel with thousands of screaming tweens following me through the convention. lol. I connected with my boss on a level that was pretty amazing (I mean we share the same birthday so it will be that way regardless). I learned a lot, watched a lot and really enjoyed seeing the various levels of influencers try to connect with their audience. I think the most important take away from this conference was finding new ways to connect.

Not only was I learning how to connect with my boss, I was learning how to connect with our audience to understand and figure out the best ways to engage them. I am most excited to partner with online influencers and grow our panel to help our clients connect and engage with a notoriously hard to reach audience. After meeting with the ones we did, their personalities seem so fun they are about to become my new best friends and don’t even know it yet. Ha Ha!

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.

How to Stay Human While Working From Home

By | Be Clear, Create Value, Motivate Others, Take Risks

Not all employees work from an office. Apparently, starting this week’s BLOG intro with the obvious just feels right for some reason.

Telecommuting, working from home, remote employee, flexible working environment, or whatever you call it, there is a lot of it. Some deem it to be the perk of all perks. Others deem it to be a dreadful prison within your home of social isolation and a perpetuation of not showering.

You can find endless articles about the pros and cons. My personal opinion is that it can be a super good fit from some, and not so much for others. It is NOT for everyone. This week’s Telltale Ten post is from Jennifer Holland, a successful salesperson who works for SoapBoxSample’s parent company, Interviewing Service of America, ISA. She works remotely from her home in New York. She offers some great tips for those who work from home, or those who are considering it.

“You. Are. So. Lucky.”

I hear it at least once a week.  And yes, I am.  I’m one of the over 3 million Americans working from home.  While I must admit, it’s a good gig if you can get it, it does come with its own set of drawbacks.

When I started working remotely over ten years ago, I looked to my friends who’d been working from home for advice.  How did they manage their time, what did their typical day look like, how did they not go insane with all of the alone time?  The answers were varied but there was always a common thread in their responses.

Have an Office with a Door

Working from home can go one of two ways.  If you’re not disciplined, this situation isn’t for you.  People who are easily distracted, need someone checking over their shoulder and don’t like their job in general aren’t a great fit for remote employment.  The other side of that coin is you work All. Of. The. Time.  You’re working from your home, a place where you spend the bulk of your time.  So in essence, you’re always at the office.  I often find myself at my desk at 11 pm, checking email, working on bids, etc.  I start by walking through the house, picking up the backpacks, turning off the lights, checking the kids in their beds.  I end up walking into my office and working for two hours.

You need to work on maintaining an actual life outside of your home office.  I needed to make sure I had an office in my home with a door.  Somewhere I can walk into in the morning, and walk out of at night.  And close the door.  It’s not foolproof, and I’ve been known to bust out a proposal from my laptop in bed, but it helps to have an actual space in your home dedicated to your work.

Leave Your House

I have this trick that I do every morning.  I wake up, take a shower, get dressed and leave my house.  I know that sounds like I’m negating one of the main benefits of working from home.  You don’t HAVE to leave!  But I NEED to leave.  I get coffee, and come back to my office. It’s as if I’m arriving to work every day and not just Groundhog Day’ing my life away.  I also work from a coffee shop a few times a week, for a couple of hours a day.  A change of scenery is key for me.  It keeps me focused and sane.

One of the main struggles of working from a home office is the lack of social interaction.  I basically accost my FedEx guy with conversation when he shows up.  All he wants me to do is sign for a package.  All I want to do is talk to a human in person.  It’s become weird.  To ease the strain I’ve created in the relationships with my delivery people, I keep CNN on in the background all day.  I know he’s not really there, but in my mind Wolf Blitzer is in the office next door.  It’s nice.

Get Dressed

No.  I do not work in my pajamas.  I may work in leggings and a hoodie, but I do get dressed.  Every Day.  I throw my hair in a bun and rarely wear make up on work days (keeping it real here), but I wear actual clothes.  I think waking up and walking into a home office is a slippery slope.  One day you’re working from home, the next thing you know you’re that person on your street that no one has ever seen leave the house.  Clothes make you feel human.  Even if your kid tells you that you dress like a gym teacher.

I had a friend who worked from home and would put on a suit when she had an important conference call.  It made her feel more prepared and professional.  I do not do that.  All I can say is thank God most of my meetings are not video calls.

All in all, not too bad.  Right?  And trust me, I am NOT complaining.  I mean, my morning commute is about 10 seconds.  I only have to wear heels when I’m visiting a client or prospect out of the office (after 14 years of working in an actual office wearing very high heels, my feet are grateful for this benefit).  I’m not dealing with the office drama that exists in every office in every company.  My break room is my kitchen or Starbucks, so no drama there.

But I do have one complaint.  The ‘cookies in the break room’ email.  For some reason cookies don’t magically appear in my kitchen when there are cookies, cannolis, bagels, etc. in the break room.  I’m looking at you, Francine.

Top Ten Most Ridiculous Respondent Email Addresses

By | Be Genuine, Have Fun, Invoke Passion, Take Risks

When I talk about what I do for a living I sometimes say that I am in the business of  buying and selling people. This statement sometimes causes shock and alarm. I then have to explain that I work in Market Research, and part of my job is to find people to help companies answer their business questions. Occasionally the people we find are a little…eccentric. How do I know this? Just take a look at some of their email addresses. Here is my Top Ten list of the most outlandish respondent email addresses.

10. MirandaBananaPanda@

I’m trying to imagine the thought process behind the creation of this email, my name is Miranda, and I love pandas and bananas?

9. CrazyDrunkMouse@

Is the mouse both crazy and drunk or is his drunkenness making him crazy?

8. UndeadClownJuggalo@

I have no idea what this might mean, and I’m too scared to google it.

7. GagaForGaga@

I’m just picturing a person dancing around in their bedroom in a full Lady Gaga costume. (Hopefully not the one made out of raw meat.)

6. LlamaFarts15@

Did the llama fart 15 times or is this the 15th llama farts email address?

5. Mr_Squishy@

Notice this one has an underscore, I’m guessing Mr.Squishy was already taken?

4. JohnsBeerMoney@

Hoping that this respondent isn’t drinking beer while he’s taking surveys, and that the beer is his reward for a job well done.

3. VegasAlien2001@

An alien who lives in Vegas who likes to fill out surveys in their free time? I guess that’s one way to learn about earth culture.

2. SexyBeard88@

Is the email address of a person who gets really excited by beards, or someone with a beard of their own that they enjoy? Maybe both.

1. SneezeTushy@

Try to avoid visualizing this one. It’s a head scratcher.

Give This, Not That

By | Have Fun, Inspire Ideas, Take Risks | No Comments

An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Experience Gift Giving

It’s the holiday season and America’s quest to buy more crap is at an all-time high. This is a breakdown of 2016 holiday spending so far (and it’s not even December yet!).

Black Friday — 70 billion
Small Business Saturday — 18.3 billion
Cyber Monday — 3.45 billion

All I can say is holy crap that is a lot of crap.

I don’t know about you, but my family and I have managed to accumulate so much stuff. Stuff, upon stuff upon stuff. We are a family of three who has filled 3,000 square feet of living space and can barely squeeze a single car into a three-car garage. We also have stuff stored at my Mom’s and park one of my husband’s work vehicles at his Mom’s. It is pure insanity. I am not even sure I can pinpoint when it got so out of control.

Most of the stuff is not even good stuff. Not expensive, just freakin’ stuff we have collected over the years. Truth is, I am at the jumping-off point. It is DRIVING me nuts. So as you can imagine, as the holidays are coming closer, the thought of buying MORE stuff seems literally insane. My 10-year-old has more “things” now than I had accumulated for the entire 18 years of my childhood (multiplied by 10). My husband grew up in a country that was at war, and did not even have electricity, never mind more than one pair of shoes.

How we got here is another BLOG all together and likely requires another couple years with my therapist. The good news is that the mindset shift has started. For the past 2 years (since our car accident) we realized the value of experiences over stuff. It’s not just for Christmas time either. For Ella’s birthday in September we took her and her friends horseback riding and it was so awesome.

Recently, I started to notice a cultural shift. More and more articles started popping up about experiential gift giving. I kept seeing people posting on social media saying, “my kids have everything, what should I get them?” Instead of trying to present them with back orders from Santa for the latest Hatchimal, try giving them an experience instead. There is no shortage of experiential gift-giving opportunities out there. Here is a list of ideas, broken down by the type of person (or group of people) you are buying for. Consider this an early holiday gift from me to you. You’re welcome.

For the Family

  • Zoo memberships
  • Movie tickets
  • Sporting events (if you are on a budget, check out a local sports teams)
  • Theme park passes
  • Concert tickets

For the Adventurer

  • Membership to a rock climbing gym
  • Ski lift tickets
  • Hot air balloon ride
  • Skydiving lessons
  • Indoor skydiving
  • National park pass
  • Horseback riding session
  • Surfing lessons

For the Fitness Enthusiast

  • Entry fees for a race/obstacle course
  • Bootcamp passes
  • Personal training sessions
  • Spin gym passes

For the Spiritual Guru

  • Yoga classes
  • Meditation classes
  • Sensory deprivation flotation tank
  • Send one book about spirituality every month

For the Nostalgist

  • Day at the roller rink
  • Go-kart racing
  • Bowling tournament
  • Mini golf off
  • Mixed tape (ok, wanted to see if you were paying attention or not)

For the Foodie

  • Restaurant gift certificates (duh) – try places in another town. Even drive a few hours.
  • Cooking classes
  • Tickets to a food festival
  • Road trip to a food festival (day trip or overnight)

For the Artistic Type

  • Wine and painting class
  • Sewing/ crafting classes
  • Pottery classes
  • Museum membership
  • Gallery passes

For the Alcoholic

  • Brewery tour
  • Wine country tour
  • Bar treasure hunt (If you really want to get creative, make up a mystery bar tour in your own city – complete with Uber of course)
  • Wine of the month club

Instead of doing 12 minutes of gift-opening at 5 am on Christmas morning, consider giving 12 gifts (one for each month of the year) to be opened up once a month. And no one knows what it will be until they open it. Some examples include; movies tickets, bowling passes, family game night, a 2-hour drive to have lunch at a restaurant in another town, or an overnight stay in a local hotel with a pool, a hike, a nap …anything!

The act of opening a present can be an experience in and of itself. Here are some tips for creative holiday gift wrapping. I like to wrap my tickets, experiences, treasure maps etc. inside of random things. The more random and unrelated to the gift the better. I am not sure what better gift there possibly can be, than family laughter.

  • Cereal boxes – for some reason Lucky Charms box’s are funny
  • Diaper boxes (child or adult diapers) – wrap your ten-year-old son’s tickets to the latest Star Wars movie in a Diaper Box. He may not laugh, but everyone else will.
  • Tape gift cards to the bottom of cans of beans or a can of SPAM. SPAM makes everyone smile. Or a can of Fruit Cocktail. They are just funny.
  • Put concert tickets inside of toilet paper or paper towel rolls.
  • Tape gift certificates to the bottom of a plunger (can’t wait for this one this year).
  • Put something (tickets, certificates, gift cards or a small toy) inside a bag of rice so they have to dig through the bag to get it – obnoxious, messy and fun.
  • And my all-time favorite … Wrap your husband’s sporting event tickets in a tampon box and laugh hysterically when he opens it up in front of his family.

This year I recommend focusing on experiences rather than stuff, and connections instead of crap. Have some experience gift ideas I didn’t mention here? Tweet me, @jax_rosales

Indecision – The Evil Accomplice of Procrastination

By | Be Clear, Be Reasonable, Inspire Ideas, Take Risks | No Comments

in·de·ci·sion

ˌindəˈsiZH(ə)n/

noun

  1. the inability to make a decision quickly.

in·de·ci·sion

 

I am not a procrastinator by nature. I typically move fast and can’t stand to leave things undone. Some may even say I move maniacally through the day. But when I do procrastinate, it is typically linked to indecision.

When I just can’t figure out (aka decide) what to do, I usually end up in a tailspin pretty quickly. Doesn’t really matter if I am indecisive about something with big impact such as whether to hire or fire someone, or a small decision with little impact, such as what to eat for lunch. The end result is the same – procrastination. BTW, the small decisions are what get me.

When I am unable to make a decision, I’m in that grey area where nothing productive happens. I call it the hallway. Once I know what door I am going to go through, I can handle just about anything. But the time that I am standing in that hallway, trying to pick door number 1,2 or 3, is typically crazy-making for me. Indecision is the great time waster and there is nothing that drives me more crazy than wasting time – especially if you happen to be wasting MY time.

If you are having a hard time making a decision, chances are one of these are the culprit – or at the very least, a contributing culprit.

Second Guessing

While second guessing is second nature to some people, it can be crippling. Assuming you have done your diligence in making your initial decision, GO WITH IT. Move forward. Fear is often the driver behind second guessing. Don’t let the fear freeze you.

Overweighing a decision

There is only so much time you can spend looking at things. Make a list of pros and cons, do your research, talk with a trusted partner. After that, you are pretty much going in circles. A wise woman once told me the most dangerous neighborhood I can hang out in is the one inside my head. There may be no truer true than that. I can talk myself in and out of ANYTHING and drive myself insane.

Asking Other’s Opinions

This could help you assuming the person, you ask is 1) actually helpful, knowledgeable and trustworthy and 2) you actually listen to them and take their advice rather than just ignoring them. There may have been a time or two where I asked my husband, “this one or this one” only for him to pick one and then me to continue to hem and haw for hours longer. Or pick the opposite – don’t do that. That means you are being a pain in the ass.

Putting it off

Procrastinating about making your decision leads to procrastination. See what is happening here? You’re just going around and around in circles.  Staying up all night thinking about things doesn’t help either. That only makes you tired.

The Decision is Not Yours to Make

Sometimes the decision is just simply not yours to make. Maybe it is none of your business, or maybe it is simply not in your hands. In that case, you just have to wait and see what happens. Tip: Don’t try to figure out all the possible outcomes. If you don’t have input and you are not in control, you will waste a lot of time doing that. Whatever is going to happen will happen anyway no matter how many hours you spend trying to predict it. Unless you are a fortune teller. Then you should predict it since that is your job.

There are lots of articles on how to face indecision. We’ve included some of our favorites below. Just make sure you are reading them with the intent of improving the skill of decision making and not just putting a decision off.

 

10 Proven Ways to Overcome Indecision — Inc.

5 Steps to Overcome Indecision — Simple Life Strategies

How to Deal with Indecision — Pick the Brain

4 Tips for Dealing with an Indecisive Boss — The Muse

7 Ways to Conquer Indecision — Forbes

 

Bottom line. In order to get shit done, you have to make a decision.

Trade Show Tricks … And Treats!

By | Be Genuine, Have Fun, Motivate Others, Take Risks | No Comments

You’ve heard of “Take-Your-Kid-to-Work Day,” but what about “Take-Your-Marketing-Director-to-a-Trade-Show Day?” Although I’ve been involved in planning SoapBoxSample’s trade show presence for the past several years, it wasn’t until last month that I actually got to be there for an exhibition. Attending the MRA Corporate Researchers Conference in person let me see trade shows through a new lens. I learned a few simple (and free!) tricks that can help any company bring in a big fish.

Focus on what really counts. It’s not just the flashy booth graphics (although they help), the perfectly-worded handout (probably doesn’t help at all) or the even the free giveaways (although I am a sucker for a good stress ball). What stood out the most for me was the people. Here’s what I picked up.

  1. Being Bored Is Boring

You know how you start to yawn when someone around you is yawning? Yeah, it’s not a good look. So cut it out. Keep your energy up. Tell a joke. Do a few jumping jacks. Be silly. It’s better than putting people to sleep.

  1. Avoid Predatory Practices

Have you ever walked through the mall and gotten the sensation that you were being stalked? It’s probably the overzealous perfume counter girl looking for her next victim to spray. Don’t be like this girl. You can feel her stare from a mile away and it immediately makes you want to duck and run. An overly intense salesperson can cause the same effect. If you notice people quickening their pace and suddenly burying their faces in their phones as they go past your booth, someone may be putting off a desperate vibe.

  1. Seven Deadly Body Language Sins

60% to 90% of communication is nonverbal. Closed-off body language sends a clear signal to potential clients — Don’t stop, keep walking. Here are some examples of behavior that can drive people away from your space. If you see anyone on your staff doing any of these things, throw a stress ball at their heads.

  • Constantly checking their phone (or watch)
  • Scratching, picking, poking, or doing anything to their bodies that should be done in private (It’s just gross!)
  • Staring at the ground
  • Standing too close to people
  • Tapping fingers, feet, or worst of all, clicking a pen
  • Fake, frozen smile
  • Over-blinking (or staring without blinking) (Super creepy! Don’t be known as the company of serial killers.)
  1. Don’t Be a Broken Record!

Have you ever gotten a robo-call? If you’re lucky enough to have avoided them, they are pre-recorded telephone calls, usually from a telemarketing company or a political party. And they are THE. WORST. EVER. Don’t let your staff pitch like robots. Robots memorize a script and recite it on repeat. Encourage your team to LISTEN, and ASK QUESTIONS. People want to feel heard. They want their uniqueness to be acknowledged. Show your value by showing off your human side. In other words, be real.

  1. Steer Clear of Smack-Talkers

Market Research is a small, tight-knit industry. People know each other. If I started talking smack about my competition, it would get around. Fast. Even if you work for a huge industry, it’s not a good idea to trash talk your competition. This is especially true at a trade show, where competing companies are sharing the same space and the same food supply. There are ways to show off your capabilities without putting others down. It makes you look desperate, and unprofessional. And it might make people wonder if you’re equally uninhibited about discussing clients and their confidential information.

  1. When the Show’s Over, You’re Still on Display

Before attending this conference, I thought that Market Researchers were a meek and mild bunch (like accountants or insurance adjusters.) Wrong. Market researchers like to drink and party. A lot. And when they start drinking, they start coming out of their shells. (Some of them should have stayed in their shells.) Speaking of staying in, it’s a good idea to look out for … (how can I put this delicately?) overexposure. After the cocktail reception mingling, potential clients should come away with more knowledge of your products and services, not more knowledge of your salesperson’s soft tissues.

And yes, I actually witnessed all of these things first hand. Some even more than once. I was there for 2.5 days.

I have always known, that having a decent trade show presence can be expensive and time-consuming. But if it’s done well it can have a great ROI. In other words, you can be the best Marketer in the world, but work with your leadership team to make sure your hard work isn’t ruined by a salesperson with a creepy stare who picks his nose in your booth.