Category

Take Risks

Who Are You? Who? Who? Who? Who?

By | Be Genuine, Have Fun, Take Risks

What is the deal with this random album cover featuring grown men munching on bananas? You’ll have to read to the end of the blog to find out.

Hopefully you all have the Who song stuck in your head now. I like to be annoying like that. I mean, it might not be annoying to you, but may get annoying to those around you. Oh well for them. Our Director of Marketing has been wanting to do this Ask Jax series. I keep putting her off thinking she will forget or go away. She is pretty persistent.

Recently, we got an email from one of the programs my daughter is involved in and they had a series of questions to get to know their staff better, so I finally caved. When we are doing business with clients or vendors, we can often forget we are all humans. I know I enjoy getting to know people – especially people who are authentic and trying to live the best life possible. So here goes.

What is your happiest memory?

Definitely the day my daughter was born. Ha! Juuuusssstttt kidding. That day sucked. All kinds of pain and bodily fluids. The result of the day was decent, but can’t say happiest memory. But equally as cheesy, albeit more honest, was the day I met my husband. I was smitten by him immediately. We were engaged 6 months later. We have been married 15 years this year. I can still see him turn around, smile and say in his really strong accident “No thanks, I can buy my own beer.” While it doesn’t sound super romantic, it was at Senor Frogs in Cancun so….

What are your hobbies?

When I am not injured, I love to workout. ANYTHING intense or a little crazy that pushes your body to the max — running, obstacle course racing, ultra-distance road biking, bootcamp, mud runs – well you get the picture. I love to do outdoor activities with my family like skiing, hiking, biking and rock climbing. The old lady side of me loves to cook (in a crockpot), plan parties (as long as someone else cleans up) and scrapbooking (which has honestly been on a 4-year hiatus pretty much).

If you could be one animal, real or fictional, what would you be and why?

I would be a dinosaur. Can you imagine? Picture this. It’s LA. Rush hour. On the 405. And, me, the dinosaur, just comes out of nowhere like “Hey, look at me! I am a dinosaur”. And then people would go crazy, and I would just yell repeatedly, “Distinction is a myth!!” while stomping on all the cars (not hurting any people of course). I would want to be a flying dinosaur so I could then just fly away after.

If you could change one thing about yourself, would you? If yes, what would you change?

No. I would not change anything. OK. That is a lie. I was being lazy and didn’t want to come up with an answer.

I sometimes hate exploring these things. Like what if I changed X, and then all this other stuff changed. That was a movie wasn’t it? Anyway, I would change my ability to fall asleep more easily. I basically want more sleep. It seems better to want to fall asleep more easily than to want it to be harder to wake up.

What are the qualities you look for in a friend?

Funny. To clarify, I don’t really care if they are funny, as long as they think I am funny.

If you were granted three wishes, what would you wish for?

Great hair.

Self-confidence, self-love, respect, kindness and happiness for my daughter.

To be turned into a funny dinosaur who can fly.

Name three things you find beautiful.

My husband, my daughter, the forest.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?

The ability to cure those who suffer from chronic pain. Whoa. Got all serious there for a quick second. But for real. I personally deal with this as do others I love very much. It is a tough life. And I think chronic pain patients have a tough time battling against opiates and pain management. I wish I could solve this crisis by curing everyone.

If you could master any skill or talent, what would that be?

There many things I still want to learn and master. If I had to pick one, I think it would be photography.

A close runner up would be the ability to annoy my tween daughter with a single code word she never figures out.

Quick. First three songs that come to mind?

James – Laid

Elton John – Tiny Dancer

Bob Seeger – Turn the Page

Now that, was SUPER random song selection. I shall go listen to all three right now….

How Swinging a Hammer and Fetching Beer for Your Dad Are the Foundation of Entrepreneurship

By | Be Honest, Motivate Others, Take Risks

My Dad just butt FaceTimed me. I know it was a butt FaceTime as I am almost positive my Dad does not know how to FaceTime. I am not even sure he knows what it is. Anyway, the missed FaceTime from my Dad made me smile, and got me all nostalgic. I started taking a trip down old memory lane – when my Dad taught me everything I knew. Don’t tell him I said that though. I don’t want him getting a big(ger) head. He will likely get the cliff notes version of this BLOG post from my stepmom anyway.

I grew up in the time of no seatbelts, staying outside until the streetlights came on, wearing sunburns with pride as they represented a good day out in the sun, riding in the back of a pick-up truck all the way to my grandmother’s (like 30 miles and often in the dark), when chores were not optional or paid for and often included “get me a beer from the cooler”, you ate what you were given when you were given it, got ready for school and went to the bus stop on your own (from the age of 5), did your homework yourself, were responsible for your own grades and you didn’t talk back for fear of what was going to happen to you – with death being the best of all potential punishment options. And most importantly, you did not speak or make even the slightest sound during the weather portion of the news each night. Ever. For any reason. No matter what. I am not kidding. I am 44 and still refuse to speak during any weather forecast.

If our bikes were not put away, my Dad would hide them and tell us they had been stolen. If we didn’t put our toys away, they got thrown away – and they were not replaced. If we were told (not asked) to do something, we did it. If my Dad was working on the car, we were working on the car. If my Dad was working on the house, we worked on the house. If my Dad was working in the yard, we worked in the yard. When it came time to drive, we had to know how to change a tire AND the oil (we weren’t cruising down to the Jiffy Lube).

My Dad taught me a ton of life skills. He taught me:

  • How to swing a hammer (TIP: do not miss the nail as it makes a dent in the wood and absolutely do NOT hit the nail crooked as only idiots do that)
  • How to use a drill (uhmm, do not even tell me you stripped the screw – again you may die)
  • How to change a tire (it did not matter if it was snowing or raining or blazing hot with 100% humidity)
  • How to patch a wall (and sand it flush, by hand, and repaint it – this came in handy in my teen years after a few small social gatherings I accidently threw)
  • How to hang drywall (you know in case at age 8 I needed to build my own house)
  • How to shingle the outside of a house up on staging with no safety equipment (imminent death was always a few seconds away at any given time)
  • How to change the oil (and let me tell you, getting oil on the driveway, which was basically a dirt patch and not even paved was not an option you wanted to explore)
  • How to use tools (if you banged your thumb you waited until the project was finished for any type of medical attention which was likely a bag of frozen veggies from the freezer)
  • How to mow the lawn perfectly (if you left an “island” and your rows were not perfect then you were in deep shit)
  • How to sail a boat to Cape Cod (sometimes in gale force winds, 12-15 foot waves, and zero visibility – fear of dying was a regular event)
  • How to clean the bottom of that same 22’ boat (while it was IN the ocean and moving around on a mooring or anchor lol)
  • How to swim (by throwing me off a dock)
  • How to work hard (for 12-15 hours a day – tired and/or sick were not an options in our house)
  • How to earn a living (which did not include all the work you did for free around the house since you lived in it and all)
  • How to write thank-you notes (because being an ungrateful punk would get you a slap)

My Dad wasn’t actually a tradesman. He worked at the same company that manufactured heart and lung equipment for three decades. He wore a tie to work (sometimes with a short sleeved button down, but that is another story). He worked his way up from an entry-level job, to the boss. I remember his office – it was a MESS and had like seven ashtrays and at least two or three of them had cigarettes burning in them at any given time. He got to work on time every day, never left early and I don’t think he ever took a sick day. I was “lucky” enough to work there (as my 2nd or 3rd job as I always seemed to have multiple jobs) and various points filling tubes with some sort of stuff (probably poison) for hours on end. It was the worst, most boring job ever (sorry Dad, but it was terrible) – but my Dad would eat lunch with me sometimes. I pretended I didn’t care if we ate lunch together or not, but I did.

Ultimately, all those things he taught me, were priming me to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t know it at the time and he probably didn’t either – although he may claim it was all some well laid-out plan he had. He taught me through actions, behavior and tough lessons. He taught me:

  • Excuses will not get you anywhere in life
  • We have to do a bunch of shit in life we don’t want to – it’s just part of the deal
  • How to be self-sufficient and support myself
  • To take responsibility for my own actions
  • Accountability and follow through are paramount – finish what you start
  • Persistence and resilience – life will knock you in the teeth
  • The importance of a strong work ethic and putting in a day’s work for a day’s pay
  • Manners and respect

My Dad, Big Jim as we call him (he is not big, but he can be loud and has a big personality) was not the most nurturing. He was harsh, definitive, boisterous, opinionated and strict. He was constantly shouting things like:

  • Use your head for something besides a hat rack
  • Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades
  • If you want to cry, I will give you something to cry about
  • I brought you into this world and I can take you out and make another one just like you

And perhaps his most famous saying “proper prior planning prevent piss poor performance” – at five years old, I didn’t even know what those words meant, but I knew the saying. I always thought he made that up. He didn’t. But he liked to say it, a lot. And I am glad he did.

He made his fair share of mistakes. Many things he did (or didn’t do) would get parents today arrested in a heartbeat. His main goal was to make sure my brother and I were halfway decent people and, productive members of society who weren’t entitled assholes. I think he did ok.

Dirty Hair, Messy House and an Impromptu Baby Shower

By | Have Fun, Invoke Passion, Take Risks

I recently had shoulder surgery. I went into surgery very optimistic (aka dumb) thinking my arm would be in a sling 7-10 days and I would have a few months of painful physical therapy and then voila – magically better. Turns out, that is not the case at all. Looking back, it’s also like all the people around me knew what was really going to happen, but they just humored me and nodded in encouragement. I suppose, in the end, things are just how they are anyway so in these situations, ignorance prolongs misery, and I guess it is worth it. Why squander the hours that could have been useful worrying about what is going to happen? If it’s going to suck, may as well just wait until it sucks instead of worrying about how it will suck.

When I woke up from my surgery, I was in a full on terminator contraption – an immobilizer that wrapped around my waist and back and held my arm out from my body. It did not allow it to move at all. You see, I needed an anchor and a pin so I had to be in an immobilizer for 6 weeks. Six weeks in a bulky, scratchy, itchy contraption that needed adjustment every five seconds. And yes, I had to sleep in it. I am still only doing range of motion physical therapy for at least another month before I even start strength training.

So I have to wear this brace. It is so big and bulky that we have to buy Double XL sweatshirts from Walmart to go over it. I cut off all my hair as I knew I couldn’t blow dry or style it. I don’t bother putting in contacts as it is a pain. It was starting to seem like Christmas decorations would just be up early for next year since I couldn’t manage to get them down. I had started this home redecorating project (no, I don’t think things through sometimes thanks for asking) that is half in the works and half just boxes of crap everywhere. Our dog is not getting walked and digging up the back yard. Basically, both I and my entire house are one great big sh*t show.

Oh, and I can’t drive. My doctor said maybe around the ten week mark. Are you kidding me? It is so maddening. My husband and my daughter’s Nanny drive me everywhere. It is lovely. It’s not like I really go gallivanting about, but not being able to get in the car and just go, is crazy making. And my husband doesn’t put up with my foolishness. If I am like “hey let’s stop at [insert random store here]” he always wants to know what I need to get there. How the hell do I know what I need if I haven’t even gone in yet? RIGHT? Like if I actually NEED something I just order it on Amazon Prime. It’s not about needing things. Geez.

Then, last week, the unimaginable happens. I am on a conference call in my home office, with my disgustingly dirty hair, glasses, no makeup, sweatpants that are 3 sizes too big because they are easy to pull up, and there is a knock on my door. Assuming it was on those Amazon Prime deliveries (you know, something I NEED), I answer the door, with my headset, totally unsuspectingly to find SoapBox’s marketing assistant at the door wearing one of those masks people wear given the crazy flu epidemic. I have no idea what she is doing at my house, but feeds me some line about visiting a sick family member and was sent to see what I need help with. I embarrassingly help her weave her way to the kitchen table through all crap that is everywhere and keep going on my call. Then I finish and realize that she maybe can give me a ride and then I ended up back on the phone with I.T.

From my office I hear her yell, someone is at the door. This time, it MUST be an Amazon Prime delivery. I open the door to find my front steps full of SoapBoxers with their phones in the air filming me. “Surprise” they yell. Some are nervously laughing, some looking down at the ground fearing for their lives (or at least their jobs) and others just kind of holding their breath to see what happens. You see, since I can’t make it the 70 miles each way to the office right now, our VP of Operations thought it would be fabulous to bring the whole team to me for our annual kick off meeting, That’s right. TO MY SUPER DIRTY HOUSE WITH SH*T EVERYWHERE for a surprise visit. Oh, and let’s forget that I could not look any worse if I had tried. I wanted to scream obscenities, punch someone in the face, slam the door and run up the stairs (maybe fire a few people and then die), but I am not a total a**hole.

Instead, they all come piling in. They have computers and food and balloons and cake. Why balloons and cake you ask? Turns out we are also having an impromptu baby shower for one of our staff members. They had some amazing Greek food delivered from a local place I didn’t even know existed. I pretty much blacked out, but in between moments of clarity I observed some things.

  • This was my team and they are awesome. We are slow at hiring to make sure people are “right”. This team is totally right.
  • They were laughing and teasing and seemed like a group of friends at a reunion – not just employees working together.
  • They like working at SoapBox – while some were hesitant (like are you sure we should drive to COO’s house and surprise her hesitant) they were all happy.
  • They take care of each other (me included) – that it was I want from a team.

And finally, Dan Parcon, our VP of Operations is in deep doodoo. That’s right. Payback for this one will be of EPIC proportions. We have had a five year “prank” game running (I always win and he has zero points), but this was good. He tried to call truce. I thought he knew me better than this. There is NO TRUCE. This is only the beginning…

Confused Robots, Puppy Love, and Super Judgy Mirrors

By | Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Take Risks

I’m so not the cool kid anymore…

OK. So some may argue I was never the cool kid. But whatever, coolness is in the eye of the beholder (yes, I know that is not the right saying). Anyway, I’d be lying if I were to say I wasn’t totally jealous that two SoapBoxers attended CES this year and I didn’t get to go.

I read articles from afar, watched some live videos and was totally intrigued with what they would come back with. I was especially interested in how they would come back and convince me that all the coolness and crazy gadget viewing was 1) related to their job and 2) had some sort of value for us and 3) could help SoapBox support client needs, and that it was not just a trip to Vegas on the company dime. I needed to be sure what happened in Vegas did not stay in Vegas. You know what I mean?

Well, this article by our Director of Marketing, Adriana Hemans, pretty much sums it up. She managed to tie all coolness and relatability together. Not only that, but I got super excited thinking about our current and future clients we can help. Hey, I get this is a long article. I also know you have time to read it. Just substitute reading this article for one of you time wasting activities. Don’t EVEN try to tell me you don’t have any. Blog to follow on that topic.

There may, or may not, be a few shameless SoapBox plugs sprinkled in. I have taught her well. : ) Enjoy.

Highlights from CES 2018 and Why Researchers Should Care

Where can you play ping-pong with a robot, fall into love with a mechanical puppy and see inside a refrigerator without opening the door? At CES, the Consumer Electronics Show. Every January tech companies from around the globe convene on Las Vegas to showcase their products — gadgets and gizmos that consumers can look forward to one day owning — sort of.  They won’t be coming to a store near you anytime soon, and a lot of them leave you wondering – who would actually want that? In the aftermath of CES 2018, many critics pointed out that most of the products on display would only appeal to two types of people – people with money to burn and lazy people with money to burn. But we don’t have to rely on guessing who would buy these things, because we can actually ask people and find out. (Yay research!) SoapBoxSample conducted a mini poll* to gauge people’s awareness of CES and to find out if consumers would actually buy any of these high-tech gadgets. (You’ll find the results sprinkled throughout this article. I had to find some way to get you to read the whole thing.)

The research industry has been accused of being slow to adapt. While analysts are locked in rooms figuring out how to produce non-biased sampling frames, people are out making robots with Artificial Intelligence. The very same robots you can see at CES. The tech industry could benefit from paying attention to what consumers actually want (something research can supply), but researchers should be paying attention to the tech industry because big changes in the way people use tech in their everyday lives provides new opportunities for gathering data.

“Alexa, let’s do a survey”

At CES this year, Google came out looking like they were trying too hard. They built a three-story installation in the Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot. They also clearly shelled out big bucks for an advertising presence that plastered the entire town with the phrase Google wants you to remember – Hey Google. Amazon didn’t exhibit at all. They didn’t need to, because every other device at CES boasted about being “Alexa compatible.” All the free marketing garnered by Amazon, in contrast with Google’s flashy displays made Amazon look like the cool kid who doesn’t have to try to be cool.

People love the Amazon Echo. They consider Alexa to be a trusted part of their family. This is good news for researchers. When people are taking voice-activated surveys through Alexa (coming soon), the higher levels of trust will evoke more accurate, detailed, and honest responses from respondents.

Car tech – knowledge drives enthusiasm

You can’t talk about CES without bringing up the cars. They’re sleek, they’re stylish, they glistening under the showroom lights. I’m not a car person at all (my car has roll-up windows), but these vehicles were really beautiful. As a non-car-person, what I appreciated about the new smart dashboards and infotainment systems is that they were built to provide the driver with more insight into the inner workings of the car, something that I wouldn’t be able to assess by opening the hood.

As car manufacturers are scrambling to bring the first self-driving cars to market, they also have to convince people that self-driving cars are safe. Last quarter SoapBoxSample published the results of an internal study on the public’s perception of self-driving cars. Almost half of those surveyed believe that self-driving cars are dangerous and would not feel comfortable sharing the road with them. Only 28% said they looked forward to owning one. Developing smart dashboards that give drivers detailed information about how the car is operating is one way that car manufacturers can combat negative views of their product’s safety.

Related: Who’s in the Driver’s Seat? An Infographic About Self-driving Cars

Beauty tech – look better, feel worse

I tried out the HiMirror, one of CES’s #beautytech products. The HiMirror measures your pores, dark spots, wrinkles and dark circles. Just what women need, right? A super judgy mirror. Their marketing promised that the in-depth analysis would result in better “skin care goal-setting”. But what is the goal, to stop aging, or to sell products? The next generation of the HiMirror will probably show targeted ads for skin care products. I think I would rather skip the recommended products, and not know that my dark circles had increased by 3%. Turns out most people agree with me. Our poll showed that 68% of respondents would not want to use a high-tech mirror that measures skin imperfections.

It’s not so much consumer electronics, as it is competitive electronics

Is there really a consumer demand for a laundry-folding robot the size of a washing machine that requires you to manually tag each item of clothing you own, and can only fold adult-sized clothing? (And by the way, it takes longer than folding by hand.) Of the nearly 1,000 people who answered our poll, 79% said no thank you to the $980 laundry-folding robot.

Are the companies that produce these robots more focused on giving consumers what they want, or trying to out-do their competitors? What you might notice about this year’s line of robots is that their designs are very similar. White casing, black trim — almost without exception. Did the robot manufacturers forget to do their competitive analysis? (Shameless plug – did you know that SoapBoxSample’s passive metering application is great for understanding how people interact with your brand’s competition online?)

Can Americans fall in love with a robot dog?

I’m not a dog person, or even a pet person, so I didn’t expect to catch feelings for SONY’s robot dog Aibo. But it won me over instantly. Aibo is life-like, expressive, and responds to voice and touch. Knowing that his OLED eyes were mechanical did not make them any less puppy-like. Aibo is currently only available in Japan and costs $1700. SONY has said that they expect to sell at least 150,000 units. Could Aibo gain the same type of popularity in the United States?

Americans are waaaaaay into their pets. Here are some highlights from SoapBoxSample’s 2016 survey of U.S. pet owners to prove it – more than 60% of pet owners sleep with their animals, 40% of dog owners dress their pets up in costumes, and 73% of pet owners believe their pets are “smarter than average”. Could a robot dog one day occupy the same space in our hearts (and in our beds)? According to the results of our poll – heck no. When asked if they could see robot pets becoming more popular than live pets, 89% said no.

Related: Valentine’s Day Pet-fographic – We Know Americans Have a Close Relationship with Their Cats and Dogs But Just How Close Are They?

The future is full of glitches

If robots had emotions, the Aeolus would have experienced total confusion during its live demonstration. The booth presenter repeatedly ordered the bewildered bot to pick up a remote control off the floor, which it finally did after about a minute or so. (This scenario would be nothing new for the 8.4% of U.S. households with teenagers.) But the limitations of the robot’s responsiveness are no hurdle when compared to its price tag. The company wouldn’t name the actual cost, other than to say it was “less than a vacation for a family of four.” For the purposes of our poll, we guessed the price to be $10,000. Turns out most people don’t really see the value in it.  Over 83% said they would not be picking one up anytime soon.

I need a fridge with a camera in it

The ThinQ smart fridge unveiled by LG has a 29-inch touchscreen on the door. If you knock on the screen twice it becomes transparent so you can see the contents inside. But my favorite part was the wide-angle camera inside the fridge. How many times have you thought to yourself, “I wish I could look inside my fridge while I’m at the store so I can see what I need to buy”? Maybe never, but you know who else wants a look inside your fridge? Researchers. The smart kitchen of the future is a paradise for people who hate making lists, and for research ethnographers. With cameras inside every appliance, researchers can see inside the homes of their subjects without setting foot in the door, and more importantly, without disrupting the routines they are attempting to study.

Within the 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space occupied by CES, there were devices that could change our everyday lives, and some other ones that were pretty dumb. There were also plenty of opportunities for researchers. Tech companies seem to have bought into idea that they should be creating things that the public doesn’t know they want yet. Based on the public reaction to some of the products at the show, this might not be the best plan. Tech companies need consumer research more than ever to tell them if there’s a market for what they are attempting to create. Researchers should keep a close eye on developments in tech — there are lots of opportunities coming along for research to become less invasive, cheaper, more efficient and more accurate. The two industries should work together as we move into the next phase of consumer technology.

*P.S. By the way, this poll was a lot like the exhibits at CES, fun to look at, but lacking scientific validity (probably biased and non-representative).

What is All Over Your Hands?

By | Create Value, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others, Take Risks

A Salty Story of Entrepreneurship

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. For like two years, they were the bane of my existence. I had to listen to relentless begging from my kid. All my friends eat them. They aren’t bad for you. I swear I didn’t eat them (despite the distinct hand swipe stain on her uniform pants). Listen. I don’t personally have anything against Hot Cheetos. My kid just happens to be allergic to cow’s milk, so these are super no bueno for her. And that cheezy stuff gets all over your hands which is sort of annoying.

Why am I even talking about Flamin’ Hot Cheetos? Shouldn’t I be talking about Christmas (sorry, Holiday) Carols or seasonal baked goods? Well I re-read the story of Richard Montanez twice in the past week and wanted to share. Many of you may already know it, but too bad. You should hear it again – it is good.

Spoiler alert summary – Richard Montanez, a high school dropout, invented one of the most iconic American snack foods of all time, for Frito-Lay, while he was employed there as a janitor. Montanez called up the CEO with his idea. Yup, the janitor called up the CEO – and was put through! Today Montanez is the Vice President of Multicultural sales for PepsiCo America, and he teaches MBA classes at a college near his home in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

The story has been told before, but my favorite version is from The Hustle, my favorite newsletter. (I plan to keep giving them shout outs until they agree to let me guest blog, or send me a cease and desist letter — whichever comes first.)

Recently, a student asked him how he was teaching without a Ph.D.

“I do have a Ph.D.,” he responded. “I’ve been poor, hungry and determined.”

In case you missed the two hyperlinks to the article posted on The Hustle, you can click here to read it.

What I love about this story is the idea that every employee can make a huge impact on their company no matter their role. I also love finding and hiring people that exhibit traits of GRIT — guts, resilience, initiative and tenacity. And Richard Montanez is a prime example of this. Mental grit is what powers a person through personal tragedy, and IMHO, will get you farther than anything else. (Further reading — The Power of Mental Grit.)

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.

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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

 

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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.