I started and finished #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso in one sitting on a Saturday morning. Sophia is not only a great storyteller, but has a fascinating story to tell. She is honest, doesn’t try to be something she is not and her writing style makes her feel more like a friend than a CEO of a company she built by herself.
I am not a Nasty Girl customer, but will certainly be shopping there for my next purchases if for no other reason than I want to support a company that I like. The style is pretty awesome, too. At 36 years old, I’m just not always confident I can pull off some of those looks!
Though Sophia didn’t start out with aspirations to be a public figure and role model, she has embraced those roles for entrepreneurs of all types. She literally started selling clothes on eBay because she had a knack for finding vintage pieces and needed to make a rent payment every month. Startup stories like this are the best ones, in my opinion. It seems that the startup community is now too focused on technology, having a quick growth (and exit) plan, and quick frankly, too full of young, arrogant guys. Sophia bucks all these trends, plus many other “requirements” to start a new business, which is what makes her an inspiration.
At the core of the advice she gives throughout the book, the consistent message is work hard. This is so refreshing coming from someone who falls squarely into the “millennial” generation that thinks they should be given rewards rather than earning and seemingly eschews hard work and starting at the bottom to gradually make a way to the top, only if it is deserved.
This book was practical, but entertaining. It was proof that starting with nothing but hunger, a passion, and a willingness to work your ass off can lead to success.
I come with a lot of baggage. My daily tote bag. My travels. And even to meetings. I say that I am high maintenance, but that I can maintain myself. And usually can maintain all the people around me with all the stuff that I carry with me. Over the last several years I have tried to lighten my loads, but that each attempt barely lasts: I start gradually adding the things that I might need. Or have needed in the past and don’t want to be without.
In a 40-hour work week, I spend, on average, 15+ hours sitting in meetings. In meetings, pens run out of ink, tablets run out of power, my lips get dry, I realize I need my glasses, notebooks run out of paper. Any number of things can happen. Since my motto is “always be prepared,” I want to be prepared for these situations. This means I don’t have to leave the meeting to find a pen, or paper or a charger. I like to believe that it makes the meetings more focused and productive.
Walking into a meeting with a stack of stuff balanced in my hands is distracting and makes me feel (and look) unorganized. Walking in with a tote bag is overkill and embarrassing. I found a couple of pouches that worked for my purposes, but my stuff wasn’t organized inside making it hard to find the things I needed when I needed them.
After a friends posted a picture of the Mod Mini from This Is Ground on Instagram, tagging it as a “modern take on the Trapper Keeper,” I knew I had to have one of these. Sophisticated and stylish. A variety of inserts to fit my specific needs. Organized and easy to carry. Everything contained and just as I need it.
I have only had my silver Mod Mini for a week, but I believe I have found my perfect meeting companion.
In April, a new member joined our family. Another four-legged member, to make three dogs in our home. My two older dogs are large Labs named Betty and Blanche. This new dog is a petite Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Beatrice.
I love all my dogs equally. But Beatrice gets special privileges because her size and demeanor allow for her to accompany me places. And the office is my favorite place to bring her.
There is not an official pet policy at our office. I am sure one would quickly be invoked should too many animals start appearing and distracting frequently. But for now, Beatrice comes in about three times a week and I like to think she has become our unofficial office mascot.
I like to call Beatrice my service dog. She makes my day more enjoyable and less stressful. But she also helps reduce the stress of those who work with me and around me. I am not alone in this observation. Studies show that dogs in the workplace may lower stress, and make for a more productive-and enjoyable-company environment. While national polls indicate that less than twenty percent of all workplaces allow pets, well-documented evidence points to the benefits of animals in the office.
The specific ways that pets can improve health and wellness in the work place:
Stress reduction. Research that has shown the positive effect that pets can have on cardiovascular health, autonomic stress responses, and blood pressure.
Forced breaks. Dogs need potty breaks and walks during the day, and their humans are required to take them out. Without this trigger, too many of us would stay at our desks for hours on end. Studies have demonstrated the value of taking frequent, short breaks as a way of increasing productivity, and pets make us do just that.
Friendlier environments. The same instinct that leads you to spontaneously break out into puppy-talk around your pooch may lead you to be more amicable to your colleagues and your customers. In pet-friendly workplaces, employees reported feeling friendlier to one another and finding that customers had a more positive impression of the company.
Improved staff morale and worker productivity. People don’t mind working longer hours when they don’t have to run home to walk their dogs. Happier employees result in enhanced job performance.
Increase in sales reported by store owners who take their dogs to work.
I never thought I would be the “bring-your-dog-to-work” person. And though I sometimes feel a bit like Dr. Evil as Beatrice sleeps in my lap and I stroke her back as I sit in meetings, I hope that I will always be a “bring-your-dog-to-work” person.
Today is the last day to get your application in for the central Arkansas ARK Challenge 2014. If you have a business idea, good partners and a desire to work hard to make your idea into a business, you should apply for the ARK Challenge. Don’t let your age, your current job, your naivety or your fear get in the way. The experience is life-changing.
Last summer, I participated in the NWA ARK Challenge 2013. I was the oldest one there, held my full-time job, had no idea what I was getting into and was a bit nervous about being able to do it at all . While the business I worked on didn’t “win” and I exited the business shortly after the program, I learned so much about operating a business, made great friends and feel better for the experience. And I felt like I left with a mini-MBA after 14 weeks. In short, it was worth it. If you are interested in learning from my experience, scroll through my weekly updates shared on this blog. If you want to get some of my startup advice, head over to my posts on the Innovate Arkansas blog.
Here is a video to inspire you (and you’ll will hear from me here, too):
Over my years in the agency business, I have learned the hard way how embarrassing it is when you don’t have the proper cables and equipment to give your presentation. As a result, I have built up a collection of equipment that stays in my computer bag at all times so that I am always presentation ready. People know that I have this perfect back of cables and connectors, therefore they frequently ask to borrow it. While I am always happy to help a colleague out, this is my personal stash. Too many things get lost of misplaced when 50+ people have access to it. To help my fellow agency presenters, here is what is in my “magic” cord bag. Maybe it is time you started building your own.
Power brick extension cord, Thunderbolt to HDMI connector, Thunderbolt to VGA connector, retractable audio cord, retractable HDMI cord, Retractable VGA cord, USB flash drive, extra batteries, USB remote, old iPad to VGA connector, old iPad to HDMI connector, new iPad to VGA connector, new iPad to HDMI connector. (Click photo to enlarge.)
All those cords, connectors and equipment fit in this cute Kate Spade bag.
A portable speaker that projects enough sound to make your videos sound good even if you forgot the big ones or the room in which you are presenting doesn’t have audio.
My computer, my “magic” cord bag, the speaker, my meeting bag (notebook, pens, business cards, etc.), and the power brick for my computer all fit in this fabulous Sseko tote bag.
Working in a creative environment can mean a lax dress code where anything goes. Shorts, flip flops, torn t-shirts and jeans dragging the floor are not uncommon. But just because creativity can sometimes be hidden behind cubicle walls, that doesn’t mean that your clothes can’t both express your creativity and give a professional appearance. Here are a few tips for those working in a creative industry but needing to present well:
Your appearance is your first impression, before you open your mouth or show you portfolio. Recognizing that simple fact is the first step. Make a list of adjectives and traits that you want people to assume that you have when they see you. For example: approachable, creative, professional, serious, fun, etc. Knowing how you want people to perceive you will help drive the clothing and accessory decisions that you make.
Consider your audience. If you are going to a conference of creative professionals, you attire will be different than if you are going to present to the marketing department of a major brand to sell your creative services. Dress to reflect the how the audience will be dressed, while still incorporating your personal style. For example, if you are going to business meeting, you might wear a pencil skirt and heels. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a grey skirt and black heels. Instead choose a colorful patterned pencil skirt and strappy wedges that might be more reflective of your personal style, but still fits in within the environment. If you are presenting at a conference of creative professionals, you will not want to wear a suit if everyone in the audience is in ripped jeans and Converse sneakers. Instead, you might wear dark denim and hip low-heeled booties that show you care about your appearance but fit in more with the audience.
Don’t be uncomfortable. Dressing for an audience doesn’t mean that you have to be stiff, uncomfortable and wear shoes that you can barely walk in. If you put it on and it doesn’t feel comfortable because it is not “you” or because it pinches, pulls or squeezes–even just a little bit–take it off immediately.
When in doubt, choose a monochromatic black outfit and accessorize to make your personal statement. Solid black with a bold necklace and a colorful handbag can make you look both creative and professional.
One of my favorite SXSW sessions today was “Brainstorming Technology First.” It was presented by an agency and they provided real examples with actionable steps for implementing a technology-first approach to brainstorming projects. R/GA created this process to counter the consistent problem they were encountering where an idea was generated then the question “is this possible” was asked to the technologist. Their desired outcome was to know that something was possible and that it was possible to do well as the idea was generated.
Tech First Brainstorming Framework
Still start with creative brief. But choose a technology that is relevant to the audience and hardcode it into the brief. It should be a technology that is specific to your audience. The more granular you can be, the better. For example, not “mobile apps,” but “Passbook for iOS.”
Time box brainstorm session at one hour. Get everyone on the team at the same time in the room. Present the brief. Then give them 5-8 people to silently write their own answers to the questions in the brief. It is really important to let them work silently first.
Spend next 45 minutes sharing their ideas and encourage creative riffing.
Then the senior leadership team should take the ideas and distill them and craft them into something presentable.
This is an efficient process because 90% of ideas that come out are feasible because we have embraced the constraints on the front end and we don’t have to ask if this is possible.
Examples of Approaches
Fill in the blanks: give people a grammar and a framework to tell stories.
Magnetic poetry: provide a list of descriptors and a list of technology, then mix and match to get creative.
Branded magnetic poetry: same as above, but brand specific.
Social media API roulette: pick two very specific API points from two different networks and ask what can be created by combining the two.
An example of the “magnetic poetry” approach to tech-first brainstorming sessions.
As technology is integrated more and more each day in our activities and communications, thinking about how an idea can be executed as part of the technology rather than being retrofitted into the technology is increasingly important. This approach to brainstorming can help agencies and brands make the transition in their thinking about technological communications.