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More Magazine featured entrepreneur Phylise Sands, the owner of Red Daisy, and her journey to success. If you’d like a realistic and sobering story about the ins and outs of bringing a product to market, read her story in the April issue.
My favorite parts were about her soliciting the aid of a famous lingerie designer, Roslyn Harte who, at first, turned down the offer to help this start-up. And I mean turned down: 20 times. Would YOU have had the courage to continue making that call? Phylise did.
All start-up companies are really a pain.
was Harte’s reaction. Until she discovered that Red Daisy had a give-back component that spoke to her heart–breast cancer research.
Along the way, Sands learned many lessons, like expanding her product line beyond one fabulous sports bra. “Three bras does not a company-with-market-presence make,” she advised.
Ms. Harte also alerted this new business owner to the fact that retailers stay away from new companies because of “control issues, delivery problems, and [their tendency] to go out of business.”
That wasn’t the case for Red Daisy. Orders came in, but she did face delivery problems from her manufacturer, which she handled one call at a time.
Stories like these, which celebrate the owner while shedding light on the challenges, are the most inspiring to me. No one has smooth sailing from conception to market. It’s good to hear what really happens. We all have our battle scars, but they’re not always shone the light of day.
I appreciate MORE sharing this satisfying story of success. I hope it encourages you to go the extra mile today.
I take notes at most events I attend, mining for gold to pass onto you, and also because I immediately forget so much of what I hear! When I transcribe these words, I highlight what I found most important and save it in a document.
Last week’s Women’s Summit provided definite keepers. I enjoyed Kay Koplovitz’s talk and have this quote to share:
Sometimes naivete will take you across borders you shouldn’t cross.
I can’t remember the title of the course on satellite transmissions she caught sight of and was transfixed by in her early 20′s–definitely not a subject that would have attracted my attention. But Kay was riveted by the subject matter of those waves that send images to our TV’s from outer space way back before ANY of us even knew about satellite dishes. She was also a mega-baseball fan and arranged the first satellite televised game between the Yankees and the Red Sox. She had a signed contract with George Steinbrenner (speaking of borders you shouldn’t cross…) and was tickled to be such a pioneer. Until the next day when baseball’s Commissioner Bowie Kuhn phoned her to cease and desist.
After a back and forth gambit about the rights she thought she had, she offered Mr. Kuhn to trade possessions–his baseball games for her ability to display them worldwide. He invited her in to talk.
My mouth dropped open at her courage, knowledge and naivete. Who did she think she was to go up against the likes of Bowie Kuhn?! I even went to the microphone to ask that out loud (in different words). How did she have the courage and know-how to pose such a question?
I loved her response to me.
I’m paraphrasing: When you know what you have to offer and listen really carefully to what you’re being told, the answers are there for you to hear.
She knew she had something of value and that baseball could benefit from it. She did make a deal, and that relationship put her on the map and gave her a seat at the table. She got my vote.
I heard a wonderful podcast last week–a story told by a woman who participated in a trial drug for her depression. She was given a month’s worth of pills and a very serious warning that eating chocolate while taking these pills could cause temporary or permanent blindness.
After only a few days on the drug she knew that she was receiving the real deal drugs, not the placebo pills others in the experiment were taking. Within a short amount of time her depression lifted. She began getting back into life to a satisfying degree including an improved relationship with her boyfriend.
Before the end of the 30 day trial period she made the decision to eat a chocolate doughnut. It didn’t take long for the blindness to set in, which naturally brought back a depressive reaction. She took a nap for several hours and awoke to having her sight back. When she returned to the clinic where the trial had taken place, the doctor asked her if she’d like to know what test group she’d been in, even though she already had the answer. She was open to hearing, and he told her she’d be in the placebo group.
Her mind had created her wellness and her blindness.
I relate to this story as someone who is very suggestible. I can easily go into black and white, all or nothing, reality distortion thinking. Thank goodness, I have support systems in place to quickly move me out of those locations.
I have been tracking my monthly earnings on a spreadsheet for nearly 10 years. Last month was my second to worst month in a decade. I didn’t panic, but I did concoct disaster scenarios in my mind. Hence the subtitle of this post. Stay out of your mind. It’s a dangerous neighborhood.
Mark Twain said, “My life has been full of catastrophes, most of which have never happened.” A friend reminded me of a businessman’s saying of a similar nature. Mark LeBlanc, successful business owner, coach and speaker, says:
Never trust what you feel on a daily basis. Trust the process, work your plan, and anything you want to achieve is possible.
This month’s numbers are already considerably better, but my mind wants to dismiss those. What’s so great about numbers is that they’re simply information. The emotions I attach to them are all of my own making. But I can’t argue with the upward trend.
Is your mind creating a reality distortion? Do you have a place to come to to rein it in? My tip is to go out of your mind and into the safe harbor of colleagues and trusted advisers who will provide a reality check for you. I have my Mastermind Group meeting tonight. I am 99% sure I will heard what I’ve heard before, “Jane, you say the same thing every spring at this time. Take a vacation!” I’ve already got it scheduled.
Between hearing Rick Smilow, president and principal owner of NYC’s Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), on Thursday night, then hosting a group of friends on Friday night over a potluck supper, the prevailing wisdom I heard was surprising when it came to employees.
Smilow was the second featured business owner in the Insights from Entrepreneurs series being put on by the Westport Library. NPR journalist Alison Freeland conducted another engaging interview, particularly because she had thrown away all the questions Rick had sent her to be asked.
The two covered what it takes to be an entrepreneur (by Smilow’s definition)– ability to change gears at least 10x per day, drive, energy, adrenaline, plus a good idea; his background at Nabisco and his choice of product category–culinary education; the collection of businesses he didn’t buy–a nail polish company, a hosiery company, a modeling school franchise; and the series of coincidences that led to his taking on ICE.
What I found most intriguing during the interview was the discussion around hiring and firing and the culture one creates in a company. He took ICE from 15 employees to 175. Mistakes were made along the way that led him to develop greater discernment around hiring. More than once this successful entrepreneur alluded to some roll-the-eyes experiences he’d had prior to finding his current CFO. “Don’t be so trusting,” he warned. Sometimes the people who appear to be the most honest turn out not to be. Smilow mentioned having a gut feeling early on and not trusting it because the guy seemed so good.
That’s where the discussion picked up at dinner on Friday night. I was talking about this topic with the men and women at the table, one of whom was recently hired at a company with a strong culture. He, too, was familiar with the proviso to beware the ideal employee.
Not being from a corporate environment I wanted to know more.
It seems that often a person performing at the highest level, and who appears to be the most loyal, trustworthy and reputable person, may be covering up less than ethical behavior. We know that life is complicated, so something that seems too good to be true often is. Someone covering up the minor inconveniences and mishaps of everyday life may have a competing agenda.
I’d love to hear your experience around this. It reminds me of the saying “the lady doth protest too much.” Who might need to be always demonstrating their loyalty, talent and commitment without the dailiness and humanness of being imperfect? Any gut reaction?
I attended a stellar event last night at the Westport Library, the first in a two-part series called “Creating and Growing Businesses that Thrive.” Doug Bernstein, of Melissa and Doug fame, was interviewed by NPR reporter Alison Freeland in front of a packed house of business owners. The 90 minutes flew by as Alison tossed out questions to Doug and he shared his vast expertise.
Here’s some of the wisdom I heard (interviewer’s or audience’s questions in italics):
- What’s a typical day? Every day is different. Every day you get thrown a lot of pitches. You decide which ones you want to hit. There are always more than you can get done.
- If you’re not failing a lot, you’re not testing yourself hard enough.
- What is your definition of entrepreneurship? Wanting something to be different; wanting to effect change; making something different or better
- We begged our first customers (toy store owners) to watch our video [their first product]. It’s ALL about the customer!
- What advice would you give people who are starting a business? I’ll go out on a limb here and say, this Internet thing is going to stick.
- While the NYTimes recently wrote that toy companies are going techno, we love being contrarians.
- How do you manage the PR for your company? “We don’t. We’ve spent $1.87 on marketing in 23 years. Our customers do the marketing for us. The best marketing you can do is taking care of your customers.
- We stay intimately involved with our customers. It is always ALL about the customers.
- Our culture is unique in its lack of meetings. I’m not a big fan of meetings.
- Rejection is the best thing that can happen. It fuels your success. Mistakes are the best part. There’s a hunger you get from them.
- Are you worried about imitators? No, we realized that while they can copy a product, it’s the combination of our product, our interest in our customers and our innovative style–the culture and soul of our business–that can’t be duplicated.
During the Q+A session following the interview, I asked for confirmation on something I thought I heard him say while being interviewed. I asked, “Just to be clear, did you say that you left your job at MCA (Marketing Corporation of America) without a business plan or a product?”
He did. Without a plan, a product or a safety net, he quit his job. He then explained how he and Melissa went to their parents (they were in their late 20′s and not yet married), sat them down and told them, “We’re going to have a… business.” The rest is history.
Please, someone, anyone, remind me that I’m a smart person. Because I’m surely not feeling it lately. There’s something about tax time that raises my self-doubt to the tipping point. (Or maybe it was the addition of a rough stomach virus that had me considering retirement yesterday…)
I just called Lauren at my payroll company because I received something from the Department of Labor declaring 1.90% as the minimum contribution rate for 2012 followed by the number 73. Huh? I brought this sheet to my accountant yesterday who referred me to the payroll people. I have no idea what this means. But when I called my payroll processor, she said, “Oh, no problem. Fax it over and we’ll make that change.”
There’s a high level of trust here, because I’m truly in the dark and don’t even want to ask the first question. Do you EVER feel like that?
My meeting with my accountant went well. Until I got tripped up on the part where he said that the charitable contributions I’d made aren’t business expenses, but are deductible in another way. What’s the difference?
If you’re reading this and thinking, “But, Jane, everyone knows this stuff,” please give me a call and really dumb it down for me.
What I’m really curious to hear about from you is: what puts you over the edge? We’re all operating at such a high level in so many areas of our lives. When I’m tripped up by my lack of knowledge, I don’t want to minimize my brilliance, as I am wont to do. I’ve got good recovery skills, but would love to prevent the deep dive.
What I’m truly grateful for is that there are professionals out there who can guide me through…and not judge me. I don’t have to understand it all, so long as I have good people in place who do.