Entrepreneurs: Are your personal shopping habits spilling into your business?

I recently moved to another neighbourhood. As excited as I was about the move, the daunting task of packing put a damper on my good spirits. In what only proved to elevate the mood kill, I realized something alarming. I have a serious candle problem.

After going from room to room collecting an armload or two of various wax balls, pillars and jars, I placed them on the coffee table next to a stack of packing paper and an empty box. Once I had all of my candles on the table, I counted them out slowly, slightly alarmed at the growing collection. Hmm, twenty candles, that’s not too bad, right? Then I realized I’d only gathered all the candles from the first floor.

We all have our little quirks when it comes to collections, be it candles, refrigerator magnets, or, in the case of my husband, tacky shot glasses. But what happens when our impulse or slightly obsessive purchases spill over into our business?

As a college student, I worked at the book store on campus. Our manager/buyer had a slight obsession with writing instruments, especially pens. We had a huge double-sided, multi level shelf that ran the length of the first section of the book store parallel to the checkouts, shaping the line for our customers during busy periods. One side of this shelf was filled to overflowing with highlighters, mechanical pencils, every other type of pencil you can imagine, as well as those plastic encased eraser sticks. The other side of the shelf? Yep, you guessed it. Pens. A wall of every kind of pen you could possibly think of.

Obviously, demand did not keep up with supply. Each week, staff would go through boxes of pens and highlighters, checking to see if the ink had run dry. I could spend an hour or more scribbling on scrap paper, tossing useless pens into a cardboard box. And as our manager continued to bring in new shipments, we would look for older to pens to discount, always at less than cost. The discounted products would be thrown haphazardly into bins at the front of the store, as close to the entrance as possible. Not only was this a huge waste of money in terms of dollars spent on merchandise and man hours, but also in terms of opportunity lost.

Imagine how much the book store could’ve earned if the shelf had been lined with a variety of merchandise that would contribute to the impulse purchase decisions while people were bored in line. And those same old bargain bins filled with the same old stuff every time a customer walked in? I always wondered why we wouldn’t place newer stock that would entice students to come in to the book store when they weren’t in the need for a new text book.

The manager of the book store was not bad at her job. Other areas were organized and profitable, and she ran a tight ship. She simply let her personal shopping preferences cloud her judgment in this particular instance. As entrepreneurs, we’re definitely not immune to allowing our personal habits spill into our business habits. But it’s important to recognize when it is happening and what the implications might be.

So this week, why not look for clues or signs that this might be happening to you: Is your office overloaded with company branded thumb tacks or other quirky merchandise that never seems to make it into the hands of your customers? Are your business cards made out of stainless steel even though metal has no connection to what you actually do? Do you only have one employee, perhaps a summer intern, who you welcome with a basket full of company branded merchandise? If so, it’s possible that you’re letting your love of style and/or your logo creep into your marketing budget.

And if your back room is filled with spiffy new binders even though your business is pretty much paperless or you spent your entire lighting budget on a chandelier, you may be letting your personal preferences get in the way of making money.

Once you’ve recognized a problem area, do the math. Add up how much have you spent in terms of dollars and man hours. Determine how you could have spent that money to help your business grow. Just don’t beat yourself up about it. You might not be able to recoup your cost but you’ve learned a valuable lesson and you’ve already figured out how to tighten up your budget. Congrats!

Did you know that CFIB members and CFIB’s My Startup program members can call professional business counsellors as often as they like for free business advice? This is just one of the benefits to joining our non-profit business association! Learn more about joining CFIB’s community of 109,000 independent business owners today.

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darciaDarcia Armstrong is a marketing communications professional with an entrepreneurial spirit. With over a decade’s worth of progressive experience managing marketing initiatives for startups and seasoned business owners, Darcia focuses on promoting the interests of small business. She loves serving small- and medium-sized enterprises in her role as Digital Marketing Manager for the Canadian Federation Independent Business (CFIB) and CFIB’s My Startup Program.

CFIB is a non-profit organization that supports, promotes and advocates on behalf of Canada’s entrepreneurial landscape. With over 109,000 members across Canada from every sector of the economy, CFIB offers access to powerful advocacy, sound business advice and assistance, and major savings and benefits.

 


Corporate holiday party planning: How our small business saved money while reducing employee stress

In a recent blog post, I talked about how poorly planned holiday gifting became an infamous learning experience for a small business. Fortunately (no, that’s a typo), it was not the only mistake made that year. This next mistake, however, spawned a new and much loved tradition for the company.

So what happened exactly? The year before I arrived at this organization was a bit of a mess in terms of holiday planning. And a major item that was overlooked happened to be planning the employee and client holiday parties. No one really knew who was responsible for planning the parties and who would book them. Already overwhelmed with end-of-year projects, no one brought it up in company meetings because they were afraid that they would then be volun-told to take the lead. When the controller finally came forward with the budget for the two events (this was in December), the president then realized she had overlooked them entirely.

It was all hands on deck as panicked employees tried and failed multiple times to book a venue and services within the budget and a two-week time frame. Salespeople and other key employees were fearful that the holiday parties would overlap with previously booked vacations or their family commitments. Nothing seemed to be working out and performance in other areas rapidly plummeted as a result of the pressure and failed attempts to book venues, entertainment and catering. This is when the president came up with a brilliant idea: forget the holiday party.

Instead, she decided that the company would bring in the New Year with a bang. January bookings were made at top venues for a lot less than what it would have cost in December. A wider talent pool opened up for entertainment and catering companies were able to accommodate us for a lot less.

Aside from the cost savings, employees were thrilled. They did not have to worry about the corporate party taking precedence over a friend or family member’s gathering, or stress about whether or not their spouse’s corporate party would be booked on the same evening.  A January party also served to start the year with on a celebratory and collaborative note.

The client party had a record turnout of attendees and overwhelmingly positive feedback. The timing of the event was much appreciated and the fact that the party was not a “Christmas” party masquerading as a non-denominational holiday party served to make many of our diverse range of clients and prospects feel much more comfortable and celebratory.

Of course it goes without saying that this was the first of many New Year parties held in this organization.


Creative corporate gift giving at your small business: It’s not just what you give but to whom

As mentioned in my last article, Do not make this mistake when choosing your corporate gifts, fresh out of university, I landed my first job as a marketing assistant at a high-end sales organization. Our client profile was very specific – CEOs, partners and key decision makers all with unique business needs that our company could fill. Or, sadly, any one of our competitors could fill.

After speaking extensively to our sales team, I learned that they felt confident in making the sale if they could make it past the gate keeper. Unfortunately, the gatekeepers had highly honed skills in repelling cold calls and visits.

Armed with the knowledge that gatekeepers were a major barrier (translation: thorn-in-the-side) of our sales people, I was determined to look for an opportunity to address this problem, despite the fact that my junior status and short time with company did not allow for me to have much say in the direction of our marketing strategy.

My opportunity did come, just a couple of months later. I was tasked with finding unique and creative holiday gifts for our clients and would-be clients, and then presenting a few options to my manager and her manager. Not an insurmountable task, especially considering that several staff members jokingly told me that it really didn’t matter what items I picked, they would be a major improvement over the previous year’s fiasco (read more about that here).

After doing my research, I nervously presented options for gifts and also recipients. It went something along the lines of, “For the last decade we’ve spent X amount of dollars on card and gift buying for potential clients each and every holiday season. I would like to suggest taking a different tact this year. I’m convinced that it will not only cost us less money but also help us gain better access to our recipient list…” Yes, I did practice my presentation in the mirror the night before, if you’re wondering.

Of course I suggested that we purchase holiday gifts for the gatekeepers as opposed to our clients. I appealed for my boss to imagine how much good will it would generate among gatekeepers, who are handing off our competitor’s expensive gifts that their bosses likely care little for, when suddenly there is a gift, accompanied with a hand written note, just for them! I presented gift options, all of which were items that could be kept on a desk year round, and looked at when our sales people requested an appointment. I followed with the suggestion that, if we were determined to give gifts to the decision makers, why not wait until after the holiday season? Why offer one gift basket in a sea of gift baskets when you could be the only company to send golf balls and tees when the grass is green?

My bosses were hesitant at first. After all, gifting is expected during the holiday…isn’t it?

In the end they decided to give it a try. And guess what? We actually had a few gate keepers calling us! We received thank you’s from receptionists, executive assistants and office managers. We followed up with those who didn’t contact us to ensure that they received their gifts and wish them a happy holiday.  Our salespeople then followed up. The outcome was staggering. We had a huge increase in appointments throughout the next year, allowing our sales people to do what they do best – sell!

The moral of the story is, it’s not just what you give but to whom you give. And sometimes a little creative thinking can go a long way in accomplishing your goals.

Next week, I will talk about how a mistake with our holiday party planning led to reducing employee stress while saving our small business money. This advice is easily transferable to virtually any entrepreneur planning to throw a holiday party or two so please tune in!

Happy holidays!


Do not make this mistake when choosing your corporate gifts

Corporate gift giving can seem like a mundane task to even the greenest marketing professional or newest small business owner. Simply pick a stock card image, fill in the blanks and then find a gift within your budget that you can order in multiples, right? Of course it is not always that simple. I was fortunate to learn this early on in my career as a marketing professional.

Fresh out of university and in my first job as a marketing assistant, I was tasked with bringing forward a few ideas for holiday gifts and card options to distribute to our clients and prospects.  Of course, the first question I asked my direct manager after learning the budget was to see examples of previous gifts and cards. I was interested in learning what type of gifts were typically approved and also ensure that I didn’t bring forward any repeat ideas.

“We don’t have anything left from last year. We burned all of the evidence,” my manager answered, jokingly (I hoped).

It turns out that the holiday season prior to my arrival at this small business was deemed a huge debacle that should never be spoken about again. And yet, here I am talking about it so you may learn from our mistakes.

Here’s what went happened.

First, the chosen card image featured a Christmas tree with a star on top, placed underneath messaging that included Merry Christmas. Big mistake. Our client base was made up of a diverse range of religious and personal backgrounds.

Second, this card was accompanied by a bottle of wine branded with our company logo and message – a nice sentiment and gift for some but not so much for others.

Hindsight is 20/20 and so looking back it’s obvious that our corporate gifting was not well thought out. If we had taken the makeup of our client base into account, we would have realized that, both the messaging and the gift could be taken a different way than we intended. And boy was it! In fact, our small organization received dozens of complaints with some even taking the time to return the gifts and cards.

So what gifts did I ultimately bring forward to my manager? Well, that is a lesson all in itself. Please stop by next week for that story, entitled Creative corporate gift giving: It’s not just what you give but to whom.


Holiday help is coming!

Can you believe it’s almost the end of November already?!

Have you started planning your company holiday party yet? What about ordering your corporate gifts?

Don’t worry: you’re not alone and I’m here to help!

Over the next few weeks I plan to focus entirely on “thinking outside of the gift box” on the My Startup blog. I’ve also enlisted the help of some excellent advice givers for you. Our newest partner, Cyberimpact, will stop by to discuss your holiday email campaigns, how to remain CASL compliant over the holidays and give the details of our new partnership. CFIB Business Counsellor, Cesar Gomez, will tell you all you need to know about your responsibilities and obligations regarding employee pay over the holiday season. I am going to relay a couple of those “from experience” anecdotes regarding gifts and corporate parties to help you learn from someone else’s mistakes. Business Counsellor, Michelle Auger, will follow up with a Shop Small Biz holiday gift guide.

Please visit us often over the next few weeks to get the full scope on surviving the holidays: small business edition.


So you want to turn your hobby into a business…but do you, really?

So you have this awesome hobby that might actually make you some money. Perfect! Before you draw up that business plan and withdraw your savings to get things off the ground, however, let’s chat.

Is this what you really want to do? I mean, you might love gardening, but do you actually want to own the farm?

Before you accuse me of being a naysayer or startup shamer or whatever, let me say that if the answer is unequivocally yes, you do indeed want to turn your passion into a career, then all the power to you.

As a matter of fact, if the answer is, hey, I’m truly passionate about this and I really want to see if I can make it work, again, I say go for it! I fully encourage you to follow your dreams (once you’ve created solid business, marketing and financial plans, of course, because dreams can’t become reality until you’ve actually, well, stepped into reality). If you’re unsure, however, I’d like to offer you some advice in the form of a personal story. And a picture of my dog because, why not?

Stellapuppy

This is Stella. I brought her home when she was an adorable puppy. An adorable puppy with the worst gas in the world. She also started to develop some skin and ear problems. After a couple of vet visits and careful experimentation with her food, it became clear that her diet was the culprit of all her problems. I started feeding her some special food, but I still had the problem of training her, plus I wanted healthy treats to reward good behaviour. So, as a long-time hobby baker and amateur chef, I started making homemade treats for her.

I developed some great recipes that agreed with both her taste buds and her body. I made them in batches and had a lot of leftovers each week. I began giving the leftovers to a friend who volunteered her time and talents to rehabilitating pit bulls. As volunteers have to purchase their own treats, she shared them with her fellow co-workers.

The healthy treats also helped the dogs who had food issues and it wasn’t long before volunteers at the shelter asked to purchase them, which I sold at cost. Soon, doggie foster parents and adopters began buying them. Being a marketer with a HUGE entrepreneurial spirit, I decided to do things properly. I registered a business, had the treats lab tested, and ordered packaging.

I’d been doing freelance work for a couple of years with a friend of mine, a web developer, outside of my day job. He would design websites, I would write web copy and sometimes create an online marketing plan for the client. I asked him to help me create an e-commerce site. A photographer contact I knew snapped some awesome pics for the website of shelter dogs (scoped out by my dog-training friend), while a graphic designer in my circle created a logo with one of the photos.

Thanks to my (pre-marketing) customer service background, I found that I was actually a pretty good salesperson. In addition to online, I booked booths at fairs and shows, and eventually found my way into a few retail locations, thanks to customers making requests at their local natural food stores, and me dropping off samples.

Everything seemed to be going great. I would come home from work, bake and package my treats, continue with my freelance work and maybe even get a few hours of sleep before waking up and doing it all again. Weekends were spent selling the treats at the booths and/or doing deliveries.

One weekend in particular, I had sold out at my first day at a booth. I had to stay up all night baking the treats, cooling them off, and packaging them. It was at about 4am when I realized I would be driving back to the fair without getting any sleep. And that’s when I had an epiphany.

I’M HAVING THE WORST TIME EVER.

I loved baking and cooking as a hobby, but since getting into this business, I had been eating out or ordering in almost every night. And, if I did the math, I was making less money per hour from the dog treat business than I was from either my day job or from my freelance work. After some careful reflection, I realized that while I was in the process of determining how to build my business, I did not once bother to question whether or not this was the business I wanted to build.

So I quit.

I finished up with the bookings and obligations I had and then handed over the business to someone and washed my hands of the whole, organic-spelt-flour mess.

Silver lining? Upon even more reflection, I realized that I truly enjoyed the freelance work that I was doing, which is why I kept accepting jobs even when I was beyond exhausted. And when I had been doing the math on the dog treat business, I found that I was actually making more money freelancing than from my day job – factoring in travel, expenses, etc.

So I quit my day job, too! I formed a business with the web designer who had traded freelance work with me. Together we built a solid company that we were both passionate about and we continued with it for about six-and-a-half years, until our passion ran out and we were ready to move on to the next thing. Hey, it happens! After all, life’s only an adventure if you make it one.

My hope is not that this story will completely dissuade you from turning a hobby into a business. As you can see, even if things do not work out how you expect them to, it doesn’t mean the experience lacked value. I do, however, believe that before you start a business, you MUST take a break from romanticizing what life will be like once your business is a success. Instead, stop and think about what kind of startup you want to run. Not just in terms of product or service, but in terms of your time, energy and focus.

Sometimes hobbies are best left as hobbies– and sometimes your true passion is not so obviously apparent.

Whatever you choose, I hope that when you’re ready to start your business, you will visit us at mystartup.ca. Our passion is helping your business succeed.


5 Steps Not to Skip when Turning Your Passion into a Business

Many Canadians have successfully turned their passion into a business. Unfortunately, for every one entrepreneur who thrives, there are four that will fail. If you are brave and determined to be counted among one of five, there are certain steps that you need to take in the lead up to your transition to entrepreneur.

Step 1: Think. Like, really think.

idea download.jpgHave you truly identified your full-time passion or do you simply have a hobby that might be more fun than your day job? If the answer is the latter, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have a viable business but it does mean that you have to put more effort into determining whether or not this is actually what you want to be doing day in and day out for the next X number of years. This is something we will focus on quite a lot this month. I will write more on this in my next post and we will have another real-life account from Rob, Owner of The Bartending School of Ontario in a couple of weeks.

Step 2: Identify the need

This is the part when I sound completely harsh and mean. When I’ve mentored or otherwise helped would-be entrepreneurs, I sometimes get a shocked look followed by a “Yeah but…”

Unfortunately, there is no yeah but at this stage. If you cannot identify a specific need for your product or service, you simply do not have a viable business opportunity.

Step 3: Narrow your scope

If you’ve completed step 2 and you’re thinking, “hah! I’ve identified about a billion target markets for my product, and in the process I’ve created a whole line of products for each one!” Well, this is the point you could be in trouble. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but you can’t be everything to everyone. Choose your service or product for your specific audience. It doesn’t mean you can’t expand later but for now you need focus.

For example, let’s say you grow herbs and plants. In your spare time, you’ve created delicious salad dressing, skin-softening bath bombs, and a killer pain remedy for aching joints and muscles. Your great aunt loves your dressing and swears she would pay $9 per bottle at the store for something half as good. Your brother loves the bath bombs because they help sooth his aching skin after working in the sun all day. Your partner, on the other hand, won’t use anything but your pain remedy after an intense game of hockey.

Omigosh, you have at least three separate target markets AND viable products! Not to mention the upselling opportunities if you create lines for your product, and all of the additional markets you can hit if you repackage each one!

No.

This is where you narrow your scope and focus. Perhaps you decide to focus on pain remedies for athletes because of the potential profit margin, ability to test the market (your partner’s team and possibly the entire league) and a gap in the offering of natural remedies for joint and muscle pain. Yes, it’s true that you could also create a line with alternate packaging to appeal to boomers and seniors but for now, concentrate on doing one thing well for a specific group of people. Once you have that down pat, and additional money, resources and time, then you should think about expanding.

Step 4: Get help

Find out what resources are available to you. Many budding entrepreneurs make the mistake of assuming that grants, mentoring programs and other forms of assistance are only available for young Canadians. While that’s true for some programs, like Futurpreneur (an excellent program for those who are 39 and younger), this is not always the case. CFIB, for example has a free six-month start up program called My Start Up. It’s designed specifically for first-time entrepreneurs of all ages and provides help from experienced business counsellors. CFIB business counsellors are available to offer advice and assistance with everything from hiring your first employees to dealing with red tape, to applying for funding. BizPal.ca is another great resource, as is ScotiaBank’s Running Start program.

And don’t just look for formal assistance and programs. As you’re building your business, marketing and financial plan, it’s important to seek advice and mentoring from anywhere you can get it – family, friends, other business owners and anyone who can be a potential customer or client. A lot of people skip this step because either because they are afraid of someone stealing your idea or they’re nervous about negative feedback. You definitely need a thick skin, and an ability to separate negative comments from constructive ones. But this is great training for the will of steel you will need to develop once you are a full-fledged entrepreneur.

Step 5: Research and Do

The final advice I can offer is to research, research, research and plan, plan, plan. Just don’t let your desire for perfect to get in the way of your need to launch. As Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, said, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

dominoes

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Visit CFIB’s MyStartup program at www.mystartup.ca for access to experienced business counselling, discounts and savings on products and services that your business needs, as well as news on legislative issues that will affect your business.


Why I oppose the proposed CPP expansion

CFIB-CPP_Campaign-0516-Facebook_Post-Quote-7 (3)I’m in my thirties and I’m facing the possibility of having more money taken out of my pay with very little return.

How little return, you ask? As someone under 45, the rate of return on my CPP “investment” -– is just 2.1%.

Let me repeat, 2.1%!!!

This bothers me but it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as hearing governments tell me that, because my retirement funds don’t fit into their narrow scope of what retirement savings look like, I am not doing enough to save for myself. According to the government, my stock portfolio, real estate and other non-registered investments will not help me in my retirement years.

Had CPP increased when I was younger, when every penny counted, I wouldn’t have the diversified portfolio that I do today. I was thinking about the future even while working for minimum wage and saving for, (later attending) university. I was not making a remarkable income when I took advantage of the stock dips of 2009 to start investing; then started my own business, and bought my first home.

What bothers me even more than governments expecting me to live up to their narrow view of financial planning is that they now want to force me, and all Canadians, to abide by their paternalistic notion of what is good for us. They are taking more money out of our paycheques, effectively removing our freedom to choose our own retirement options.

The government claims they are doing this for our young population. The generation that still has 40 years of work ahead of them is the only demographic that will see the full benefit from this increase. But here’s the thing: most millennials have their own definition of retirement. They also have plans TODAY. They are buying their first house, planning a family, travelling, starting a business, or maybe playing the stock market, like I did not too long ago. They want more of their money now and they want to define their own future, but boomers are patting them on the head and telling them “we know what’s good for you.”

I won’t get into the fact that CPP is already fully sustainable for the next 75 years. I won’t ramble on about the fact that 52 per cent of 25-34 year olds are on record as already saving for retirement, and that stat does not include real estate or non-traditional savings. Instead, I will point out the impact that 20% of additional CPP deductions would have meant to me over my working life so far, if governments had implemented the proposed CPP expansion when I was a young adult.

  • I would have had to save up to an additional year to go to university.
  • I would have been forced to purchase fewer stocks in 2009, which have at minimum doubled in value since I purchased them. In addition, I would lose all of the associated dividend earnings that have been reinvested over the years.
  • I would have missed the chance to purchase my first home. I bought it while the building was still under construction and quite affordable. The units that fit my budget sold out very quickly and had I had to wait longer to accumulate enough savings for the down payment, I probably would have been out of luck. Also, the value of the property escalated substantially when construction finished, well beyond what I could afford had I waited.
  • My partner and I would have had to make some significant budget cuts to our wedding, honeymoon, or both. This may seem superficial to some, but we planned, budgeted, saved and compromised on our needs vs. our wants for a celebration that was very important for both of us, a kick-off to our future together. We did not have an extravagant affair by any means but we ended up with exactly what we wanted.
  • My small business would have gotten off to a much rockier start had I less to invest. Given that incredibly lean first year, I don’t know if I would have made it.
  • I would have had to make some very difficult HR choices in my business.
  • I would now have a lot less to leave to my loved ones, because unlike my current investments, CPP cannot be passed on.

These are just a few examples of why I’m against CPP expansion. With a looming 20% increase in my contributions, what future adventures, plans and goals will I have to give up?

The government plans to give me a return of 2.1% (less interest than I earn than in my TFSA, which I will no longer be able to contribute to) as a reward for taking 20% more of the 4.9% already coming off my pay. Many people older than me will have that additional 20% added to what they’re already paying with minimal return, and young people will have choices taken away from them. They are doing this despite the fact that Canadian seniors are the least likely demographic in Canada to be living in poverty. In fact, Canada’s elderly poverty rate is among the lowest in the world and is steadily declining. In addition, according to the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index, Canada has the 7th best pension system in the world.

Instead of sharing this information with Canadians, governments bombard with commercials and messaging telling us that we do not save enough – that there’s a “crisis” and hiking the CPP is the only way to stop it. I find this concerning: CPP should not be seen or sold as a full source of retirement income, since it was never conceived for this purpose. It is meant to be an income supplement in retirement to offset decreasing wages.

Last week, Ryan Mallough offered a millennial’s perspective on this issue. If you have not yet read his article, I suggest you take a look – A payroll tax hike hits start-ups hard.

I know that CPP expansion does not seem like a scintillating topic, but I promise you, Ryan’s article is quite interesting. More than that, though, it’s important. If CPP expansion happens, we have to keep in mind the cost of opportunities missed for young, ambitious, and responsible people who simply wish to have control over their earnings and the direction of their financial future. If you’ve already read Ryan’s article, sign the petition to stop the CPP expansion today. It’s not too late.


Art of Marketing Conference 2016, highlights

With our fabulous partners, Women in Business Network (WIBN), CFIB recently exhibited at the Art of Marketing conference in Toronto.

Leigh and I.jpg

(I’m the one in the glasses)

 

It was a great event with insightful speeches and commentary offered by some top notch speakers, including (but not limited to):

  • Avinash Kaushik
  • Stephen Shapiro
  • Bethany Mota and Mitch Joel
  • Adam Garone
  • Morgan Spurlock

Also in attendance was Carolyn Ellis. I’ve seen Carolyn Ellis at past conferences and I always love what she does, partly because she allows me to give you great highlights and insights from the conference without having to write insufferably long, multi-part blog posts! Also, Carolyn has inadvertently validated my need to doodle in meetings.

So, without further ado, here are some of the key takeaways from the Art of Marketing Conference.

avinash kaushik

adam garone

Stephen Shapiro.jpg

Bethany Mota and Mitch Joel

And as an added bonus, here is one of my favourite slides of day, presented by Adam Garone.

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If it’s not quite clear enough -hey, I’m a marketer not a photographer! – It reads:

LESSONS

Being significant is far more important than being successful.

Reinvention is the key to longevity.

You can’t think outside the box if you live in the box.

Who dares wins.


Why I Loathe Casual Friday

We recently published an informative office dress code How-To for your small business.  After reading it, I knew I just had to add my two cents on a certain aspect of the article, which covered the confusing and annoying ritual known as Casual Friday.

Ugh. Casual Fridays. The bane of my existence.

Now, despite the fact that we do, as an organization, partake in Casual Fridays, I rarely feel tempted to throw on a pair of jeans and my favourite tee (it has a French bulldog wearing sunglasses on it, btw) before heading to the office. This is partly due to some of the research I read while in college on the topic of office clothing and gender biases. This research was backed by the experience of a friend who worked at a company that allowed men to wear tank tops and shorts on a casual Friday, yet women were forbidden from wearing skirts above the knees, or sleeves above the elbows. Of course times are a-changing, but it’s difficult to remove the imprint of the research and conversations of bias, so deeply embedded are they in my impressionable mind.

shutterstock_268151189-resizedMuch more than the long-since-formed fears of gender bias, which I don’t have to worry about in my current work environment, I simply don’t enjoy wearing casual clothes in the office. Oh sure, I might wear flats or go a little crazy with the hoop earrings (yes, I’m aware of how tragic it is that this is my idea of loosening up) but the truth is that I simply don’t feel as motivated or productive in jeans. Oh, and I’d rather die than wear shorts to the office. I might be in the minority but I know I’m not alone in my stance. Here’s a great Forbes article, Is Casual Dress Killing Your Productivity, to back me up on this.

Now, despite everything I just wrote, I do occasionally decide to dip my toes into those murky murky Casual Friday waters. Sometimes it works out. One time it “worked out” on the ONE Friday we were asked not to wear jeans. I’d like to say I missed the memo but you and I both know I neglected to read it.

Here’s how my pitiful attempt to fit in on a Casual Friday usually goes, according to my internal dialogue:

Are faded jeans okay?…What about the ones that I spent a fortune on last week…No, they’re distressed just enough that my grandmother asked if I got them second hand…Open toes? Not when my pedicure is scheduled for tomorrow morning…A maxi dress in the office? Really? Maybe if I throw a sweater over it. Or a blazer…Okay, I like the blazer but it would go better with my pencil skirt. Now add a button down blouse and voila…aaaand I’m back to what I would wear any other day of the week…Well, maybe I’ll loosen up with some chunky jewellery and flats. Wait. Is this what I wore last Friday?…

I am completely aware that this article makes me seem so 10 years ago, but the truth is I’m lucky to have an office environment that allows me to dress in a manner that feels comfortable and confident. So now I’ll open up the floor. Do you have a dress code in your small business? What dress code, if any, would you implement in your place of business? Are you team casual, team business casual or team cufflink? Or maybe you’re team Meredith from The Office?

I’m dying to know!