50 days left…

There are 50 days left in 2019. You read that correctly. 50.

I can’t believe it, I have not yet accomplished all I set out to do this year, I am not ready for 2020 to be here, and I am slightly freaking out about this. Then again, I have 50 days. So here is what I am doing between now and then:

  1. Holiday gifting planning. Yes, I am starting now, and this is possible the funnest project ever.
  2. Compiling a list of everything I have accomplished so far in 2019. It feels good to see that while I am not close to checking off everything on my goal list, some goals have indeed been achieved.
  3. Starting my “2019 year in review” project, something I tend to do early January (looking backwards). This year, I decided to do this earlier so that I can still course-correct if there is something that needs to happen before 2020 that has not yet been put in motion.
  4. Daydreaming (not planning) about 2020. Letting my brain imagine things that can be next year, so that when the actual planning begins (later in December), I will have some creative, out of the box ideas.
  5. Reviewing my financials. Personal and professional. So that I don’t have any surprises come December 31st, and can make adjustments where need be, if need be.

How are you preparing for a successful end of 2019?

Change + Disruption + Triggers + Purpose

“The only constant is change” said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, and this has never been truer than today. Change is both an opportunity and a challenge, and I love (and need!) reminders about how to deal with change and disruption. Yesterday, I was reminded of just that by Carol Sanford.

Sanford encouraged her audience to think about the sources of change, namely:

  • Startup business phase
  • Growth business phase
  • Economic downturns
  • Industry / market disruption
  • Personal situations

The two typical responses to disruption are:

  • Panic / blame others / feel like a victim
  • Work to reduce harm / slow impact of change

Both of these responses are reactive.

“What makes you reactive?”

Sanford encouraged us to ponder this important question and to think about our behavior when we are in “reactive mode.” Words such as “defensive, demanding, insistent, unable to hear others, aggressive” come to mind.

Instead, Sanford advised, approach change and disruption in a purposeful way. Questions to ponder to move from a reactive mindset to a purposeful mindset include:

  • What are you seeking to contribute to the world?
  • What is the intended outcome?
  • What does the group of people you are interacting with (employees, customers, family) need from you?

Know your triggers. Respond, don’t react. Act from a place of purpose.

Family business…. Business family

Today, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the inspiring Maimah Karmo in the context of providing insights to business owners in the greater Washington, DC area.

Maimah is the President & CEO Of the Tigerlily Foundation, the publisher of Bliss Magazine, the voice behind the Pure Bliss podcast, a mother, a breast cancer survivor, and much more.

She asked me to speak about one of my favorite topics, family business.

When I tell people I work in family business, I get a wide array of reactions and questions…

“Oh, wow, how do you do it?”

“Well, that must be really hard!”

“I could never work with my family.”

“I wish I had a family business!”

I love the opportunity to work with my family. It’s not always perfect, but I would not trade it for anything. Here are some of the insights I shared on my interview today.

What I love about working with my family:
– There are no politics (or less).
– We do not question our motivation: we all, in the end, want the family business to grow and prosper (even if we may disagree with the how).
– Work feels more personal (some may say this is a con, but I love this aspect so much!).
– I now know my family (Mom, Dad, sisters, uncle…) in a work capacity, at a different level than “just” a sister.
– Working with my family has made me feel closer to them.

The challenges about working with my family include:
– There is no family time that doesn’t involve some work conversation; it becomes a lifestyle more than anything else.
– Family dynamics tend to seep into work dynamics (for example, my oldest child behavior is sometimes very visible in my work interactions…)
I hear stories from other people working in family business, who share with me that working together destroyed the family; I suppose this is a con, but I do believe that with respect, love, and some best practices, this is a very avoidable con.

Our family business best practices include:
– We work on the idea until we all agree: if we disagree it’s because the idea we are debating is not yet right enough or good enough.

– The above notwithstanding, we also agree to disagree (then the project or idea we disagree on does not get executed).
– Respect always – even more so because we are family members.
– We each have our areas we work on / in, so we aren’t all involved in the same thing, and we each have “ownership” of something.
– We actively work on our family business dynamics and frameworks, as this in itself is an important success factor. For example, all members of the family involved in day to day operations attended a 4-day family business seminar at INSEAD, one of the best family business experiences I have ever had.
– We have family meetings every other year to update those family members who are not working in the business, so they feel informed, involved, and cared for. This also enables us to benefit from their “outside the business” ideas and perspectives, which is quite invaluable.

– Finally, my sisters and I have a monthly Skype meeting to talk life, work, family business, and everything in between. That communication helps us be better sisters, and better business partners. In the end, whether it’s business, family, or family business, it really is all about communication.

Pillars + Values

Two years ago I Marie Kondo’d my home, and pulled a number of books from my bookshelf that I had not read. I committed to reading them all.

This week, I picked GROW by Jim Stengel from that pile, and the timing could not be better. Alchimie Forever is growing, and growing fast – and this book is reminding me to stay close to our mission and ideals.

“Great businesses have great ideals,” Stengel says. Our big ideal is to improve people’s lives by improving their skin.

Self care through skin care.

Looking good, means feeling good, means doing good.

Specifically, Stengel challenges businesses to clarify pillars (values) that will guide every aspect of the business. Here are our five, which guide everything we do from product development to distribution partnerships to caring for our employees and customers.

Clean. We focus on the safety and efficacy of our ingredients rather than the source. We are paraben-free, vegan, gluten-free, cruelty-free.

Read more here.

Clinical. We are dermatologist-formulated. We believe in science. We believe professional skin care treatments are a necessary complement to home care.

Approachable. We believe in making products that are available to all, in price and place. We like to think we are aspirationally accessible.

Responsible. We are fiscally responsible. We are environmentally responsible. We are humanly responsible.

Transparent. We work with integrity. We say what we do and do what we say.

On Sales

“I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.” Estée Lauder. 

Belief in my product is (also) at the core of why, and how, I sell. And belief, supplemented with sales methodologies and frameworks, can only yield even better results. 

I attended sales training last week, and here are the three most important things I learned, and re-learned. 

1. When walking into a potential account “cold.” 

Three easy steps to make an in-person cold call easier:

  • Who: Introduce yourself; name and company name. 
  • Why: Address the reason for your visit; incorporate a compliment whenever possible. For example: “I saw your Instagram account and love it and wanted to see more in real life” or “Congratulations on the great press mention in last week’s issue of XXX, the article made me want to stop by.”  
  • What’s in it for me: Address the benefit associated with your visit, for example, free products to try. 

2. When walking into an existing account for a followup visit. 

Here, the relationship is established, and it can sometimes get easy to treat a followup sales visit as a social call. To help make sure you are making an impact, and to ensure good note-taking and follow-up post-visit, use this framework: 

  • Situation: Who, where, when.  
  • Pain: What pain points were discovered? How can you further improve the relationship? 
  • Impact: What are the followup actions to ensure a positive impact from the visit? 

3. When negotiating a sale. 

First, replace the word “negotiate” with the word “trade”, which is both less aggressive and more positive. 

Second, here are the trading steps to follow: 

  • Get all negation items out (figure out the list of “asks”). 
  • Repeat what you heard (active listening). 
  • Prioritize the issues (so you know which “asks” to focus on). 
  • Qualify the decision-maker (don’t waste their time or yours talking to the wrong person). 
  • Make the office, be clear and concise.
  • Listen and repeat their counter-offer. 
  • Confirm the “expiration date” of your offer. 
  • Agree to consequences. 
  • Confirm all with email and contract. 

WWD Beauty Summit Highlight: Warmth & Competence

Yesterday, I saw a (self-proclaimed) cold-hearted German economist tear up. It was the highlight of the Women’s Wear Daily Beauty Summit!

Organized by the brilliant Jenny B. Fine, this conference brings 400+ beauty executives together to listen to leaders, explore the state of the industry, and network.  

Markus Strobel, President of Global Skin & Personal Care, Procter & Gamble and said cold-hearted German economist, presented a case study on the turnaround of SKII in China.

Any brand, he explained, needs two complementary aspects to be successful:  

  • Warmth. Meaning “what are your intentions?” This is the humanity of the brand.
  • Competence. Meaning “what is your ability to deliver on your promises.” This is the efficacy of the brand.

SKII, he explained, was all competence and no warmth. Indeed, consumers in China perceived the brand’s intentions as “selling us as much products as possible.” Not what the marketing team was going for…  

The team thus set out to bring emotion back into the brand, to relate to the humanity of the consumer, specifically targeting the “leftover woman,” who in China, is a woman over 27 years old and is not married.

The intention of the brand became to give a voice to this “leftover woman,” to see her, to listen to her, to elevate her. And thus, the Change Destiny video campaign was created. With millions of views on YouTube, in China and around the world, this emotional video changed the trajectory of SKII in the Chinese market.  

Yesterday, as the audience watched this video, many teared up in empathy, including said German economist – who admitted: “this one gets me every time… even after watching it 100 times.”

And thus, we were all reminded that we are human, that we crave emotion. Strobel left us with the following insightful question and marketing challenge: “How do you all find the humanity in your brand?”