The Podcasts That Make Me Smarter

I started listening to podcasts to make it easier to run on the treadmill, one of my most hated things, yet something necessary if I am going to stay in shape on the road. These days, I listen to them while flying, while driving, and sometimes even while getting ready in the morning.

Here are some of my favorites. Please share yours!

The Knowledge Project by Shane Parrish.

This is the first ever podcast I listened to. The Angel Philosopher episode with Naval Ravikant is still one of my favorites ever, I have now listened to it twice.

Living It by Kelly DiNardo and Amy Pearce-Hayden.

This is a new podcast, started by my friend Kelly, a project that came out of her book Living the Sutras. I love the theme of “living life on purpose” and particularly enjoyed this week’s episode with Michelle Gielan.

How I Built This with Guy Raz by NPR.

These are interviews of entrepreneurs and how they built their business. I got turned on to this podcast because of an episode featuring Marcia Kilgore and her story about Bliss – and have been addicted ever since. The episode with the two founders of SoulCycle is also amazing.

Freakonomics Radio by Stephen Dubner.

This podcast definitely takes me out of my comfort zone and introduces me to topics I don’t typically think about. One of my favorite episodes is How to Catch World Cup Fever, from this past summer.

And here are some podcasts I downloaded but have yet to listen to…

Best of Both Worlds by Laura Vanderkam and Sarah Hart-Unger. I got turned on to this one after reading Laura’s book Off the Clock, which I loved.

The Business of Fashion. This is one of my favorite daily newsletters (I wrote about these here). I just need more hours in the day.

What are your favorite podcasts? And when do you listen to them?

Seasons… of the Land, and of Business

I have had the privilege of hearing Seth Mattison speak at various industry conferences and have always come away from his presentations feeling inspired, energized, and motivated. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity of hearing him speak once again, in a more intimate setting over breakfast, and what I came away with was inspiration, energy, motivation – and calm and faith (in the process).

Having grown up in a farming family, Mattison spoke of the seasons of the land and drew parallels between the rhythm of farming and that of business. “When you are close to the land,” he reminded us, “you are close to the seasons of the world.” And “seasons,” he continued, “are relevant not only to farming, but also to business and to life.” As I remember working at my great-uncle’s farm harvesting corn when I was a young teenager, the connection between the cycles of the land and the cycles of business resonated particularly strongly with me.

“Winter is a season to rest, reflect, look back, and recharge.” Indeed, this is very much the symbolic of the months of December and January – months governed by analysis and planning.

“Spring is a season to plant and put seeds in the ground. Diligently, faithfully, every year.”

Summer is a season for monitoring growth and making adjustments to changing (weather or industry) conditions.

Fall is a season for harvesting, the season during which the year’s planning, planting, and labor yields fruit.

I have a love-hate relationship with January. I love the “newness” of it – a blank slate, the ability to start fresh. And I hate the “virgin-ness” of it – all (or most) of the business metrics I measure start back at 0. I don’t like 0s.

Mattison helped me understand that January can never be September, as that would just not be natural.

He helped me understand that I should love January (and winter) for what it offers, and work with the rhythm of nature, not against it.

He helped me understand that in business as in farming, there are many things we cannot control (the weather and the markets for example).

And finally, he helped me understand that while we must “surrender the outcome, we simultaneously must diligently work on the controllable.”

A(nother) day in my life…

16-ish months ago I wrote about a day in my life – a day that defined why I love being an entrepreneur. Since then, there have been a number of similarly memorable days that I could have written about – but usually at the end of those days I am too exhausted to put pen to paper (so to speak). Today was one of those days, and despite the late hour, I have to write about it. Today was an amazing day.

5:30 am. Phone alarm goes off. I already miss the days when the sun was shining this time of day… I remember I am in NYC, in my favorite apartment in Tribeca, courtesy of middle-school bestie Trisala whom I have known for 25 years. Morning routine: coffee and emails.

8:00 am. Breakfast with a client at Aselina (I highly recommend this place for breakfast; civilized and quiet). We discuss the trials and tribulations of small beauty companies, the pros and cons of GoogleAdwords and SEO, and how we are going to take over the world. We agree that life is too short to work with people who are not nice.

10:00 am. Meeting of my day – perhaps my week or month. Or my year. I have a one on one with Lynn Tilton of Patriarch Partners, who has been an inspiration ever since I heard her speak at the WWD Beauty CEO Summit. She is possibly the most time-starved entrepreneur in the country, yet I get to spend 53 minutes with her, in the “purple room” in her office. We debate the benefits of red lipstick versus diamonds to cheer a girl up, and then I tell her my story. She listens to me, and then I listen to her. I really listen. My “products are better than my revenue stream” (I think that is better than the reverse?), I need to streamline my pitch, think in terms of poetry, and drive my message to the core. Having heard her speak to an audience, I knew she was inspirational and charismatic. Having now spent time with her in person, I now know she is (not surprisingly) incredibly smart, analytical, generous, and kind. And she tells it like it is. I leave with some new Stila makeup, and more importantly with a renewed desire to better my best, work harder, work smarter, and tell my story better. Thank you Lynn.

11:10 am. Having found the best cabbie in NYC, I make it from Wall Street to mid-town in 17 minutes flat. He gets a good tip. I am 10 minutes late for a meeting with Ricky’s, a meeting that has taken me longer than I care to admit to get. Richard Parrott, the CEO, spoke in Vegas at Cosmoprof and said that he was looking to expand his men’s category. So here I am with my men’s products. Great meeting – stay tuned for results.

12 noon to 4 pm. I visit existing NYC clients with my NYC angel, Arista, who has been part of the Alchimie team for a few years. She is a delight with clients (they all like her more than they like me), I could not hope for a better representation of my brand. And spending time in spas and boutiques, speaking to the owners and to the customers is the best learning experience. No matter how many times I do it, I always learn something – like that the font on our boxes is still not big enough… In between two visits, we stop by Serafina’s to eat and strategize. Our server Stacy was our server this past June (I like to stop at the same places). It makes me smile that she remembers us and gives us a 4-top because she can tell I need room for my laptop.

4:10 pm. I have 50 minutes of breathing room before my next meeting, which is at 750 Lex. I spend this precious time at Le Train Bleu, in Bloomingdale’s. I catch up on emails, watch the older ladies at the table next to me have a very late lunch (or very early dinner), and the gentleman across the room with his glass of wine and his book. This moment is oh-so very civilized, somewhat old-fashioned, and perfectly quiet.

5:10 pm. I arrive at my first ICMAD board meeting. I have been a member of this organization for 10 years, and now I get to give back to the industry and play a role. I am in awe, sitting a few seats away from Jane Iredale and chatting with Robb Akridge of Clarisonic, who begins the meeting by greeting everyone and making sure we all have his cell phone number should we need to reach him.

9:45 pm. I am back in my favorite place in NYC, at Trisala’s in Tribeca, talking about my day and her about hers. She makes us each a cup of licorice tea, my favorite, and we slowly let the day end and the energy slow and the noise quiet. We need to get our beauty rest and let our brains recover. Tomorrow is another day. May it be as magical as today.

Failure fest

This past week, I attended Power Up by SalonBiz and Entrepreneur Magazine’s Growth Conference, one day after the next, both in New Orleans. Coincidentally (perhaps?), both conferences featured speakers that discussed the F-word – Failure.

During PowerUp, the keynote speaker with Tim Williamson, co-founder and CEO of The Idea Village. He talked about The Pit, that moment when you realize things are over and you have failed. To him, it is all about the journey, the great entrepreneurial journey, and The Pit is just one piece, one segment, of that journey. To help guide your journey, he recommended the following.

Know your why

An entrepreneurial journey really is hard and every entrepreneur will have successes and failures. To pull through and get out of The Pit, it is essential to truly know not only who you are, but also why you are doing this. To make money? To create generational wealth? To build something? He reminded me of the concept of the 5 whys… the first four answers will be lies, by the time you get to the 5th answer it will be the truth and you may be in tears.

Be prepared to pivot 

As an entrepreneur, persistence is essential. After all, most businesses fail because someone gives up. Yet Einstein said it right: the definition of insanity is to “do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.” It is a fine line between insanity and persistence… Williamson emphasized the need to test and idea over and over again, and pivot when need be. Pivoting is not failing. Indeed, companies fail because the do not (cannot?) pivot. Ironically, when a group of girlfriends and I got together for our annual goal setting session in December 2013 and the question “if 2014 was a chapter in the book of your life, what would the title of the chapter be?” came up, I answered “pivot.”

I stayed an extra day in New Orleans to attend the Entrepreneur Magazine Growth Conference. While some speakers were similar to the 2013 Growth Conference (which I attended and wrote about), the panel discussion entitled “Failure Fest” was enough to entice me. Three entrepreneurs (including Tim Williamson, who was great a second time around!) shared their experiences with failure. Here, I was inspired by additional words of wisdom.

“The entrepreneurial journey is not defined by a company but by the journey; when you fail at one company, it is not the end of your entrepreneurial journey.” (Tim Williamson)

“Most of the collateral damage of failure happens between the moment when you know you have failed and the moment you pull the trigger on the actions you need to take. Do not procrastinate in failure.” (Patrick Comer)

“Feel the moment of failure, be emotionally present in that moment. Stare at failure and don’t try to fix it. Then move on.” (Patrick Comer)

“Look at failure as a system flaw, as an opportunity to grow and get stronger.” (Lauren Thom)

 

The panel ended with a Q&A, and a question I have often heard asked, a question I sometimes wonder about, was posed to the panel: when do you know you have failed? I have heard many answers to this question – but Comer’s actually resonated with me, made sense to me. He said: “Only you can answer that question; it is your own entrepreneurial journey. If it takes you 20 years to prove yourself right, so be it. If it takes you 20 years to prove yourself wrong, then that’s ok too. It is your journey.” This reminded me of my favorite Arianna Huffington quote: “failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success.”

 

After all, Failure may start with F, but it is not a 4 letter word…

Work-life balance?

I don’t often repost data or information without commentary on my blog, but I came across Tim Ferriss’ blog earlier today and just had to. I can’t think of the right adjectives to describe the data… amazing, amazingly scary, disturbing, funny… so many words come to mind. As I begin to think about my New Year’s resolutions, perhaps I can add to the long list:

  • Do not check email in the middle of the night (or in bed in general)
  • Take time off, and encourage my team to use up their vacation days

Thank you Tim for the reminder!

Lessons learned

I received the best introduction ever today. I was about to present at the networking luncheon for Work It Girl Networking, when the founder and CEO Teresa introduced me as the “world goddess of skin care.” May I please put that on my business card?

Work It Girl Networking brings working women together during lunch, which always features a female guest speaker. Past speakers have included Pam Sorensen, Kate Michael, Sara Damelio, and more. Today, I spoke, thrilled to be in such great company.

I was going to speak about starting a skin care business, but I have had such a momentous week that I drew inspration from recent events. On Tuesday, I signed a distribution agreement with a fabulous company, putting into place a partnership that will take Alchimie to the next level. (By the way, the headling of the Washington Post that day was the the Great Recession was officially over. Coincidence?)I have been working on this partnership for four years, very intensely for the last six months. On Tuesday, after signing the contract and having a glass of champagne, I thought about how I got there, and reminded myself of the key lessons I have learned over the last 5 years of launching, growing, and running Alchimie Forever. (And I have some new quotes to share – so many of you emailed me your favorites after my September 6th blog, thank you!)

Lesson 1: Be nimble, shift direction when necessary, and don’t get so emotionally attached to your strategy that you can’t change direction. Another way to say it: stubborn is great, stupid is not. When I started Alchimie Forever, I thought the only way to build sales was with an in-house direct salesforce. No one else could be as passionate about Alchimie as someone on payroll. I went down that route, but then realized that it indeed wasn’t the best strategy for us, and instead turned my attention to finding the right distribution partner.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” (Albert Einstein)

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall hoping to transform it into a door.” (Coco Chanel)

Lesson 2: Be persistent. Always follow-up. Never give up. Don’t nag, but don’t forget either.

The first time I contacted this distributor was in 2006. I sent products and our press packet, but the timing wasn’t right. Over the years, I stayed in touch with them, updated them on new developments, paid attention to shifts in their team, developed and nurtured new relationships. “One day…” I thought.

“I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.” (John D. Rockefeller)

Lesson 3: This is linked to the second lesson, and involves dealing with rejection. When someone tells me “No” I translate this in my head as “No, thank you so much, not today.” Deal with rejection gracefully, and never burn any bridges.

“The only way to deal with rejection is by shining.” (Diane Von Furstenberg)

Lesson 4: Dream bigger. A recent Wall Street Journal article suggests that the average revenues of women-owned businesses are only 27% of the average revenues of men-owned businesses. The author says “it starts with the goals.” Women need to set bigger goals for their businesses. This reminded me of my favorite business book, Good to Great by Jim Collins, and his concept of the Big Hairy Audacious Goal. One of my BHAGs for 2010 was to land that distribution deal. And to think, we are only in September!

“The starting point for all achievement is desire. Keep this constantly in mind.” (Napoleon Hill)

Lesson 5: To achieve a BHAG, one must take risks. People often say that entrepreneurs love and embrace risk but my tolerance for risk is actually not that high. 16 months ago, I increased my overhead by signing a 5-year lease for our beautiful showroom. I invested in the redesign of the space. I spent many sleepless nights thinking about the insanity of expanding during the worse economic recession I can remember. What if this? What if that? Yet, it was the right decision. It brought new visibility, new credibility to my brand, to my business. And I know the distributor noticed…

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” (Wayne Gretzky)

“Leap and the net will appear.” (John Burroughs)

 Lesson 6: Personal and business values must be fully aligned, especially for entrepreneurs whose businesses and personal identities are so linked. As I was working on the mission and value statement for Alchimie Forever, someone close to me asked me “Are Alchimie’s values yours? Are yours Alchimie’s?” That question was the inspiration for the development of our corporate responsibility strategy, which involves donating part of our proceeds to the arts in general, and to the Corcoran Gallery of Art specifically.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” (Ghandi)

Lesson 7: This may be the most important one, and a lesson I continually have to remind myself of. Forget about perfection. Women in particular struggle with perfection. We (maybe I should say I?) were raised to be the teachers’ pet. Get the best grades, hand in the best projects, always look pretty. As adults, we try to be the perfect business person; the perfect wife; the perfect mom; the perfect friend. Perfection doesn’t exist, and we should all just admit that and move on.

“Ring the bells that still can ring, forget about the perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light comes in.” (Leonard Cohen)