MBA Mommy

Part MBA, Part MRS, Part MOM…..All ME

Posts Tagged ‘business’

Dilemma

Posted by mbamommy on November 18, 2011

I have a problem.  Well, I think it’s a problem.  Maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s a dilemma (are those even different?).  See, on one hand, I can’t figure anything out that’s actually wrong with my situation.  But, on the other hand I can’t figure anything out that’s right.  Something’s not quite fitting in my round hole/square peg life.

Wanna hear about it?  Great, I’m glad you asked.

I work part time right now. I work for this amazing company who’s agreed to let me do my job when and where I want to do it.  This is a company that is considered THE thought leader in my industry; one that I’ve admired since I began my career 10 (15!) years ago.  They pretty much have said, “So, what do you want to do?  OK, how about a mix of that and a little of some stuff that isn’t super interesting but needs a capable mind to manage it?  Yes?  OK great!  Now, how much do you charge?  OK, that’ll work.  Here’s your deadline.  Send the work in by then.  Thanks so much for the help and let me know if you have any questions.”

I am still able to do kidlet drop off and pick up.  I can still take Z to his therapy appointments.  I can still run errands and go grocery shopping.  I can still (in theory if not in actual practice) go to the gym.  And I am contributing to the family checking account.  I have one foot in the business world and one foot in MBAMommy-land.

Perfect, right?

And then this amazing company invites me to attend and work at their conference.  Again, this is THE conference for my industry.  One that I’ve wanted to attend since I began my career 10 (15!) years ago.  So, they fly me to a warm place, put me up in a gorgeous hotel and give me a job that’s fairly mindless but allows me to watch all the presentations for 3 days.  I don’t really have a whole lot of responsibility, especially compared to my counterparts working the registration booth and speaking with clients and being the collective face of the company.  I can just sit back, relax, and watch things unfold.  Hell, I even have time to go to the gym almost everyday.  No kids, little responsibility and warm weather for an entire week.

Perfect, right?

Seriously, how could I ask for more?

And therein lies my dilemma.  I don’t have a lot of responsibility.  I don’t have to be in front of the client.  I have one foot in the business world and one foot in MBAMommy-land.  And I sit back and I watch major events unfolding on both sides.  While sitting on the sidelines.

Back at home, poor J is dealing with one illness after another.  Before I left, Z had strep and croup and I was sick as a dog, staying in bed trying to get better so I could come to this conference.  So, J comes back from his own business trip and jumps in with 2 feet to take care of all of us.  2 nights before I leave, Z runs downstairs at 9pm to inform us that he’s just swallowed a nail.  And, off to the ER J & Z go.

See the watch pin?  Turns out we didn’t have much to worry about.  But that damn pin didn’t see the light of day until AFTER I’d already left for the conference.  Since I’ve been gone, J’s had to deal with gross kidlet issues from both kids and both ends (‘nuf said).  And, here I am, at this amazing conference, soaking it all in very intellectually.  Sleeping well, working out, eating like a queen and getting to know my co-workers.

Can you say Mama guilt?

But, the issue is more than just Mama guilt.  I’ve found myself in an awkward position here too because of the one foot in, one foot out situation.  The MBA in me is frustrated that I’m not busier, that I don’t have more responsibility, that I’m merely benched and watching everyone else work their magic.  And, when I am confronted with doing the polite chit-chat of getting to know someone professionally, I struggle because I’m most comfortable talking about kids and Asperger’s…..not exactly a hot topic at a business convention.  And, I’ve found it hard to explain my role and my background.  Below is an example of a recent conversation:

Co-Worker: “So, I’ve heard your name before….what is it that you do?”

Me: “Well, I work part time as a project manager, but I also dabble in sales stuff and research stuff and I’ve worked on X and Y and Z.  But, really I’m also a stay at home Mom to 2 kids that are in school full time.  My older one has Asperger’s so I can’t really go back to work full time because he still needs someone to drive him to his therapies and neither kid handles a full day with after school care very well.  But, I can work part time while they’re at school and still pick them up when school is over.  Hopefully someday I’ll be able to go back to work full time….”

Versus a similar exchange 5 years ago:

Client: “So, what’s your role at your company?”

Me: “Well, I’m the Director of Client Strategy.  I oversee the account teams and help with strategic direction and business development.”

See the difference?  One is a great elevator pitch.  The other? Ramblings of someone who’s not quite sure of where she stands because she’s got one foot in two distinctly different worlds.

So, I guess my dilemma is this.  In MBAMommy-land, things are perfect.  I’ve found an amazing balance between work and life that I’ve wanted since I had kids.  I’m in a perfect situation with a great company.  I get to experience things I’ve wanted to experience my entire career but don’t necessarily have a lot of skin in the game.  But out in the real world, when i’m confronted face to face with those that have skin in the game, it’s not easily packaged and delivered.  At least not yet.  I’ve got my work cut out for me figuring out this new spot I’m in.

What about you?  Does anyone else out there have this same challenge of explaining the round hole/square peg you live in?

Posted in MBA, MOM | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Throwing out the garbage

Posted by mbamommy on August 31, 2011

Have I ever mentioned I’m brilliant?  No?  It’s true.  I’m totally brilliant.

Well, at least in my own head.  And only on occasions.

Like this one.

I’ve figured out how to fix our garbage issue.  And, I’m not talking about MY garbage issue.  I’m talking about the collective “our”.  The entire world’s garbage.  Wanna know what it is?

Throw it out.  Waaayyyyyy out.  Into outer space.

I know, I know, some of you naysayers out there are probably going to get all uptight and self-righteous and s#*t….saying that we can’t just throw our garbage into outer space because then it’s gonna pollute the alien’s yards and leak methane out of their dumps and take their landfill space.  I get it.  I can see why you’d be hesitant.

Wait….no I don’t.

How friggin big is outer space?  Do we even KNOW?  We just launched an unmanned space craft to go take pics of Saturn or Jupiter or something and it’s gonna take that thing 5 years to get there.  5 YEARS PEOPLE.  So, that means that IF we have neighbors (and that’s a BIG IF because we haven’t found any yet) they’re REALLY FAR AWAY.  And, if the Big Bang theory is correct, the universe continues to expand.  So, if we throw our garbage out, it’ll just expand right along with the universe.  So, if we did have neighbors and we’re concerned they’ll be all “Yo, WTF?  Did you just litter in my galaxy?” we don’t really have to worry….they may not EVER see it!  The universe is THAT big!

OK….so then what are some other concerns?  Cost?  Well, yeah….that’s a concern.  It costs a lot to throw out all that garbage.  But, the US isn’t even a player in the space program right now…how about we get the US government to partner with Waste Management and figure something out?  I bet it’d create a few jobs, right?  It’ll definitely give all those out of work astronauts and rocket scientist something to do at least.  Let’s bring China into the international space program, maybe we could partner with them?  Share the costs?  China owns us anyway, the least we could do is bring them into the fray, right?

How about this: we could throw a couple tons of garbage on any shuttle that goes into orbit.  Kind of like a hitchhiker….and in 5-10 years, we’d have gotten rid of everything.  Easy peasy!

And then, once we get rid of all our garbage, we can start again fresh.  Really focus on those alternative forms of energy, reclaim our land and be smart about how we dispose of things from now on: Reduse, Reuse, Recycle and all that.

So….eliminating our garbage, creating jobs, re-entering the space program, bringing about world peace through creating a global waste elimination project?  We could call it Waste Not, Want Not.

I’m totally brilliant.

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Shrug

Posted by mbamommy on August 9, 2011

Recently, I’ve been listening to CPR (Colorado Public Radio) when driving. The repetition of songs on the radio were making my teeth clench, I’m bored of my CD’s and don’t have a new enough car to hook up my iPhone. It kind of happened by accident and now I’m completely addicted. I love listening to the stories, interviews and news reports and find myself being frustrated when I’ve reached my destination and have to turn the car off. Frankly, I’m typically terrible about following the news and this is a built in way given how often I’m in the car…multi-tasking, right?

Anyhoo….yesterday, I was listening to an interview about Colorado Correctional Industries. This is a work/training program that’s done across the country, putting inmates to work and giving them skills. OK, so, that’s all great and good, make sure these people don’t just sit in their cells and twiddle their thumbs…or worse. Except those are my tax dollars, right? Wrong. CCI actually lowers the cost of prisons. They also produce some pretty amazing things: cattle, produce, dairy, office furniture, canoes…the list goes on. It’s cheap labor. It helps inmates learn skills that will allow them to be employed later on. It gives them self esteem that hopefully helps them not land back in jail in the future.

That’s all well and good. Seriously, I’m all about helping folks fix their lives. But, let’s look at the things that mean the most to me. It brings down the cost of the food they grow (and I subsequently eat). And it decreases the cost of correctional facilities (my tax dollars).

Wow….that’s a win-win-win in my book!

And then I hear an opposing view at the end of the interview (and, I guess you always have to have an opposing view). One of the things CCI grows is tilapia. They can grow it cheaper and better than traditional tilapia farms. And this tilapia farmer, who’s been working his whole life growing the market for tilapia is mad at CCI. He’s complaining because CCI can grow better (bigger) tilapia than he can at a lower cost. And it’s eating into his market share.  And, he doesn’t think he should have to compete with them because…uhhh….I’m not exactly sure WHY..something about them being able to lower their costs and manufacture a better product?

Hmmm…..ever heard of competition? And competitive advantage? And new innovations to improve your business? Quit grumbling and get back to work. You’ve got such knowledge of your product that you MADE the market? Well, go win it back.

John Galt is rolling over in his grave.

Posted in MBA | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

What’s My Point?

Posted by mbamommy on July 9, 2010

A few days ago, I celebrated the 10th anniversary of my 25th birthday.  It just so happened to coincide with the 4th of July, so J got all patriotic on me.  What a nice guy!

(Side bar: Motivated Mom recently told me that while reading my blog she confused my mentions of JC (my husband) with JC, the Christian savior.  Yes, I did marry a Catholic man but no, I don’t sit around chatting with his son of God.  I am still a proud Jewish woman afterall.  So, in order to ensure no more confusion to my readers, JC will forever more be known as J.  And, while I’m at it, I’m switching up RunZMC to Z and Petite Syrah to S.  Call me lazy but that’s a lot less letters I need to type).

But, I don’t want to talk about my 10th anniversary.  What I want to talk about is my cleaning service.  I know, you’re probably sitting there thinking “Where in the world is this post going?  First she’s talking about anniversaries, then birthdays, then Jesus Christ and now her cleaning service? WTF?”  Stay with me though, I promise it’s all related….well….not the Jesus thing but I did preface that with a side bar (and italics no less!).

Aaaaannnnnyyyywaaayyyy.

I’ve been a client of Carpe Diem Cleaning for several years now. Honestly, at first I didn’t think much of it.  I switched services because my previous one jacked up their rates.  I learned about Carpe Diem from a mailer that hada new customer discount coupon so I decided to give them a try.  I’ll be honest, I’ve been a pain in the butt to them.  I change times, freak out when they come too early or too late and Z or S are asleep, cancel at the last minute and forget to leave the key.  I think I’ve even threatened to leave a few times and they’ve always been able to pacify me with grace.  Actually, I need to give a shout out to Hannah Benfield, VP Client Relations, in particular.  She’s amazing.  She handles all inquiries, changes and challenges quickly and effectively.  And, she never seems to get her feathers ruffled.

In addition, they’ve never raised their rates and their teams do an incredible job (difficult in my house because of all of Annie’s dog hair. I swear I don’t know how she’s not bald).

So….I’m also a fan of Carpe Diem on Facebook and they recently ran a contest: submit a pic of how you spend your summers and you could win tickets to see the Durham Bulls.  So, I submitted this pic (wow, I’m kind of on a roll here) and promptly forgot about it.

Surprise, surprise, I won!  So, last Saturday night, J allowed me a girl’s night out with a good friend and we went to the Bulls game.  Complete with an air conditioned box right next to the press box.  We lost, but who cares!  The food was great, the folks were great and the fireworks were amazing.

But, that’s not the point of this post either (Seriously? When am I going to get to the point?).  When Hannah called me to let me know I won, I “let slip” that Saturday night was the ‘eve’ of my birthday.   I was curious to see if she picked up on the not-so-subtle hint and I figured they’d wish me happy birthday while I was there or something like that.  True to her title of VP, Client Relations, she went above and beyond with this:

I mean, here we are at *their* event, *their* night to say thanks to their customers and partners, *their* night to preview the commercial they did with Woll E. Bull, *their* 4th of July celebration.  And they not only make mention of my bday, but they light candles and a room full of strangers sings Happy Birthday to me while I blow the candles out.

Talk about recognizing the customer…..and I’m a pain in the butt one!

So, that’s what this post is really about.  Another example of how one company shows how they value their customer. (Told you I’d get there!)

Oh, and just to add on a little more praise for Carpe Diem: they’re super involved in the community (they clean it up, one might say *groan*), they’re a family run business that takes care of their employees, they do great work at a great price and they put their customers first with a personal touch.

So, a big thanks to Hannah, Wendy, Jessica and the rest of the team for making my 10th anniversary of my 25th so memorable.

And, to all of you out there, if you’re looking for an amazing cleaning service in the Triangle, check out http://www.carpediemcleaning.com!

Posted in MBA, ME | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

My Little Mess Maker

Posted by mbamommy on July 7, 2010

About a month ago, I submitted a picture of Petite Syrah to BabyGanics “Mess Maker” contest.  It’s a pretty simple contest.  You upload a pic and then get everyone you know to vote for your kid. They pick monthly winners who receive a box of organic cleaning products.  Here’s the picture I submitted:

Cute, huh?  It was from her first birthday.  She really dug the cake.

Anyway, I promptly forgot all about the contest until the UPS guy delivered a huge box filled with these:

How cool is that?!  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about cleaning products in my life (more to the point, I don’t think I’ve ever been excited about cleaning products at all).  But, these are green, organic, effective, good smelling…and best of all, FREE!  My only constructive criticism is that it came as a surprise; I didn’t get an email that I had won or a note in the box.  Just a sticker on the outside saying congratulations.  It would’ve been nice to get a head’s up.  But, hey, I’m not one to complain.

And, the timing of the surprise was fitting.  It was dinner time and Petite Syrah had just spilled milk all over herself, the table and the floor.  Perfect time for My Little Mess Maker to get cleaned up!

So, thanks to BabyGanics for the products; they’re already going to good use!

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Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Posted by mbamommy on May 7, 2010

A tale of two restaurants….

Restaurant #1: Twisted Fork

Background: This restaurant is about 10 minutes from our house, ranked #1 in the Triangle for Kid Friendly by City Search and a family favorite.  We even had a particular booth we always asked for (in the back, semi-private and difficult for the kiddies to run loose).

One Sunday, JC, RunZMC, Petite Syrah and I head over for brunch.  We LOVE their Sunday brunch.  JC and I both got omelets and the kids shared pancakes.  Less than 10 hours later, JC and I are taking turns worshiping the porcelain goddess and feeling achy all over.  We double check with some friends who we had dinner the previous night? Nope, they’re fine. And, brunch is the only thing we had eaten that day.  Hmmm….looks like food poisoning.

On Monday, I called Twisted Fork and spoke to the Manager.  I told him the situation.  My main concern was to let him know that something was wrong with his eggs just in case anyone else calls….and, maybe he should make sure to throw that batch out.  Honestly?  That was it.  I just didn’t want anyone else to go through what we had gone through the night before.

Mistake #1: his first question was, “Is that what the doctor diagnosed”?  (no, you dummy, I’ve been too busy throwing up to go to a doctor’s!)

Mistake #2: he goes on to say that no one else had complained. (that’s cause they’re too busy throwing up!)

Mistake #3: he offered to give me a gift card for the amount we paid. (do you really think I want to eat at your restaurant again?!?)

Success #1: he offered to refund our full meal

BIG FAT MISTAKE: I never heard an apology or sympathy for my pain.  I *may* have gone back if I had heard him say “I’m so sorry that happened”.

Here’s some stats for you:

  • Approximate frequency of dining: 2x/month for 3 years.
  • Average bill: $50
  • Estimated amount of $ we spent there: $3600
  • Estimated LTV? Over $10k
  • Cost of refund: $44

But, alas, we now need to find a new favorite family restaurant…..which leads to….

Restaurant #2: Nantucket Grill

Background: This restaurant is 2 minutes from home and only recently opened.  JC and I decided to check it out on a date night a few months ago and loved it. Why?  It was reasonably priced, good food, good ambiance.  We just bellied up to the bar and talked for hours.  OK, I lied…that’s not why we (I) loved it.  Every Saturday night, they give out FREE CAKE. What?!?  FREE CAKE? I’m sold.

One night, a couple weeks ago when the g’rents were in town, we ordered in.  When the food came, two of the meals were incomplete and mine tasted terrible.

Success #1: the first time I called to tell them the order was incomplete, they apologized and offered either a free side or a free piece of cake next time we came in…just give my name to the manager, they made a note of it.

Success #2: the next time I called to let them know the food was inedible (waaayyyy too salty), they apologized again and said the next meal was on them.

Success #3: the next time I ordered for pickup, I mentioned my name, the manager gave me my food, apologized again for the inconvenience, chatted for a couple minutes and held the door for me on my way out.

And, some more stats:

  • Approximate frequency of dining: 1x/month for 3 months (future frequency? 2x/month)
  • Average bill: $50
  • Estimated amount of $ we spent there: $150
  • Estimated LTV? Over $10k
  • Cost of refund: $30

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

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I Love You More….

Posted by mbamommy on May 5, 2010

As a follow up to My Recent Epiphany, I wanted to share my thoughts on Jeanne Bliss’s book, I Love You More Than My Dog.  I should preface this by saying that over the past few weeks, Jeanne and I have struck up a partnership and I will be working for her on a part-time basis once my tenure at BBI is done (more to come on that…I promise).  So, as part of my “homework” assignment on getting up to speed on all things CCO, customer service and CustomerBLISS, I was anxious to start reading.

First of all, it’s a super easy read.  For all of you MBA’s out there, you know the difference between learning from a textbook and a case study.  My textbooks were always full of highlighted sentences that I never took the time to go back and review later.  Meanwhile, most of the case studies I read in b-school still live in my brain.  One of the many reasons why I LUV SWA so much is because their decision to start flying in and out of BWI was the first case study I read in my Corporate Strategy class.

But, I digress.  Jeanne presents the 5 decisions Beloved Companies make in easily digestible, approachable sections.  She explains each on a high level and then gives a quick case study example.  She even gets a little personal and shares some of her personal Beloved Company experiences.  Here’s the best part.  She doesn’t tell you how to do it.  She gives you the questions to ask yourself/your company so you can show yourself .  Talk about giving a man a fishing pole, right?

I think that’s the right way to approach the challenge of becoming a Beloved Company.  No two companies are the same, so no two solutions will be the same.  Jeanne is able to get past all those differences and get to the root of how companies create ‘raving fans’.   Frankly, the one thing that resonated a lot with me throughout all of her example companies is that the folks running them seem like they’re genuinely good.  And, if you’re genuinely good in your personal life, that should carry into your professional life.  That, and guts.  It takes guts to take a step back and ask the tough questions.  And then to follow through.

To take that a step further, I read an interesting blog post yesterday from All In One Marketing called “The Open Chair“.  She recommends that companies keep an “open chair” at their strategy meetings.  This chair could be filled by either an outside consultant or an internal employee who understands the challenge but can also provide an outside/clear perspective.  This person would be able to help you ask…and answer…the tough questions.

Think about it, the best advice you’ll ever get is from an unbiased outsider who has your best interests in mind.  That’s why we lean on our girlfriend’s when we have disagreements with our husbands or our husbands when we have disagreements with our bosses.  It’s the same concept.

Back to the book.

Simply put, it’s a good, quick read.  It provides some great tools to get the conversation started.  Go.  Buy it.  Read it.  Apply it.

Posted in MBA, ME | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Customer Service & Social Media

Posted by mbamommy on April 7, 2010

I’ve been out of the office for about a week and am still digging my way out of emails, which means catching up on my daily trends, recommendations and reviews.  One blog post I came across from eConsultancy struck a cord with me.  It’s an interesting take on how social media can add and/or subtract to your customer service.  Unlike most articles I’ve read recently, this one is saying not to jump all over a complaint but to manage those expectations.

I agree completely.  I do this on a regular basis….I call it “training your client”.  If a client wants to know how long a turnaround will be, I always give myself a day or two buffer.  In my experience, too many things can go wrong or take longer than you expect and as the responsible account manager/customer service rep, you don’t want to be the one delivering bad news.  Instead, you give yourself the opportunity to play the role of hero by managing their expectations and deliver (according to them) early.  An additional benefit is you also manage your internal resources and don’t cause fire drills or late nights.

This lesson goes back to my days of hostessing a restaurant.  I was taught that I had the ability to set the pace of the night and that I should try my hardest not to slam the waitstaff or kitchen (they had sharp knives).  Which, of course, causes bad customer experiences both internally and externally and we all know how against *that* I am.  I always had a go to waiter that could somehow miraculously get me out of a jam by turning a table quickly….and keep diners happy, but for the most part, if I was able to manage waitstaff and kitchen expectations as well as those waiting to eat, we all ended the night much better (and I got better tips!).

But, I (as usual) digress.  In today’s social media world, there’s so many ways for customers to complain (and they should if a company messes up) that a company could make the mistake of being hypersensitive and respond too much (and they should respond in a timely and well-thought out way).  If you respond to a complaint immediately and offer the farm as an apology, you’re only setting yourself up to create an expectation that you’ll give the farm away to anyone who bats an eye.  By managing expectations and treating each situation uniquely, you can make sure the “punishment fits the crime”.

Of course, I’m newly back from vacay, so maybe I’m wrong.  Thoughts?  Should companies jump all over complaints?  Ignore them as just noise?

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My recent epiphany

Posted by mbamommy on March 31, 2010

Have you ever heard of the job title “Chief Customer Officer“?  I have only recently and it’s been a complete game changer for me.  No more do I aspire to be a CMO….I want to be a CCO.

The idea behind a CCO is to truly put your customers first in everything a company does: customer service, sales, account management, product development, operations, accounting, finance, HR, marketing, PR, R&D, etc etc.  Instead of just *saying* you’re customer-centric, this role is responsible for *creating* customer-centricity.  It’s perfect and is in line with everything I believe in and have blogged about.  Treat your customers well, treat your employees well, set up your company to acknowledge the importance of your customer and you will succeed.

And, here’s my new role model: Jeanne Bliss.  Every single professional mentor I’ve ever looked up to has been a woman and they all pale in comparison to Ms. Bliss.  This is as close to “girl love” (think Scrubs….”guy love“) as I’ve ever gotten.

I just ordered her two books, “Chief Customer Officer” and “I Love You More Than My Dog” and cannot WAIT to start reading.  Kind of makes me feel weak in the knees.

Posted in MBA, ME | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Re-post

Posted by mbamommy on February 16, 2010

OK, I know I’m cheating a little bit, but given the crazy travel schedule I have this week (SF-SD via San Jose, Pasadena and Santa Barbara) I decided to do a blog re-post.  This one is all about Online Conversions Made Simple.  Hey, I always say I hate re-work and am all about efficiency.  Besides, I think the topic is worth the additional attention.

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