Thursday, January 28, 2010

Women's Movement in Haiti

The devestation of the earthquake in Haiti has countless dimensions of suffering, both present and yet to come. Just one of the poignant tragedies that stays with me is the loss of three of the founders of the women's movement: Myriam Merlet, Mgalie Marcelin and Anne Marie Coriolan. Of course I did not know their names before learning that they had lost their lives. But I am thinking about what to do with the fact that I know them now.

Perfect Day

Here's my Tuesday:

- 4:30am- Wake up to Yumi having a nightmare. Great excuse to suggle her. Think sleepily to myself that I will go to 6am yoga.

- 6:30am - Oops missed 6am yoga. Check email instead. Slightly different health benefits . . .

- 7:00am - Make breakfast for kids while husband packs lunches.

- 8:15am - Drop kids off for Spanish/French before school. Great before-school care alternative to just putting them on the schoolbus to ride around for an hour, which I also strongly considered.

- 8:30am - At the office. Touch base with Kate and Amy. Pick up Board presentations, which I printed out the NIGHT BEFORE because it's January and I'm still adhering to my New Year's resolution to be more planful and prepared. Notice email from Susie that we are very close to our 1000th member at Julep.

- 9:00am - Get to see Valentine's Day "Beauty Head to Toe" package signs that will go outside our parlors. We decided last week to donate 10% of proceeds to the Red Cross for Haiti relief - we all want to participate in helping in some way.

- 9:30am - check out very tiny mention in Wall Street Journal about how we were rejected for a reality series two years ago.

- 11:00am - head to our Downtown parlor for a quick manicure and brow wax before heading to our Board meeting at Davis Wright Tremaine offices.

- 1pm - 3:45pm - Our inaugural Board Meeting! So exciting to have smart thoughtful people spending so much time thinking about Julep with us. Kate and I agree that we love having more people in our boat. Thank you Emer and John. And Mike and Joe.

- 4:30pm - Regroup on email at home while Eli finishes his homework.

- 5:30pm -Take Eli out to dinner for a Mother-Daughter night - dinner and a Huskies basketball game. Yumi insists that her evening is a "date" with her father. I ask Eli if we're on a "date" and he says, "Mom, why do we have to call it anything? Why can't it just be you and me going to a basketball game?"

- 8:00ish - Run into our Parlor Managers Monique and Erica at the game! Fun to see them out.

- 8:30pm - Convince Eli to leave the game because it's a blowout - something like 90000 to 12 (or at least it feels like it).

- 9:00pm - Get home in time for NCIS Los Angeles with my husband. Great excuse to snuggle him.

Such a full, amazing day. This is probably not the kind of Carpe Diem Robin Williams' character had in mind in Dead Poet's Society but I appreciated every minute of the day.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Spring colors

Are finalized. And so fun. That is all I am allowed to say. . . . stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Positive Incremental Change

In many ways, 2010 is about positive, incremental change for us. This is exciting but also hard for me because it's a departure from the way I've been operating for the last 3 years, which has been about LOTS and LOTS of new ideas - new concept, new parlors, new promotions, new services, new relationships like subscription based membership. Bright and shiny is FUN.

But so is focus and stretching to improve. And actually, this is more fulfilling.

Looking at all that we've accomplished as a team, we're now focusing on doing the most important things better. How do we further delight our members? Continue to innovate on our colors? Make our manicures and pedicures last even longer? Communicate more efficiently? Offer more comprehensive training? Understand each other better as colleagues and as human beings?

I want to have my eyes open to the little things we do better every day and commit to celebrating these victories together. A few wins week we celebrated this week include:

- Taking all of our offsite learnings to date to pull together a fabulous booth at the Seattle Wedding Show for the first time with a beautiful booth (thank you Susanne, Susie and Amy S!)

- Rolling out our review process and figuring out how to take it to the next level the next time (thank you managers and vernisseurs for engaging in the process with honesty and a dedication to fulfilling our individual and collective potential)

- Launching improvements to our expense reporting and inventory management processes (thank you Amy F and Peter!)

- Finalzing our THIRD seasonal palette (thank you Kate and Amy S!)

And there are so many more. Improving is even better than beginning, because we have the luxury of confidence that it fundamentally works (whatever the "it" we're working on happens to be) - and since we know each other as a team now, we also have the luxury of confidence that we can figure things out together and make them better. I'm so grateful to be here.

I love our team. I love our guests. I love our company.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Year, New Layout

Last week I rearranged the furniture in our living room in an attempt to create the illusion of more space in our chopped up house. It was not a deliberate attempt to bring misery upon my family. It was not a vindictive effort to destroy all that is good in the world. And yet.

The thing is, the passion to rearrange struck me at about 1am in the morning, after everyone else had gone to sleep. It started with wondering if I could get rid of a step chest that stuck out in a way that suddenly drove me crazy. Once that was out of the way, it became obvious that our slouchy green couch had to move. In fact, after years of great service as our first ever joint furniture purchase in a store other than Ikea, it too might have to leave. To see what that would look like, I moved it out of the way, rearranged the remaining chairs. Other minor changes ensued. Pictures were moved, and rugs were folded - just to see what a smaller rug might look like. And then suddenly it was 3am.

I was awakened the next morning by my loving spouse, who called up, “Hey, you’d better get down here, there’s a revolt going on.”

And he wasn’t joking.

Eli (age 8): “Mom, we can’t even get to the front door – and we can’t see the TV from the couch if it’s all the way over there.”

Yumi (age 5, stomping foot): “Yeah!”

Burton (age 39): (Silently: “Yeah!”)

Eli: “And we’re going to trip on this rug! Why is it folded over like this Mom?! We could get HURT!”

Yumi: “Yeah!”

Burton: (Silently: “Yeah!”)

Stumbling back after grabbing my coffee, I tried to explain.

Me: “This is just representative guys! It’s just showing how things COULD be. The rug isn’t going to stay folded like that – I just wanted to see what a smaller rug might look like. It’s nice to change things once in a while isn’t it?”

Eli: “We hate change! We like keeping things the way they are!”

Yumi/Burton: (Same response as above).

Me: “Actually I was just thinking about letting some other family have this green couch for a while – I moved it over here to get it out of the way.”

Eli: “WHAT?!!” Smoke coming out of ears and nostrils. “Are you just trying to get rid of our favorite green couch? Our comfy couch? Why don’t you like this couch Mom? We’re only going to be happy if we can sit on this couch! Why do you hate this couch Mom? Tearing up. ( Meaning, “Why do you hate US Mom?!!” )

Burton: (Clearly pleased that his points had all been made without having to utter a word himself): “Maybe we can go eat breakfast and then ask Mom about WHY she moved things around and what she’s trying to accomplish. Then we can help her do that in a way that we are all excited about - and that KEEPS THE COUCH THAT WE ALL LOVE, right kids?”

Although our kids threatened not to eat until the furniture was put back where it had been, ultimately pancakes and bacon saved the day. I agreed to move the couch back (because although I do hate the couch, I love my family), but we did banish the step chest, move the chairs and buy a Flor shag rug in moves that were ultimately agreeable to all.

As I listened to my kids and witnessed their bewilderment, I was suddenly reminded of our poor Julep Parlor Hostesses and Vernisseurs as they arrive for what they believe will be a normal day, only to be barraged with phone calls about a last minute promotion (“Watch Twilight at Julep! $5 off!”) that appeared without warning.

I have learned from this experience. In 2010 I will try to be mindful of other people’s need to prepare and have input into change. I will try my hardest not to impose late night ideas on others the very next morning. I will try to be aware that what is just ideation and playing around with concepts for me might be rationally viewed by others as a tripping hazard. And sometimes a couch is more than a couch, it is love itself.

So thank you everyone at Julep for bearing with us as I try out different furniture configurations and move things in and out in an effort to create a better company!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Life IS a dress rehersal . . .

One of the best things about starting a company is the ability to dream - then execute - changes for the better everyday. Maybe they are little, largely unnoticed, and incremental, but as long as there is positive movement, every experience has additional, "bonus" meaning as an opportunity to learn how to do things better the next time.

This makes mistakes less frustrating - because it's not about the result in and of itself - it's about figuring out what to get out of it for next time.

The realist in me says that life is going to get harder everyday - challenges will only get bigger and more complex. So figuring things out today is a great trial run and preparation for what is to come.

As complicated as it is to be a working mom of two young children, I know that adding elder care for non-native English speakers is just around the corner. As challenging as it is to grow four parlors through The Great Recession, it's only going to be more complex when we open parlors in different cities, in different states.

This is coming out more depressing than I intend it to be - perhaps because there is bad Monday night TV on in the background. Because I'm actually excited by this - if I can do something today to be better prepared tomorrow, how amazing is that. What a luxury to have some trial runs so that I can do better next time.