Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Time Is Running Out, Only 24 Hours Left

So I have been up since 3 am this morning.  The Husband came home just before 3, he was at the office making the changes to the website so we can go live in time for Blissdom.  I was awake for some odd reason and chatted with him a minute as he got ready for bed.  He pulled up the work that he'd done on his iphone.  The commercial was officially on the homepage, and it looked so great!

He is constructing the site on another url so we can play with it and work out the bugs before we go live and replace the current site at www.babyoutfitter.com.  I can't begin to tell you what a HUGE improvement this new site is over the one we are getting ready to replace.  It is so bright, modern and cheerful.  I hope the customers love it as much as we do.  

I was so excited.  He was so tired.  I decided I'd get up and see what I could accomplish.  I put a load of laundry in, and headed downstairs.  I swept and mopped the kitchen floor, sorted and purged about 18 lbs of paperwork that had piled up on our counter and cleaned off the desk in his man cave (it was BAD).  The Husband is certainly not as organized as I am.  Of course, what man IS organized.  I don't know many.

I guess I'm just a tad bit worried about getting up so ridiculously early.  I only have today left to get ready for Blissdom.  I need to find outfits in my closet or shop for some.  I need to pick "comfy" shoes, they say that's key.  I need to shop for groceries so the kiddos have food while we're gone.  Yikes...

However, clearly I'm going to hit a wall at some point today and be crazy tired. The ideas I had about being prepared and looking fabulous are going to be challenged by my lack of sleep and impending sack out.  Why does this always happen the day before some big event in my life.  It's actually pretty funny, because it DOES always happen.  I guess at this point I should see it coming and prepare, or make different choices - like 4 advil PMs.  But at this point, obviously I'm not that bright.

Oh and to add to the madness the pilot light is out.  I don't know how to light it and I need to get a shower.  I have a BIG day ahead of me.  I can't go to work all stank-ified.  But, I am certainly NOT taking a cold shower.  Wait.  Come to think of it, THIS happens everytime, too.  Holy Cow! I'm not kidding.  It's like a series of unfortunate events....greg stays up late for some reason and I think WTH why does he stay up late the night before we have something BIG (this time it was for me so I'll overlook that), I can't sleep and end up getting up way too early and start playing catch-up, then I go to shower and BRRRR!

Funny the stuff life throws at you, especially when you put stuff off 'til the last minute...or 24 hours in my case.  

(photo credit: istockphoto.com/LanceB)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Progress Doesn't Always Mean Moving FORWARD

One of my biggest thrills comes from seeing things progress, actually SEEING movement.  I love it when I am productive, getting things accomplished, checking off my to do list. In other words, moving forward.  I get addicted to that feeling that I am making a difference in something, for someone or just improving my overall quality of life whether it be business or home related. 

I mentioned it before, though.  I am a major critic of myself.  My expectations are crazy high.  And the problem at this point is that once I see what I am capable of, I want MORE the next time.  So, I'm constantly uping my own game. 

Right now, I am eyeballs deep in a complete brand overhaul.  I have been in business for almost 9 years doing chidren's resale, new and gently used baby clothing, toys and accessories, online at www.babyoutfitter.com.  It started out in my garage with a few items stored neatly and posted online for the world to see.  The orders didn't pour in at first...but eventually they came.  Little by little.  One by one. 

Over the years, business has grown and my sales have typically doubled each year. I've moved from a small office to a small office with a warehouse, to a bigger office with a gigantic warehouse and hired a few of the world's greatest employees.  Our new location perfectly represents the concept I have always envisioned for the Baby Outfitter brand, a modern twist on upscale children's resale. 

I decided that the site, I'd been operating for years, was out-dated and not very user friendly.  It didn't embody the overall experience I wanted my customers to have with us.  So, we set about constructing an entirely new site that was loads more user-friendly, with some super-fab new concepts, that represented the brand more accurately and most importantly was forward thinking in terms of building a community within popular social media.

This lead to a dreamer's dream.  What if the site could do this?  Oh...and what if shoppers could have this?  Dreams got big, quick, let me tell ya. But, we had to think quickly and start implementing these ideas.

So, I decided to tap into that ever powerful world of mommy bloggers out there and get the word out in a very creative way, a video fashion shoot.  We contracted with Kiera at www.jakfotofilms.com and began shooting, in less than 2 days mind you, an incredibly PERFECT little commercial featuring some of the cutest little local models, ranging in size from newborn to 8, to show off some of our products in fun and unique way.

The video photo shoot turned out EXACTLY as we'd hoped.  And we are so happy to be getting it ready to load on the site. We purchased a commissioned song from Bella Ruse, a wonderfully quirky duo with some amazing talent and a perfect sound to represent our brand...check them out at www.bellaruse.com.  (Be sure to listen to Satan Served Me Sandwiches...it's stuck in my head.)

Things were moving so fast.  Working on the website, coming up with new text, formats and concepts, shifting gears to the fashion shoot and compiling outfits from our inventory and matching them up to the models we had available, designing props and reviewing clips.  But, now the pace has slowed a bit. 

Unfortunately, I didn't go to school for any of this.  I'm just a mom.  A mom with five kids trying to run a business and maintain some sort of household.  The more I pursue, the more I realize how much I need to learn.  I'm not IT guy and although I have a vision for design, in terms of how I want things to look, I am not able to program, code or design graphically.  So, I have done what I can on paper and passed my work on to those who CAN do those things.  And now, I wait.  I wait with the perverbial ants in my pants. 

I spent most of yesterday, here at the office, (yes..I was working on sunday - have to stop doing that)feeling frustrated about my ability to navigate my way through all the html, the graphic design, the twitter tweets, the facebook posts, the pinterest stuff I have yet to learn, ...there is just so much right now.  So many things that I am not totally prepared to act on. And most of the time lately, I feel like I am four steps behind everyone else.  So, the waiting was taking a bit of a toll on me. 

I had a conversation last week with Katie, one of my fabulous team members.  I woke up this morning with a statement I'd made her to, stuck in my head.  Progress doesn't always mean moving forward.  Progress is progress.  And although I feel right now that everything is at a stand-still and I should be working faster, harder on....fill in the blanks...I need to step back and take a look at how far we've actually come in such a short amount of time. Take a look at how much we've accomplished and how great it feels to completly NAIL IT!

 I am just so quick to judge myself and say I should or I could.  Why? 

Sometimes, idling in neutral is progress.  Idling is the opportunity to look back, analyze thoughts, gather data while building momentum.  And THAT my friends, is what give us the power to shoot forward again.

There you have it.  Progress doesn't always have to mean moving forward.  So don't beat yourself up about slowing down, or even staying in the same place, just make sure you keep that "engine" reving because you're about to go places - places you've never dreamed.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Toot My Own Horn

I founded BabyOutfitter.com in 2003.  Since then I have been pretty much working by myself to build the business - buying inventory, making changes to the site with The Huband's help.  But recently, I stumbled upon some great employees and decided it was time to take things to turn up the heat and really get things going. 

Since we are adding employees and implenting new procedures and carving out new positions, we are basically going through the growing pains of a start-up.  There is so much going on in the office on a daily basis.  Everyone is busy and we leave at the end of the day feeling like there's so much more we could do, that we NEED to do. 

I don't always have all the answers and I doubt that I'm the World's Greatest Boss.  But, I learned something from reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh.  I need to create an environment that reflects the values that I feel are important to running this business.  My choices set the tone for the office/business.

I want my team members to feel valued and appreciated.  I want us to know when it's time to work hard and know when it's time to have fun.  I want them to know that their ideas are heard and often implemented.  Why?  Because that is somewhere I'd like to work! 

A few weeks ago, while working on some new text for the website redesign, someone joked about tooting their own horn.  We all laughed.  It was appropriate for that team member deserved some recognition for what she'd done.  Then, a few days later, someone else joked that they wanted to toot their horn for an idea they'd come up with. 

So I went to work.  I jumped on amazon.com and purchased a few bicycle horns and had them shipped to the house.  Then I went into my sorely under-used craft room and found some cute patterned paper and went to work creating individual tags for each team member.  I thought the idea was just so darn cute.  The picture isn't very clear and it's only a few of the horns, sorry...I was in a hurry to post this before I had to actually work - on work. 

The next day I arrived at the office and unveiled the new horns.  I told them that whenever they did something fantastic or came up with an idea that would help our efficiency/production/etc., that they should toot their own horns. 

These days people tend to criticize themselves, sell themselves short and feel undervalued.  I wanted to give my team members a way to stop and say Yay for me!  Look what I did.  And I am so happy with the results. 

When's the last time YOU tooted YOUR own horn?