- Quote of the Day!
I have been known for as long as I can remember to incorporate quotes into my weekly team meetings, one on one sit downs and writings to team members or franchisees. At the end of the week I will most likely grab my phone, pull up Pinterest. However, instead of attempting to find the best recipe (or heaven forbid a new crafting project), I will search the writings and sayings of others, or simply, quotes! Why do the words of others seem to resonate so strongly with me?
Quirky, quick witted, somber or inspirational, quotes find a concise way to redirect an outlook through their direct way of speaking to the heart. In fact, often the words of others seem to say exactly what I have thought of but could not put into words. Quotes inspire us to look at our circumstances in a new light and often in just ten seconds, open our minds to a new way of thinking. When taken in from the successful mind that crafted the message, our perception of our reality can be re-focused in the context of the struggles of others and life’s journey as a whole.
- “I am not telling you it’s going to be easy, I am telling you it’s going to be worth it” – Art Williams
- “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it” – Margaret Thatcher
- “I always did something I was a little not ready to. I think that is how you grow” –Marissa Mayer
- “Coffee in one hand, confidence in the other” – #bossbabe
- “Opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work” – Thomas Edison
- “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that do not work” – Thomas Edison
My Pinterest board is filled with one or two sentences of genius as expressed through the spoken or written words of another. I would challenge you next time your head is spinning, you need a fresh perspective, or you desire to articulate our thoughts in a clear way, that you brush up on your library of quotes and Get Your MODE On!
- How to Maximize the Impact of Small Business Saturday
Note: This blog post was also featured on Rethink Red Tape, a coalition formed to examine the impact regulations have on small businesses, our communities and our country, and advocate for smarter regulations and regulatory reforms that will protect the public interest while also helping small businesses grow. Visit their page at http://rethinkredtape.com/
Over the next week, the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, and some shoppers have already scouted out prime Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. But the day my employees and I — and many of our friends, families and neighbors — are most excited about is Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26, when communities shop their local stores, find great bargains on gifts and give the area economy a boost.
As rewarding as Small Business Saturday can be for shoppers, I think it’s more exciting for business owners. As founding owner of the clothing franchise MODE (home of the $40 designer jeans!), it is so gratifying to see customers excited to shop at stores where small retailers carefully refine their product offerings and work to create a welcoming retail space, all with community members in mind. On Small Business Saturday, it’s hard not to feel the love from our customers.
But there are plenty of small businesses who won’t, unfortunately, feel the same appreciation on Saturday, simply because they are business-to-business, don’t have a brick-and-mortar retail location, or offer products or services that don’t make ideal holiday gifts.
As I’ve built my business, I’ve met many of these passionate, dedicated small-business owners — can Small Business Saturday be a reminder to recognize non-retail small businesses as well? They are creating local jobs, generating revenue and keeping money in the community, and deserve the spotlight just as much.
One of the best ways to support small businesses in all locations and in all industries — all 365 days a year — is to be an advocate for reform of the federal regulatory process. Often, rules come out of Washington unexpectedly — rules that did not take the small-business perspective into account and that end up costing small-business owners significant time and money in order to comply. While a bigger business might have a full-time lawyer on staff just to deal with regulations, often times that is just not something small businesses can afford. Calling on policymakers to make the regulatory process more inclusive and understandable, and to ensure that final rules have been subject to a thorough cost-benefit analysis, is a simple step anyone can take to support local small businesses.
At MODE stores on Saturday, my employees and I will be doing what we love: helping our neighbors score great looks at fantastic prices. But my hope this that retailers will not be the only ones feeling the love on Small Business Saturday — I want to see communities supporting all types of entrepreneurs and small businesses, and doing so year-round by advocating for a better rulemaking process that creates jobs and builds communities. How’s that for a good deal?
- Giving Back Gives Back in More Ways Than One
On a cloudy Tuesday, I visited with a customer about the weather, her plans for the weekend and the pile of jeans, tops and accessories which I was ringing up. Pausing to look up from the point of sale screen, I saw tears creating a wet sparkle in the eyes of my customer. She softly said “Thank you. I work at the YWCA and I want to say thank you. What you did for the women with your denim drive – you will never know what that meant to our guests.” “You are most welcome,” I said “MODE loves giving back.” Later in the day as I was helping another MODE shopper, that customer suddenly pointed to the Organization of the Week sign on the counter and stated “I want to donate to that. I love that MODE is always giving back.” Two separate customers in a day. Two lives touched and through those two lives, countless others.
Why should a company like MODE, participate in community events or give back to those in the community? Loyal customers are born out of an effort to involve our MODE businesses in the needs of our local communities. Besides the new customers that we meet through our acts of kindness, the immeasurable feeling of goodwill when we give, and the eventual financial benefits as we grow our businesses — what other long lasting seeds are planted through giving back?
- Giving back builds new connections
We can all pinpoint a time when we first met someone who would become a dear friend or a trusted mentor. Many times these relationships are found at a local community event and cultivated through conversations of working together in our communities. Stepping into the community by giving back gives us a reason to get out from behind our counter or away from our desk and into the community we live in, so that we might meet those filling a community need.
- Giving back creates a team with purpose
As business owners with an extreme focus on ensuring our businesses grow, we often forget that building a vision of doing good will rally our teams and encourage them in their own quest for living intentionally. Everybody desires something bigger than themselves to work towards. Giving our team members the opportunity to experience that “feeling” of doing something good, creates a team that respects one another and their leader in a new and profound way.
- Giving back builds trust between your business and the community it serves.
Just like the examples I shared above, everyday we come in contact with strangers that walk through our business doors. As we help women shop differently at our MODE locations, we work to build an environment in which women not only feel comfortable shopping for something that makes them feel good but also gives them a place to come for community! Creating relationships with community non-profits and community organizations with a purpose of giving back, drives that term “differently” to a whole new level. Showing our customers that we not only care about how they feel but we also truly care for those who may never become MODE customers, builds a bridge of trust between our businesses and the communities we serve in.
In 2012 at our first franchise convention, I brought in the first guest speaker that MODE Franchise Convention would see! Bob, the owner of the local Breadsmith store was our featured guest. A franchisee himself, I wanted invited Bob to come and share with our small group why he is constantly donating loaves of bread, coupons, gift cards and gift baskets and also to share why he never says no. Any group that asks for a donation receives a gift from the Fargo Breadsmith with a resounding “You bet we can do that!” Was this something that the franchisor mandated? Was this something he was trained to do? “No, it is not mandated!” he said. “I give because the community gives to me.” Each customer that walked through his doors was giving their time to shop in his bakery. He couldn’t help but give back.
My hope is that you can see why giving back is so important at MODE and why we will keep giving back locally and globally!
Live generously and Get Your MODE On!
- National Coffee Day!
In most cases it’s just sheer perseverance; remembering there is no get rich quick scheme; you need to drink a lot of coffee! If asked why some business owners succeed and why some do not, those are the three things that I say are keys to success. Since its National Coffee Day I had to post something little on this blog! Coffee and jeans people, it’s all about #coffeeandjeans
- Lessons Learned on the Cherry Creek Trail
Recently I had the opportunity to brave a North Pacific forest trail as a part of my morning workout. This got me thinking about how life is so intertwined, as this run held so many similarities to the choice individuals make when they blaze the trail of business. It’s important to point out that I am by no means a fitness expert. My somewhat ADD mind is quickly bored by any length of physical activity and therefore running or participating in gym activities for any length of time is a rare occurrence. On the other hand, the outdoors calms my sprit, allows clarity of thought, and quite frankly gives me constant change and unpredictability. Today, this led me to choose to put on my running shoes and find a trail to forge.
What does running have to do with business? Let me draw the analogies that took flight in my mind as I ran through the pines today.
- When choosing the path of small business ownership remember there will be many surprises ahead. Choosing a new running path is like choosing a business: you may know the name or style of business, you may have the perfect concept or choose to join an existing franchise model, but like a new trail, you have no idea of exactly what lies ahead in your personal business journey.
- When starting out, have the end in mind. I knew this path was 1.75 miles and would finish by the clubhouse. The end to me was finishing the loop and coming back to the lodge with an activity completed. The same principal follows when building a business. What is your end goal? Will you build to sell, stay small and dedicated in your market, or franchise your model? Where do you envision ending your business journey?
- When in doubt, follow the lead of others. Illustration: I was about half way through on my trail run when I was suddenly filled with self doubt: “Should I be out here alone? What if I take the wrong fork in the trail? What if I chose a path that was above my skill level”? It was then that I heard two experienced runners coming up behind me. I stepped aside, allowed them to pass and gladly followed their lead! There is no shame in finding business owners that are more experienced than yourself, reaching out to them to ask questions, then follow in their steps of success.
- When ready to give up, push yourself to press on. The path I chose this morning was much hillier than anyone had told me! Being from North Dakota where we run on un-ending flat lands, I was suddenly overwhelmed by what was ahead. I was not anticipating a run up and down hills, around rocks and over streams. How often as business owners do we say “If I had only known this would be so hard, look this way, or cause this change in my life?” In times like this, we are given two choices: we can turn back or move forward. Today I moved forward, pushing myself to finish strong!
- When finished, stretch your muscles. In physical activity this means a floor mat and a cool down. In business this means stretching the muscles of the mind through learning, listening and reading.
Get Your MODE On!
- Trading My “Coffee and Jeans” for…Coffee and Yoga Pants?
Finding a work-life balance, recharging the battery, relaxing, enjoying down time. Four phrases that busy women often hear, covet with a passion and yet find hard to do. From one busy woman to another – sometimes you just have to trade those jeans for yoga pants!
Coffee and jeans are my life. Jeans by career, coffee by design (and let’s be honest, to help me better my career!!!). At the end of a long day, on a weekend or on vacation, the last thing I want to pull on is another pair of jeans. Don’t misunderstand – I have a PASSION for a good pair of jeans. Nothing looks so classy and put together as a well fitting pair of jeans with a white tee and a stack of bracelets to add a little sparkle! In all honesty, I believe that a good fitting pair of jeans is sexier than a little black dress. However, jeans to me signify “work mode” (pardon the pun)! I have found that in order to create a work life balance that works for me, I have to literally compartmentalize my day by what I allow to consume my thoughts and this starts with what I wear.
My husband, Jim and I started our concept when our children were young and because I have boundless energy (from the coffee, mind you) I am often asked how I create a work life balance. How do I unplug? How do I separate my work life from my everyday? Choosing to slow down when away from the office, spending as much time outdoors in fresh air as possible (front porch or long walk …either will do), reading to silence my thoughts and scheduling intentional and consistent time with family are all tools that ensure that I continue to prioritize what matters in life.
Everyone’s work life balance looks different. It is not important what it looks like to you, but rather that you strive for it as you see fit. As with everything we do, small choices create habits and habits comprise our patterns of life. If something as small as choosing yoga pants at the end of the day can create a habit of self reflection then I will choose those yoga pants every day as I work to be a better me and Get My MODE On!
- Adjust the Sails!
When I pulled off my cute striped blazer on Thursday in order to easily lift and stack 11, 25 lb boxes to drag down to the UPS hub, something suddenly hit me. You see, just like I was changing outfits to easily transition from the role media interview to delivery woman, so an entrepreneur has to be able to maneuver seamlessly from role to role as they work to build their company. In fact I had just talked to the editor of Fargo INC! about that very thing just an hour earlier. In our time together I told him that entrepreneurs that succeed are those that can adjust the sails and change direction depending on the wind. I learned this early on in my small business journey and to be quite frank, the same message applies to me today. Often this redirection can look like a significant concept change. A great example of this is when we launched the reinvented “MODE concept” in 2008 and chose to move forward from the Mama Mia maternity concept which had first positioned us in retail. Similarly, it can look like minor adjustments throughout the day as you observe the needs to the business and the team.
Take last Thursday for example, I started my day with a commute to Fargo for a press interview. Concept conversation, reminiscing about the company’s history and culture talk were all part of that first hour of the day. When the reporter and photographer left, there was hands on work that needed to be done. Throwing aside the blazer and multiple accessories (all of which looked fabulous for the camera but would hinder my mobility), I boxed up, labeled and delivered boxes so that my team wouldn’t have to stop their day to solve a problem that I had identified and could easily do. Fast forward to putting my blazer back on for meetings, conversations, a store visit; blazer back off for an in store team meeting and office hour and then back on one last time for another commute, landing me at an evening event celebrating women.
Just as the ability to be agile and adapt to the needs around us on a daily basis and big picture is essential for a forward trajectory in any company, so the ability to stay on task and use time efficiently is key. Although a master of none, I have observed that all great entrepreneurial leaders find these pieces to be key to their success. So, with that knowledge, I press ahead always ready to adjust my sails as needed whenever the wind drives our ship, called Small Business on a different, unknown or new course.
Get Your MODE On!
- Developing the Next Generation of Women Who Lead
As a mother of a “tween” I often look across the room as my daughter practices piano, works on homework, or finishes her latest art project and think about what she will become. How do I ensure that my daughter is a woman who leads? Is there a book she should read? Is there a class she should take? Or, am I to be her mentor? Is my role perhaps to not only be her mom but also to be her shining example as a woman who leads and one that leads well? More importantly, if that is to be me, what does that look like?
When I opened the doors to my first store, my daughter was two years old. She has known nothing but having a mom who is always talking business. Our life has been atypical by most standards. Right or wrong, through the often stormy days of small business ownership, I have chosen to use the ups and downs as perfect opportunities to show my daughter how to lead. I have by no means arrived as an expert and I do not come close to getting everything right when it comes to leadership! However, I do realize that through transparent conversations, I can teach others what leadership should look like.
If we truly want a new wave of women who will lead, we need to teach this generation to focus on looking outside their box of self-comfort and stretching their comfort zone into the sphere of serving others. We all have young women in our lives who we can influence positively. These eager leaders come from those we teach in school, those who play in our front yards, those who we volunteer to partner with through programs like “Big Brothers, Big Sisters,” the opportunities are all around us.
Confidence in leadership is born from an attitude that says:
- I am responsible for my success AND for my failure, therefor I will accept accountability for every action
- There is always someone I can serve
- There is always something I can learn
- Tomorrow is a new day! A clean slate with the opportunity to do better
As we focus on this next generation of women who will lead, we need to start with these basic principles. Additionally, we must model them and reflect them in our daily lives.
Go find a girl that you can encourage to lead with confidence and together Get Your MODE On!
- The Many Stages of HUSTLE!
I had a real life lesson in the different stages of hustle a couple weeks ago when after 10 years of growing my business, after 10 years of working “on the business” instead of “in the business” (like all business coaches tell us entrepreneurs to do), I found myself back behind the counter of my original retail store.
When you hear that entrepreneurs need to hustle, we all agree. Entrepreneurs need to talk about their ideas; develop a product that works; attend networking events; speak to dozens of investors; entrepreneurs need to HUSTLE!! Although, that initial hustle is a real one, it is not the only stage this verb will be realized in the life of a business.
At MODE I have traveled through several “hustle” stages. After creating a retail concept that was ready to franchise, (I definitely hustled to get MODE to that point) I found myself moving into round two as I began to look for prospective franchisees. Finding that first franchisee is a hard task for any franchisor. Finding that brave sole that is willing to take on the risk of signing a 10 year contract with a proven concept but no other franchisees as peers can be a daunting task, but I did it. I hustled and I found that number one and then that number two and then that number three until I soon had just under a dozen MODE franchisees, all rocking and rolling. Amidst that emerging franchise growth I found myself in a “hustle” for a third time. How do you scale a business? How do you stay ahead of yourself, always anticipating the future and its issues and its potential? How do you train a team to lead? You grind though intentional networking and concentrated mentoring. Attending events, cold calling industry experts and asking for 30 minutes of their time or a word of advice, the “learning stage” of the hustle is real and it’s necessary! In this stage you learn to ask and listen.
After ten years of fighting my way through the three stages above I was just ready to sit! Ready to sit in an office (in 10 years of business I have never had my own office) and appreciate the work that had been done. The day after I moved into my new corner office, I found myself staring straight into the face of the “back to the original hustle” stage. That stage when you find yourself not at the corner office desk you have dreamed of for 10 years, but instead behind the original retail counter where the dream was originally born. At first this stage threw me for a loop. My mind screamed “Why me? Why now?” Maybe even a little “it’s not fair!” However, I am an entrepreneur! I HUSTLE! Therefore that “woe is me” attitude only lasted 5 minutes and then I put on my best pair of jeans, I grabbed my coffee and I hit the floor, (the retail floor that is). I choose to take this hustle stage as the one that will give me the opportunity to re-experience the roots of my brand. The hustle that will give my brand the “back to the basics” perspective of why this brand works and grew in the first place. I am choosing to hustle while I take this opportunity to roll up my sleeves and once again work IN the business, all the while still working ON the business. My focus is to hustle in a way that shows my team what a leader looks like and shows my franchisees that the system works when you work the system! This round is a smart hustle for sure.
Go out and find your hustle this week and Get Your MODE On!
- An Entrepreneur With……. Creative Block?
Creative block. You know, like “writer’s block” except for entrepreneurs! An entrepreneur, just like a writer, is required to be creative, ingenious, forward thinking and always on the cusp of something new. Sometimes, entrepreneurs get “creative block!” Sometimes entrepreneurs, aka small business owners, just want to sit and listen and let someone else do the thinking.
What is a small business owner to do when they just run out of the energy to think of another idea, come up with another plan, execute on another creative idea? What does an entrepreneur do when they get “creative block?”
I think there are several practical actions any entrepreneur or small business owner can take when the creative juices just won’t flow.
1. Dig deep and force-feed yourself. Identify the problem in front of you and research the be-jeebers (is that a word?) out of it. Yes, force-feed yourself! Make yourself see a new point of view, observe your competition, listen to your critics and then seek to understand.
2. Pull your team in close. You hired your team for a reason. Each team member has a gift and a skill that makes them a valuable member in your organization. Pull those team members close, tell them you need help and let them shine as they rise to occasion!
3. Get away from your desk. I think this is the hardest part for a small business owner and entrepreneur, however, we need to allow our minds to rest and recharge. This can be as simple as a walk after work or quiet time each morning. Our minds must be turned off. (Easier said then done I know!!).
4. Invest in someone else. Get out of your zone and invest in another entrepreneur or small business owner. Sometimes understanding the struggles and joys of others will produce more ideas than any book in the library!
Get rid of that “creative block” and Get your MODE on!