Problem Solving

Getting your Soap Business Organized

Getting my office under control has been something I've seriously struggled with. It slows down my shipping, all over productivity and my motivation. In December (or was it November) I decided to try to get puppy to a better state. I mean look at this mess! It's only half of my desk too!


I got a filing cabinet from Poppin to help keep all of those pesky records filed and a bunch of the paperwork that piles up off of my desk. (Now I just have to actually use the filing system I created. Details...)

To make shipping easier, quicker and less painful I asked santa for the Demo 4XL printer. My in-laws beat santa to the gift and they got my super easy and quick printer! It will be so nice when I ship out all of out new orders today! It will be a 1 click print instead of finding my shipping labels, making sure they are right side up in the printer, printing those first; then printing the invoices and then remembering to use the other half of the shipping label (2 are on a sheet) when the next order comes in.

I feel like she (he?) needs a name. Right now I am just calling her my precious.


What are you doing differently in 2015 to get your business organized?

How to Save the Lives of 600,000 Children Per Year

Myriam Sidibe is a warrior in the fight against childhood disease. Her weapon of choice? A bar of soap. For cost-effective prevention against sickness, it’s hard to beat soapy hand-washing, which cuts down risk of pneumonia, diarrhea, cholera and worse. Sidibe, a public-health expert, makes a smart case for public-private partnerships to promote clean hands — and local, sustainable entrepreneurship. - TED

Cheap Toothpaste Recipe


Have you noticed the blogs talking about oil pulling lately? If you don't know what that is, check out this helpful piece. While we have tried oil pulling, it is super helpful in keeping bad breath (read: coffee breath) at bay, we prefer something a little easier and a lot less time consuming. We make our own toothpaste and have been doing so for over a year. It is SUPER simple. Your ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (cheapest is at Trader Joe's)
  • 3 Tablespoons Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Packet of Stevia (optional)
  • 20-25 Drops Peppermint Essential Oil (at your health food store)

To make mixing easier, I measure out my coconut oil into my small glass container that I'll be storing the paste in and melt the oil slightly in the microwave. It only takes 3-5 seconds. Coconut oil melts at 76 degrees so it really doesn't take much. Then I mix in the baking soda, stevia and essential oil.

After I adjusted to making my own toothpaste I stop using stevia. Try using it with and without to figure out your preference. Not a fan of peppermint? Try a different essential oil! Maybe you are a cinnamon fan so see how you like that in your new toothpaste - or better yet, create your own personaled combination of oils.

After the first few times using the toothpaste you'll notice whiter teeth and healthier gums. We do recommend not sharing the container of paste; instead make ones for each family member who will be using it. Since you are dipping your brush in, you might not want to share that many germs.

How To Get Apple Merch When You Don't Live In Cupertino

For Apple Fan Girls, like myself, there is nothing more frustrating than wanting to get Apple branded mercy when you live nowhere near the ONE store on Earth that, legally, sells Apple logo products. In the past, this hasn't been a big deal. We have friends that go to Cupertino fairly often and, when we want something, we just ask them to pick a mug, pen, or t-shirt up for us. This has worked really well, until I found something that I needed to acquire before a hard deadline.

What did I have to have? First, this was really for a friend who is pregnant with her first daughter. It is an embroidered Apple baby hat (which I later learned is called a beanie). Once I discovered this hat was in existence, I search every potential place that could sell it. I scoured Etsy & Ebay; tried every keyword in Google; and eventually, remembered the Apple branded products that are only sold in the Cupertino store. Unfortunately, I thought of this about 3 hours after they closed.

The next day, Tori, the friend who had to have the beanie, patiently (ok, we we really don't do well with waiting) waited until the store opened & called them to confirm that a-they sold this beanie and b-that they would ship it to a very pregnant woman calling them the second that they opened. Enter California tax code and Apple can't ship the beanie - BUT they do sell it!

We now know there is a beanie at the store exactly 4.5 hours, by direct flight, away from Alexandria. Since we weren't planning on a trip to San Francisco in the near future, and Tori's due date is getting closer every day, we had to come up with a new solution. Enter TaskRabbit.

TaskRabbit allows you to hire someone to run errands or do tasks for you in certain areas of the US; most importantly, in the Bay Area. A few minutes later, we had an account and posted our task: go to the Apple Company Store in Cupertino, buy 1 pink baby beanie/hat and ship it. A few minutes after posting the task, there were several offers for people bidding on the task. As I am writing this, there is a pink Apple beanie on its way to Tori.

So that my friends, is an easy way to get that "I've visited the mothership" t-shirt or other Apple products you've been craving; all with out leaving your couch.

If 5 Year Olds Can Make Espresso...

If only there was a VCR DVD player company smart enough to produce a video like this to show how easy it is to get that blinking 12:00 to go away. Now, that would also mean my grandparents would need to not return the computer they bought; but, we'll take one step at a time (and get them an iPad).

I've not looked into the brand, but this makes me want to ask for a full-blown espresso maker for our upcoming two year anniversary. When great espresso machines have the reputation of being super complicated, it is a great marketing video. Espresso - the one thing I like more than peanut butter.

Kickstarter: Feeding My Coffee Addiction

Dear god do I love anything that helps me produce a better coffee in the morning, well who am I kidding, any time of day. Kickstarter, for those that haven't heard of it, is an online platform for those who have a concept/idea/product to find funding through backers. When you explore their site, you find all sorts of creative ideas, concepts and products.

One morning shortly after my surgery, Joel came rushing into the living room ecstatically telling me that I had to back this one product. The project is called The Cosmonaut: A Wide-Grip Stylus. Unlike other styluses out there, it feels more like a dry erase marker than a pen. There really isn't a similar product on the market to compare this to other than the sharpie cap styluses (love my sharpies!) and those scare me. I picture getting a stylus cap, giving it to a coworker to play with and, then, I have a permanently branded iPad. It's not the exact look I am going for for iPad decorations. Or let's face it, I would probably do that pre-coffee.

So, how does kickstarter feed my coffee addiction? Well, after backing my first project I found the mother ship. :: angelic sound::

Enter Coffee Joulies.

Coffee Joulies are these coffee shaped thing-a-ma-bobs that you put in your coffee to absorb some of the super hot temperature; later, the Joulies release that heat back into your coffee to keep it warmer longer.

In full disclosure, I backed these projects when I was still on my pain medications, but even after being off those for several weeks, I am happy I did. Actually, I can't wait for my Joulies to get here. When I backed both projects, I backed them to a level where you received the stylus and a set of Jouiles. Now, I just need them to get here.

The one part of the Coffee Joulies story that I love (besides making my coffee better) is that originally they were going to manufacture the Joulies in Mexico. It is well-known that it is usually chepaer to manufacture goods there. The Coffee Joulies kickstarter project did so well, they actually moved their manufacturing from Mexico to upstate New York! It makes me happy that more than enough people all over the world are willing to back a project to the extent that they are able to re-open a closed factory and give people jobs that wouldn't have otherwise had them.

Kickstarter is gaining lots of ground with me and turning into my little fun project finder. You can back projects at all different levels and it makes me feel like a extremely small time Angle Investor. I get something for investing and I am able to help someone's idea come to life. I like it.

Chief Collaboration Officer

The last few days, HBR has caused me to start thinking, yet again. There was an article posted to their blog about how each organization needs to have a Chief Collaboration Officer. As I started reading and processing the article, it made perfect sense.

Increasingly, companies are embracing collaboration as part of their strategy to grow, by cross-selling products to existing customers and innovating through the recombination of existing technologies. But this won't work unless employees work effectively across silos — across sales offices, business units, sales, product development, and marketing.

This new Chief would be the person responsible to connecting the different areas within the organization and beating down those silos. Beyond this, new media would be housed under this Chief. Which, in my opinion, is the perfect location. This person is someone who would teach their staff how to develop relationships on and offline. Staff in other departments would know who to go to for specific projects. They would be the people connecting others together to work more efficiently. They would be the new type of project manager.

...craft a holistic solution to collaboration, one that involves strategy, HR, product development, sales solutions, marketing, and IT. In short, he needs to be a masterful collaborator. Choosing a CCO is less about which role a person currently occupies and more about whether he or she has the skills. Pick the best collaborator.

In a older, hierarchal system, this would be extremely difficult to implement. This new type of employee could be perceived as rocking the boat. I would encourage those who see this type of position this way to examine their structure. Where are the silos? Are there any? Is this type of collaboration happening naturally? Are specific people already fulfilling this role but without the Chief title? If they are, connect with those individual. You never know, you might already have someone on staff who is perfect for this role.

Delusions of Progress

This morning I was pursuing the actual paper copy of Harvard Business Review and came across the article that is below: Women in Management: Delusions of Progress which HBR has thoughtfully put online. I wrote about the full report the authors had published through another outlet in early March. The fact that HBR is continuing to cover this issue makes me extremely happy. The more awareness there is about the lack of women in leadership positions the greater the chances are that we will make it through these glass doors. 

About two weeks ago I was asked what I was doing to fix the fact that only 3% of Fortune500 CEO's are women. The answer I gave really surprised the individual. My position allows me the opportunity to influence the lives of many women and men. Though these programs we teach equality and that anyone can be a CEO. These young professionals are striving to gain ground in the nonprofit sector, but still, we are helping them reach their potential. I can't wait to see where they go in their careers. 

The accepted message on gender disparity in the workplace has for the past 10 to 15 years been one of acknowledgment and reassurance: Yes, women represent just 3% of Fortune500 CEOs and less than 15% of corporate executives at top companies worldwide, but give it time. It’ll change. After all, women also make up 40% of the global workforce, with double-digit growth in certain countries. They’re earning advanced professional degrees in record numbers and in some areas surpassing men. Companies have implemented programs to fix structural biases against women and support their full participation in leadership. Women are finally poised to make it to the top, the argument goes. Not yet, but soon.

If only that were true. New research by our firm, Catalyst, shows that among graduates of elite MBA programs around the world—the high potentials on whom companies are counting to navigate the turbulent global economy over the next decade—women continue to lag men at every single career stage, right from their first professional jobs. Reports of progress in advancement, compensation, and career satisfaction are at best overstated, at worst just plain wrong.

“Frankly, the fact that the pipeline is not as healthy as we’d thought is both surprising and disappointing,” says Jim Turley, the chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young, a sponsor of the research, which tracked more than 4,100 MBA students who graduated between 1996 and 2007. “Companies have been working on this, and I thought we’d seen progress. The last decade was supposed to be the ‘promised one,’ and it turns out that it wasn’t. This is a wake-up call for corporations.”

It’s especially disconcerting that, after a decade of aggressive efforts to create opportunities for women, inequity remains entrenched. Companies must acknowledge their failure on this front, learn why they haven’t succeeded, and come up with better programs to help talented women advance.

Even after adjusting for years of work experience, industry, and region, Catalyst found that men started their careers at higher levels than women. And that isn’t because women don’t aspire to the top—the finding holds when you include only women and men who say they’re aiming for senior executive positions. It’s not a matter of parenthood slowing women’s careers, either. Among women and men without children living at home, men still started at higher levels.

“Most companies’ systems are designed to be all about equity among a like group of jobs and roles,” observed Xerox chair Anne M. Mulcahy when we shared the results with her. “They’re not looking for inequity in terms of initial position.” Though well intentioned, “companies have gotten very good at managing grade levels and salary dispersions. If you come in the door in the wrong placement, those systems aren’t going to adjust the imbalance.”*

Firms must consider how their talent management processes contribute to the problem. This is especially critical regarding first jobs, since they set the stage for all the inequities that follow. Assumptions about demographics and life choices—women leave to start families; women don’t aspire to upper management; regional differences skew the results—have become handy excuses for gender inequity in the management ranks, even putting the onus on female employees for the discrepancies. But our results suggest they’re red herrings that don’t account for why women continue to lag.

Mulcahy proposed a simple test for companies to see if they have systemic bias. “Take the résumés of the last 100 people hired, remove the names, do an assessment of where the hires should be positioned, and compare that with where they were placed.”

Current Jobs

After starting out behind, women don’t catch up. Men move further up the career ladder—and they move faster. In our study, the only women who advanced at an equal pace were those who began their post-MBA careers at middle management or above—and not many did. Only about 10% started at those levels, compared with 19% of men.

“Does this reflect the presumption that men are qualified and ready but women have to prove themselves first?” asks Bloomberg chief marketing officer Maureen A. McGuire. (More research will be needed to truly answer her question.) She adds: “Companies need to make sure they’re placing managers based on qualifications, not presumptions.”

Can we attribute men’s disproportionate advancement to early managerial assignments? No. Although it’s true that people who have managed others reached higher levels, the women and men in our study were equally likely at every career stage to have had direct reports.

We think that gender difference in advancement may reflect another problem altogether: bad first bosses.

Why they Change Jobs

And so we circle back to those fate-sealing first jobs. A quarter of the women in our study left their first job because of a difficult manager—nearly as many as those who moved on for more money (26%) or for a career change (27%). Only 16% of the men left because of a difficult manager. Of course, these results suggest that women and men may be treated differently by their first managers.

Once again, early-career success is proving to be crucial. “It’s very important who your first or second supervisor is,” says Rick Waugh, president and CEO of Scotiabank, another research sponsor. “Many times, that determines whether you’re going to stay with that organization and how far you’re going to advance. That first landing spot—whether you get coached, developed, and mentored or you get a bad manager—casts the die. Companies need to put more emphasis on manager–direct report relationships in that first job.”

Research shows that diverse talent supports innovation and business success, yet organizations underutilize and undervalue their highest-potential female talent. Given the commonly held misperception that the talent pipeline is robust, companies are at risk of allowing complacency to inhibit their competitive advantage. While progress has been made in many firms, more work clearly needs to be done. Even among the best and brightest managers, gender equality has yet to be attained. Despite genuine efforts to ensure fairness, some businesses may be inadvertently overlooking bias that creeps in at initial job placement. Others may underestimate early managers’ impact on employees’ career trajectories. And others may have neglected the topic of gender equality in recent years, considering it an issue of the past. Our research should indeed be a wake-up call, and organizations need to answer it with renewed efforts to combat systemic gender inequity. Not soon, but now.


*I underlined and italicized the quote.

Top Attributes for Success

Over at the Anita Borg Institute this morning they published a new report about women in technology. Through their research they "...identified top attributes for success for senior technical women". What are your thoughts? Think they nailed it on the head? I am liking their findings: 

  • Analytical: The majority of senior technical women perceive themselves as analytical. Indeed, all technical employees tend to see themselves as high on this attribute, as technical careers tend to first and foremost look for analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • Unafraid to Question/Desire to Learn: A majority consider themselves as questioning – having the ability to ask the right questions, which is critical to problem-solving.
  • Risk-Takers: A majority of senior technical women view themselves as risk-takers, which was identified by technical employees as one of the top four attributes of success. Moderate amounts of risk-taking are an important part of leadership, and senior women and men are equally as likely to perceive themselves as risk takers. This research shatters the stereotype that men are more likely to be risk takers than women are.
  • Collaborative: Senior technical women are collaborators. A collaborative work style is perceived as a critical success factor in high-technology by both technical men and women, and is consistent with a culture that values innovation, which cannot be achieved without extensive collaboration. Collaboration is both a critical source of success but also a great source of career satisfaction. 
  • Hard-working/Long Hours: Advancement for senior women comes with long working hours. This finding is consistent with the culture of technology where advancement is tied to increased responsibility and significant availability. This can be a barrier for women who seek advancement while juggling family responsibilities in dual-career couples. 72 percent of the senior technical women surveyed reported cutting back on sleep to advance their careers and nearly a third have delayed having children.
  • Assertive: A majority of senior technical women describe themselves as assertive – significantly more so than women at the entry and mid levels. In a professional culture that rewards speaking up, self-promotion, and ambition, senior women interviewed uniformly said they had to learn to be assertive and promote themselves in order to advance. However, research also shows that women have less freedom than men in assertive behavior. Because women’s assertiveness defy long-standing gender stereotypes, women often experience a “likeability penalty” when they are assertive.

The Back of the Napkin

Dan Roam's illustration of Capt. Sully's Flight - I think this drawing may have lead to the drawing we saw in today's classI hadn’t heard of Dan Roam's The Back of the Napkin till I was reviewing the Great Ideas Conference schedule and trying to figure out what sessions would be best for the Leadership Academy students to attend. Through some exploring, and more than a few minutes sitting in the Knowledge Center reading The Back of the Napkin, I became intrigued with Dan’s concept. It is quite simple actually. If you want to solve a problem, draw a picture. What amazes me is how his idea works! Today, through Dan’s generosity, he spent over an hour discussing this concept in more detail with the Academy over a multi-media conference call.

After Dan further explained the “advanced napkin” concept through the perfect example of Peets Coffee (get his book to learn more), he went into a new concept he is working on: explaining how to fix our economy, the auto industry, and improve the green movement. It turns out all three “movements” are actually interconnected. Through the course of drawing a picture and logically presenting his findings, the Academy students decided Dan Roam should run for President. It was a simple drawing of three circles. And the extremely hard task of figuring how to bring the US out of this recession suddenly....looked very simple....and easy to understand. All through thinking through a problem and creating a picture.

For those of you saying “I can’t draw,” if you can draw a stick figure and a smiley face, you can craft the pictures Dan is talking about. Even I can draw these pictures.

So today’s lesson is, if you have a problem that you just aren’t sure how to solve 1- read Dan’s book and 2- draw a picture on the back of a napkin (hey, it is how Southwest Airlines got started).