Thursday, April 30, 2009

What would Julia do?

Have you ever been faced with a problem and been told that you just have to live with it? It just doesn’t seem right. I’m not talking about the Biggies like cancer or bankruptcy problems – more like pesky problems that seem like they ought to be fixable.

A friend of mine has such a problem at the moment. A small thing is causing a LOT of trouble. This is easy to believe when you take into consideration that the small thing is a skunk who has been living under her kitchen for the past six weeks and stink-bombing them every few days. For effect, I should add that my dear friend is seven months pregnant with her third child.

Now a skunk can be a problem, but here’s what’s got me thinking. No one will do anything to help them get rid of the skunk. The ‘wildlife’ experts my friend has called in will barely even get out of their cars in front of the house and no one – I repeat, no one - is going under that kitchen to meet Mr. Skunk in person. Things are getting desperate at her place – last I heard, my very pregnant friend had to construct a ‘skunk-ramp’ under the house to assist the skunk in departing. Herself.

Now, in situations such as these, I ask myself, “What would Julia do?” Julia Roberts, that is. If Julia Roberts had a skunk under her kitchen, sharing its perfume with Danny, Henry and the twins would she be told, “Sorry. Nothing we can do.”? Obviously not. I am positive that someone would be right over, thank you very much. (When I posed this question to my friend, she dryly replied that Julia would move to the Malibu house while the skunk was removed and that she’d have her kitchen remodelled while they were at it.) But the point is, if there is a solution for Julia, surely there is a solution for all of us. And what’s good for the goose, ought to be good for the skunk sufferer. Haven’t we all been in a situation where we’re told that we have to accept a poor outcome when it seems like there ought to be a solution?

As a business owner, I can relate to the wildlife guy not wanting to crawl around in dark places where one is likely to meet a skunk. We don’t have anything equivalently daunting at Admiral Road. In our case it’s more like someone wanting to order a custom blanket, with Sanskrit script, above the image of a family of ferrets. (It’s not available, in case you were wondering). However, if someone was in desperate need of said blanket I’d like to believe we’d try and find a way to help them – either by working with them to modify their idea or even by referring them to a competitor if need be. Leaving someone high and dry? We think it stinks.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The G2 Summit

Barack Obama has blazed through his first 100 days as President of the United States accomplishing many "firsts" along the way. This summer, Obama will experience another 'first' as he heads to Italy for the annual G8 summit. The G8 began as an informal way for eight of the world's most powerful leaders to get together. Today the goal of the G8 summit is not about quick fixes for complex problems, rather it is an opportunity to raise issues and plan how to tackle them.

While on a much smaller scale, businesses also have complex problems that require thought and planning. When you own your own business, planning is key. Without planning you are liable to drift off course, at best by being reactive to the minutiae of daily business life, or at worst – whiling away hours on facebook or with Oprah.

After starting our business, Danielle and I spent much of our early years mired in the weeds. Sure, we had done a comprehensive business plan when we started the company (you can’t take the MBA out of the girl!), but there is a big difference between a business plan and ongoing business planning. Although a helpful exercise, your business plan pretty much becomes obsolete the minute you finish it. Businesses are organic creatures, changing all the time. For us, there was so much initially to learn just to get a blanket out the door – how to make one, how to ship one, where to find our customers. Planning definitely took a back seat. Then, about two years in, we had what we called the G2 Summit. (That would be Danielle. And me.) We sat down and talked about our priorities for the business and began to look at our business in a new way. We made a plan and then executed it. A year later we had another G2 Summit and made up a whole new "to do" list for the year ahead. Annual planning was a huge change for us. Up until then, business planning meant looking, at most, three months down the road. Now we understand that by clarifying our goals for the year ahead we are better prepared to deal with issues that arise.

Now we have monthly planning meetings. We set goals. We assign responsibility. And we move forward. Even if you're a solo-preneur, there is so much value in planning. It helps you learn about your business, how the various parts work together, and how it might evolve. I find a lot of comfort in having a road map. All you need to do is follow it.

Now, if we could only plan our next summit in Italy.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Selling joy

As long-time mom entrepreneurs, we are routinely approached by women who want to pick our brains as they get their own mom entrepreneur businesses off the ground. We love to hear what other women are doing and really like the exercise of thinking about someone else’s business. (Nothing easier to solve than someone else’s problems!)

There are many things to consider, of course, when coming up with the big idea – but here’s a little something we learned the easy way: It’s a whole lot nicer to sell joy than pain. Here’s what I mean: When we were in the process of leaping out of corporate life and into entrepreneurship we considered many different business ideas. We were downright methodical about it – we had a list of criteria and a list of ideas and we connected the dots to see what worked. Baby blankets worked. Throw in some money, sleepless nights and a whole lot of work and presto! A business was born. Something noticeably missing from our criteria were the intangible questions, "what is the ‘feel’ of this business?" "What state of mind will my customers be in?" "Is this a joyful product/experience/service or something that our customers enjoy about as much as they do gingivitis?"

We’ve been on the right side of the happy equation for seven years now. Every time a customer contacts us, something lovely is happening in his or her life – a baby has been born, a birthday has arrived, a holiday approaches. Our customers come to us with joy. As a business owner, this makes a whole lot of difference to your day. Have you ever called the phone company joyfully? Of course not. (Not that they deserve it, but don’t get me started on that subject.) The tax office? Uh uh. We can’t believe how many lovely e-mails we’ve received over the years from gracious customers, not to mention photos for our gallery and kind referrals. We’d like to believe that a good product and solid customer service have a lot to do with that, but we know that state of mind goes a long way toward a positive experience.

Can you base your business concept on a warm fuzzy feeling? Probably not. But all other things being equal, we’d definitely recommend it.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's Coupon Time

Hey Roadies,

Just in case you didn't receive our latest newsletter, we wanted to let you know that there is a coupon available for $5 off your next blanket order. Just enter ARDSPRING09 at check out. The coupon is valid for another week (until April 17th), so be sure to take advantage.

While you're on the Admiral Road web site, stop by to check out our new gift baskets. They're fresh and gorgeous - sure to be a big hit with babies and parents alike.

Want to know what we've been up to? Visit our Buzz section to see where Admiral Road has shown up over the past year. Our blankets and scarves have cropped up all over the place!

Wishing you a cozy Spring,

The Admiral Road Team

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.