Wishing everyone a wonderful Holiday season!

Whiting Consulting, Chernee Vitello

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The Art of Simplicity

"Keep it Simple"

In business and in life I think we sometimes make a process harder than it has to be. I for one don’t like to reinvent the wheel – I am constantly looking around for ideas or suggestions on how to make a situation or process easier. But there is something I think we have lost with all our cool technology and how we have evolved through commercialization and getting the best deal etc… We have lost sight of the fundamentals and keeping things simple.

We built our house seven years ago. And, of course, all our appliances are starting to get the seven year inch. We bought them at a “Big Box” store which will remain nameless, and when our washing machine and dryer started to go they would not come out and fix it.  Now we bought the appliances there because their price was right (cheap) and they offered extras like not having to pay for a year, no interest, and 10% coupon off for building a house… I could go on and on… But after the transaction was completed, you no longer mattered …It felt a little like “see ya later and good luck with all this stuff you bought!”

Back to the future seven years later; a lot of these appliances have decided that they are not so interested in working properly. I should mention now that my hubby and I are not the handiest of folks. You will not come to my door and have my husband answer it with a wrench in his hand!  I am talking with my Dad about the issues we were having with the appliances and he tells me to call the “guy” on Main Street, and he can probably fix it.

Sure enough after six months of having a leaky washing machine the local store fixed it.

I decided to go pay the repair bill in person. The store has not been updated probably since the 60’s. It was a hand written receipt. There were no fancy promotions or gadgets in the store… You have to pay for the product up front…(with the cost of appliances these days is not easy for everyone). But do you know what they do have? He has been in business for over 50 years, he wears a tie to work every day, he knows his products inside and out, along with what the big chains are selling. He was responsive, he showed up when he said he was going to…and by the way, he fixed our problem that no one else cared to fix!

The guy keeps his process simple…He develops and thrives on customer loyalty. He wants to earn your business and wants you to be a repeat customer. He used to be one of the only games in town for years, but he has been able to survive the “Big Box” invasion because of his ability to focus on his fundamentals and never forget that a delighted customer is a customer for life!

So the lesson here to my fellow business owners is: look for the simplicity in business. Sometimes we make it harder for ourselves than we need to…

Discounts are cool …gadgets are fun…but to me, true fundamentals don’t change!!

 

Startups: The Rising of Women Entrepreneurs

"Rosie the Riveter", "We Can Do It!"More and more women are being called entrepreneurs in today’s marketplace. Last week I was able to attend the NYU ‘Women in Startups’ panel, which featured four NYC based entrepreneurs who shared their experiences and advice with an eager crowd of students. Speakers from startups included: SpotOn, Go Try It On, aut faciam, and Rent the Runway. It was a phenomenal panel, packed with stories, advice, and enthusiasm for the love of entrepreneurship.

Here at Whiting Consulting, we are approaching our 10 year celebration of entrepreneurship as a woman owned business. Along with celebrating our 10th anniversary soon, we are celebrating the ideas and inspirations of female entrepreneurs in the startup space. During college, I never would’ve thought that I would be working in the startup space. Once I fell into working with startups, I had never seen so much passion before for an idea someone has. It’s very refreshing to see and hear everyone’s enthusiasm, especially attending startup events down in New York City. Many of the women within the startup space have inspired me and helped me come to the realization of the difference we can all make in the economy for pursuing a small spark that’s burning inside, eager to make a difference in the tech community.

In a recent Fast Company article, Women-Led Startups are the Key to New Job Creation, only 35% of startup business owners are women. Marissa Evans of Go Try It On, stated that more and more women are becoming business owners, and becoming better at what they do.  Rent the Runway’s, Jennifer Fleiss, believes that this percentage will increase to over 50% in the next five years.

In the article, it stated that women don’t have the same network and role models as men do in the steps of starting their own companies. I asked some of the following panelists who their role models were when they were going through the startup process.

Gauri Manglik of SpotOn, said that Art.sy founder, Carter Cleveland, was her role model. She found some inspiration from him, because they are around the same age. Gauri was also looking at Apple and Instagram products as guidance, and how they’ve become established in the marketplace.

Marissa Evans sees any entrepreneur who contributes and gives back to the community by speaking to alumni as a role model. Her top pick is Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey, because of the great success of growth in his company.

Jennifer Fleiss was very fortunate to have great mentors along her journey which include: Carley Roney, founder of TheKnot.com, Dan Rosenweig, CEO at Chegg, and Marc Lore, Co-founder of Crunch Base. What helped made Jennifer’s journey a success was teaming up and having a great partner along the way.

All of these ladies had someone that inspired them. I believe anyone can go where they want to go, as long as they have some sort of inspiration to help them along the way. I also think that having the same network as everyone else isn’t going to make or break your startup. It’s how you leverage your network to get where you need it to go.

At the NYU panel, I asked these ladies what advice they could give to other women who want to start their own courageous path. Everyone’s overlaying message was: Learn everything you possibly can, and just go out there and do it. The best thing is to expose yourself, read blogs, and be open to new ideas.

Alexis Goldstein of aut faciam, told the audience that if you have an idea and see a particular need not being fulfilled by anyone else, give it a shot. It’s okay not to succeed at times, but you have to be able to make a decision to believe in yourself.

Other times you need to make risks, and think how it’ll benefit you in the long-run. Jennifer Fleiss and her co-founder, agreed to never write a business plan, because starting a business should be about tests and risks, then growing from what you’ve learned:

“In my opinion, there are four keys to success that I discovered early on that were fundamental to Rent the Runway’s launch that can easily be applied to other business models: (1) Test the Marketplace, (2) Show by Example, (3) Build a team, and (4) Realize that “No” means “Not Right Now.” …Starting a business is a series of iterative tests. Each test eliminates some of the risks of starting one. It is best to just believe in yourself and jump right into it, test it out, and grow by learning.”

The experiences and advice the ladies on the panel shared were very captivating and inspiring for the audience. The tech scene is a welcoming community, and will be seeing more and more women take the stage in startups. Any woman who has an idea should let their dreams run wild with it. Estee Lauder summed up her experience that can apply to any woman with a spark for an idea to pursue: “I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it.

Photo credit: Wikipedia.com

Post written by Julie Skowronek, Assistant Marketing Manager at Whiting Consulting.

Decorating a New Office on a Budget

We all have hobbies…one of mine is decorating. I love fabric and color and putting ideas and concepts together. I would say my sense of style is traditional.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, I would like anything out of the Pottery Barn catalog.  🙂

I decided to give the office a different look and feel and bring out the pink girly-girl in me. The design concept for the office first came from the space itself…I was going to have a ton of natural light and high ceilings.  The building was built in the 1880’s and it has a lot of dark wood and character.  It is an open space, but with a lot of “defined” areas where I knew I would be able to differentiate them with different uses of color.

I bought this fabric about 6 years ago for one of the first pieces of furniture that I recovered.  It was a little stool my kids used to stand on to wash their hands in our powder room.  In our old office the walls were grey…and I am not a grey kind of person.  I love color and light and need that to feel productive. So I knew right off the bat I wanted the walls to have a bright color palette. I decided to pull greens, blues, and pinks for the space…similar to the colors in our logo. I also used a green hue – Laura Ashley Sage Green that I used in my dining room at home – I think it is good if you can to leverage color that you live with all the time in other spaces…it looks different at the office than my house because of the light. I also painted the inner walls a yellow green to make the green pop and to feel like sunshine.

I also decided I wanted the office not to look like an office but more of a comfortable sitting room – so I went with a French Country theme… and started shopping – another one of my favorite hobbies!  I also decided to buy local, so I hit the area Antique stores, thrift stores and Craigslist….

I got such joy in buying an ugly, beat up of piece of furniture for 10 to 50 dollars and making it beautiful with paint and fabric…

So where do you start?  I started with the fabric and style…I knew I wanted a farmhouse table for our conference room ($45.00)…I also knew I wanted a floral fabric for the chairs…I wanted a turn of the century camel back couch (which I found in a local antique store for $150 dollars – that was the deal of the century). Instead of office furniture I utilized dressers and credenzas for storage and places to put printers…

It took me about 5 months to buy all the pieces and my garage and my mother in law’s garage looked like a used furniture store. We started at the beginning of the summer refinishing furniture and painting…my big splurge was having two chairs reupholstered, a trade that I wish I new…but boy was it worth it and I love the chair in my office – it is one of my favorite corners in the new space.

All in all I spent less than $2000.00 on furnishing a 1,600 square foot office.  It was a very exciting process…I am going to have fun picking pieces of art and little odds and ends for the space…I love having a place that is pink and has shades of green and patterns that I can’t use in my own home. If you are a business owner have your office be like a second home – it sure does feel like it sometime…look for pieces and color palettes that will inspire your staff and get them excited about coming into work each day.  I think decor really does matter and makes a first impression when you have a candidate walk into your space…If your employees feel comfortable in their surroundings they will want to come to work and feel motivated to do a great job for the business….

Don’t go to your regular OfficeMax; think outside the box…think about your brand and who your company is and what story does your space tell…Use your creative side…for me it was so fun to see what had been in my mind for a long time become a reality.

We Have Exciting News- We Have Moved to a New Office…

So if you haven’t noticed we have not written a blog in over two months – we apologize for that ….however, we have been busy getting ready for our office move.

The adventure started some 7 months ago when we realized we had out grown our current space (which was a two room office suite).  Even though we loved being part of a traditional old town main street – we were growing and needed to spread our wings. I was not looking for the typical office space. Since we spend a lot of time at the office I wanted a unique space that had character and that I could decorate…..

I heard about a couple of historical buildings that were being taken over and made into office space. When I first looked at the new space it was down to the bare studs and lath (something that I have not seen since my parents redid there 1828 house)…I was not sure – I could not figure out how this building was going to come together…

Greg O’Connell, a local businessman that restores old buildings and has been very successful in the revitalization of the neighboring town Mt Morris, purchased the building. Greg was awesome throughout this process…he really let me design and customize the space to my needs.  He knows that a happy tenant is one who will stay for a while.

We decided to open up the space as much as possible – making the doors wider and adding glass and keeping the old finishings to keep the building in its native state….We ended up with an office for me (24 foot ceilings), an open environment for our recruiting and sourcing center that could fit 4 desks, a sitting area, a conference room, break area and kitchen – we more that quadruple our space….



Over the last several months as Gregg’s restoration team went to work it really all came to life.  First, the lathe was covered up and we had walls!  Amazing!  Then, color on those walls that really helped define the space.  Finally, the original floors were refurbished to their natural beauty and the space all came together!

When redoing a space you need to think about flow….as a business owner I needed to think about what I really needed – how did I want communication and energy to flow throughout the space….I wanted an open office concept…our business thrives on energy – I wanted big windows, natural light – no more fluorescent light bulbs for me….I wanted normal looking furniture….I did not want to be surrounded by everything looking like an office…I wanted a space that would encourage productivity and an environment where people wanted to come to everyday and be their best.

We have now been in our new space a week…still have a couple of things to iron out – not used to walking in high heels on the hardwood floors – but to be surround by great colors, beautiful sunlight (natural light on those grey days) and pieces of furniture that have a story to tell have been awesome. I look forward to our next blog where I will talk about how I decorated the space on a budget by utilizing many of our local antique stores and consignment shops.

Employee-Customer Interaction Starts with Engagement

The focus of building a trusting relationship with customers takes time and patience…but what else? In a recent post from Brian Solis, he says that changing your company’s focus to the quality of the customer experience should be top-most on your list of company priorities.

Listen, Customer, Customer-centricity, "Employee-customer relationship", "customer service", custome rfocus

Once in a while, we come across an experience where an employee might not seem 100% customer focused. Sure, they might be interacting with the customer…but are they listening? Hearing the input and feedback carefully, and having the employee interpret it properly will ultimately build a longer valued relationship with the customer. A process similar to this one takes some training and practice for employees, but it’s a great way for a company to change their tactics in grasping what is most valuable…not necessarily the product, but the people and the brand.

Similar to Tony Hsieh’s WOW customer experience…listen and give back 105% more than what they’ve expected. This will create a brand that is solid rock. My favorite quote in Brian Solis’ post that fully represents the real employee-customer relationship is:

“Customer-centricity begins with internal transformation and the willingness to adapt or create processes and programs that break down internal silos. It’s not just about communicating with customers; it’s about showing them that listening translates into action within the organization to create better products and services and also foster valuable brand experiences and ultimately relationships with customers. It’s also about empowering employees to improve those experiences and relationships in the front line and to recognize and reward their ability to contribute to a new era of customer engagement and collaboration.”

His words are powerful and completely true. What are some of your successful customer experience stories?

 

Post written by Julie Skowronek, Assistant Marketing Manager at Whiting Consulting.

Photo credit: Allbizanswers.com

“What Makes a Top Performer in Business?” Series: Part I

Sitting on my shelf collecting dust bunnies since last fall, I finally decided to pick up and open the book Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin.

What suddenly peaked my interest in the talent subject was graduating exactly a year ago and where I have come in my career since then.  It got me thinking about where and what I will be many years from now.

Within the past year, I have followed, read, met, and spoken with many great business leaders in all industries, and this got me thinking about career paths and just how do people get to the top. Are they always in it to win it, or do they just go with the flow from a strategic plan?

When you see or hear the word “talent,” what instantly comes into your mind? Is it sports, a favorite game of yours, or the skills required in your job?

We might think that world-class performers in any area of interest were born with an unexplained “gift.” Geoff Colvin states that researchers found that superstars like Bill Gates, Jack Welch, or Warren Buffet are just like everyone else from the start of their careers. Anyone can reach to be world class performers in their industry by exhausting deliberate practice. Researchers found few signs of advanced achievement before the individuals started intensive training, stated Colvin.

One could argue that, well if it’s not a natural “gift,” then it has to be IQ. Yet, Colvin pointed out something I never realized before, “…IQ was of no value in predicting how quickly they would improve. Many studies of adults in the workplace have shown the same pattern.”

So, if high achievers and intelligence aren’t intertwined, then how can a company find and keep the talent to grow?

Colvin coined the term “human ability,” and he determined that it’s a company’s scarcest resource to date. Companies need to spot potential, provide constant challenges and, offer growth opportunities in order to develop an employee to become a phenomenon. This way, companies can continuously build success from their highly-developed employees, which will yield limitless potential.

Bill Gates once said:

“If you took the twenty smartest people out of Microsoft it would be an insignificant company, and if you ask around the company what its core competency is, they don’t say anything about software. They say it’s hiring. They know what the scarce resource is.”

The main message from Colvin’s book thus far: no one knows if they have or will acquire these traits to become a world-class performer. The question is: what makes some people excel more than others? Stay tuned for part two…

Photo credit: zimbio.com

Post written by Julie Skowronek, Assistant Marketing Manager at Whiting Consulting.

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