What to do When Your Hair’s Not on Fire

While Christmas is still a few days away, the holidays are pretty much over at Zen Rabbit. It was a busy season. Year over year sales are up 27%! But unlike at Amazon.com, orders from my client base do not typically keep coming in right up till Christmas Eve. The majority of Zen Rabbit’s orders ship to or from businesses, so their sentiments have pretty much been exchanged.

It’s an odd feeling. After running for weeks like my hair’s on fire, all of a sudden I’ve got nothing to do. Okay, not completely nothing – there are thank you notes to be written and reading to catch up on – but going at such a slow pace may as well be not moving at all.

And yes, I get that this is okay, even necessary. It’s still uncomfortable. So as I sit at my desk with a box of crayons, colored pencils and “Coloring Mandalas” book, finally taking time for one of my favorite relaxing activities, I’ll continue working on being comfortable with being uncomfortable, knowing that this philosophy is what life is all about.

Sales & Discounts: A Service or Disservice?

Ever since Black Friday, I’ve been thinking about this question. Is it a service or a disservice to offer deep discounts to customers? As a customer, I love being able to take advantage of a good discount and save money. Who doesn’t?

On the other hand, seeing such crazy price cuts and knowing that even with the markdowns, stores are not selling at a loss, makes me think these retailers must have pricing really jacked up in the first place. And that makes me mad – for a couple of reasons.

As a consumer, if I pay full price and in a next week it’s on sale for 50%, I feel like I paid too much. Even if I go back and the store gives me the price difference, how much time and effort will that take? Time is valuable too, so probably not worth it.

As a business owner, I can see how these practices condition customers to expect and wait for sales. Sometimes, seeing all the 20%, 45% and 70% off promotions around me encourages me to think about putting my products on sale too. But unless there’s a very good reason, such as it’s at the end of its shelf life or you need to clear out a particular package, discounting cheapens the value of what you’re offering.

Have you noticed that Louis Vuitton, Rolex, MAC and Under Armour never go on sale? Sure you can argue that LV and Rolex are luxury items and their target market can afford them regardless. The other two brands are not considered luxury though, so that logic doesn’t work too well. Furthermore, I saw an article earlier this month in which Louis Vuitton Chief Executive Philip Corne was quoted as saying, “If we never go on sale, then we never undervalue the product. This consistency is well-recognised by the consumer.”

Right on; there’s the key. It’s not about the cost – it’s about the VALUE (which gets into a whole other blog post, to be written soon. In the meantime, watch this Bob Burg video clip).

If what you’re providing is of real value, then offering it at a discount seems to be more of a disservice to your clients. Your thoughts?

Black Friday Insanity

It’s Black Friday 2010 and I can’t help but be a little, hmm, what’s the word? Surprised? Amazed? Incredulous? Seriously, there’s still THIS much hoopla around this day devoted to shopping – for a bunch of non-essential stuff?

I’m a girl, so I totally get the love of shopping thing, but Black Friday takes it to a whole different level. Please tell me the people lining up at noon on Thanksgiving at the big box electronics store really need another 40” TV. I have a very hard time believing anyone buying anything today needs these items. Nor do I think anyone they might be buying them for needs them either.

It drives me crazy to hear people blaming “this economy” as the excuse for everything. In my opinion, it’s been a good scapegoat for people’s laziness and lack of initiative. BUT, if the citizen’s of the U.S. actually believe that the world is going to hell in a hand basket and money is in short supply, how do they justify their insane spending on Black Friday? That at least they’re “saving” money at these wildly marked down sales? And that the stores can afford to sell at 70% off – well there’s a whole other topic I’ll leave alone for now.

Here’s an idea. If you say you don’t have enough money to make ends meet, stay out of the stores. It doesn’t matter how good a “deal” it is. Tone it down a notch. Maybe you could make the holidays about heartfelt gestures and spending quality time together creating memorable experiences this year.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get the new Katy Perry, Bon Jovi and Keith Urban CDs that are on sale for (only!) $6.99.

History of Cookies

How many cookies do Americans consume each year? That’s a good question, and one that I haven’t been able to find an answer to. One online source said “over 2 billion or 300 cookies per person.” But if you do the math, those numbers don’t add up right. So is it 2 billion (which seems like a low number to me)? Or is it 300 cookies per person? If we’re taking bets, I’m gonna go with the more likely 300 per person.

Regardless, it’s National Cookie Month and in honor, here’s some history on the origins of cookies.

According to culinary historians, cookies evolved out of the use of little test cakes. Back in the days of the Persian Empire, a small amount of cake batter was dropped onto baking pans to test the temperature of the oven before the cake was baked. The developing spice trade brought cooking techniques and ingredients such as sugar to Northern Europe in the Middle Ages and by the time of the Renaissance, cookbooks were filled with cookie recipes.

The word “cookie” comes from the Dutch word “koekje”, meaning “little cake” and it was the Dutch who first popularized cookies in the United States. According to The Oxford Companion to Food, the term “cookie” first appeared in print around 1703.

American colonists favored spice cookies, soft raisin cookies, shortbread, brown sugar-laced oatmeal, molasses and ginger drop cookies. Other sweet varieties were inspired by the Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonites, Amish, and Moravian communities. Early American cookbooks include recipes for jumbles, macaroons and gingerbread, Then the chocolate chip cookie was created by accident in 1930 in Massachusetts.

Zen Rabbit’s Gratitude Cookie™, is based on a simple butter or sugar cookie recipe, similar to those used for English tea cakes and Scottish shortbread.

Want to know even more? For details and history on specific kinds of cookies, check out foodtimeline.org. Happy Eating!

Help Improve Literacy on International Literacy Day

Can you IMAGINE not being able to read? How does someone function in this technologically advanced society without reading skills? Would you be able to do it? Today is Literacy Day…

Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation

The solution is not to do more of the WRONG things, like threatening people with a sharper stick.

Friend and colleague John Geraghty posted a link to this TED video on his Facebook page a few days ago. It’s Dan Pink talking about businesses’ misunderstanding of how to motivate people. He presents evidence that the way most do business today is outdated and their failure to update is costing them tons of money, directly and in lost productivity. The solution is not to “entice people with a sweeter carrot.” The solution is to build an entirely new operating system around intrinsic motivation. Good stuff. Watch it, learn something, implement!

Since I can’t figure out how to get the actual video to show up in this blog post, Click Here to See Dan Pink’s Ted Talk

How to Find Anyone

You know that old Kevin Bacon six degrees of separation game? I bet in the age of social media those six degrees have been knocked down to three or less. I was thinking about this recently after a meeting with a literacy organization. Someone I originally met on Twitter had given me this executive director’s name. Before I left, the people with whom I was meeting gave me the names of literacy people at four other organizations to contact. I love how networking and connecting works!

As you’re on your journey and creating your success, many times you may not have the “right” connection to the person you want to reach. You may not even know who that person is. But someone you know does have that connection. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a connection to a specific person or to someone with a particular job title.

To find him, you need to ask around. Ask everyone you know whom he or she knows. Sometimes you might get a crazy feeling to pose your question to someone you don’t know very well, or you don’t think there’s any possibility will have a contact like that. And that’s exactly the best person to solicit. Often you’ll be shocked by what happens next.

So who is it you’d like to find and connect with?

Starting a Food Business

I’m (just a little) surprised at how many people either have or know someone who’s been thinking about starting a food business from a recipe. Seems the big thing holding them back is not knowing what to do first or where to turn for advice.

That’s where the You Should Sell That workshop comes in! You may have heard my story, how over the years I’ve been building Zen Rabbit I’ve gotten lots of calls from people asking if I could share how I got started and help them do the same. I would tell them what I could in a 15-minute conversation, but really, there’s so much more I wanted to say to save them the time and money I spent in learning.

Now, with cohort Tim Lymberopoulos, co-founder of Fooducopia.com, I’ve created a 2-day, completely comprehensive road map for the Start Up Food Entrepreneur. The southeast regional workshop is  April 30-May 1 in West Palm Beach, FL.

* Anyone has ever tasted something you made in the kitchen and said to you, “OMG! This is so good – you should sell it!”
* You have an idea for a food product that doesn’t currently exist in the marketplace.
* You believe you can create a twist and improve on an existing gourmet product.

Then it’s time to say “YES” to discovering the steps to creating a wildly successful business in the food industry!

Believe it or not, NOW is the BEST time to jump into this. Editors from FoodChannel.com recently ranked artisan foods as one of the top trends of the decade, so demand is growing for a variety of specialty food products.

Can you afford to NOT do this? You have a choice. You can simply do things the way you’ve have always done things and see no change…or you can do things differently and see HUGE changes.

There’s a saying “you either have the results or all the excuses why not.” I have found that what has brought me the most success is when I’ve put my excuses aside and made the decision to do it.  And, it starts when you’re willing to say “YES!”

Click here to sign up  http://www.tinyurl.com/SellThat1

Giving Back Through Literacy & Reading to Kids

Where The Wild Things Are

As entrepreneurs and business people – or really, as humans – it’s important to give back to our communities. Some people choose to donate money to good causes, which is greatly needed. Others may decide to give in a more hands on way. When I started Zen Rabbit, I dropped the volunteer activities I had been involved in to devote all my time and energy to the business. The plan was to donate a portion of profits to a few causes, so I would still be giving back. Now six years later, I decided to go back to some actual hands-on service.

I’ve always loved reading and have long been involved with literacy organizations. Can you IMAGINE not being able to read? How does one even function in our society without this crucial skill? If you’ve always associated with people who are readers, you may find it hard to believe…

  • One child in four grows up not knowing how to read (National Assessment of Adult Literacy)
  • More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level – far below the level needed to earn a living wage. (National Institute for Literacy)
  • 44 million adults in the U.S. can’t read well enough to read a simple story to a child. (National Adult Literacy Survey (1992) NCED, U.S. Department of Education)
  • 21 million Americans can’t read at all, 45 million are marginally illiterate and one-fifth of high school graduates can’t read their diplomas. (Department of Justice)
  • Nearly half of America’s adults are poor readers, or “functionally illiterate.” They can’t carry out simply tasks like balancing a checkbook, reading drug labels or writing essays for a job. (National Adult Literacy Survey)

So when I decided to get involved again, it was just a matter of finding an organization that was a good fit with my time and energy. Earlier in the year, I had started conversation on Twitter with Rich Greif, Executive Director of Everybody Wins! – a national organization that provides reading enrichment programs for young children through schools. But Everybody Wins! doesn’t have a program in my area yet.

Then I went to a tweet-up (where people on Twitter meet and network in person) and met children’s librarian Jeanne Taylor. She told me about the Let’s Read program run by the West Palm Beach Public Library. Volunteers go into classrooms around the downtown area and read to the kindergarten, first and second grade kids for 30 minutes once a week.

The new semester was starting right away and I got one of the last classrooms still available. I absolutely LOVE the first graders I share stories with every week. They are extremely appreciative of story time, as is their teacher. Can I tell you how touched I was to get a round of applause after reading “Where the Wild Things Are” last week?

A typical middle class child enters first grade with approximately 1,000 hours of being read to, while the corresponding child from a low-income family averages just 25 of those hours, such differences in the availability of book resources may have unintended and pernicious consequences for low-income children’ long term success in schooling. M. Adams, Beginning to read. (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1990).

The thing is, when you’re completely involved in the joy of doing for someone else’s benefit, you’re not thinking about where the money is coming from to pay your credit card this month. You’re immersed in the moment, living in the now, right where all the experts tell us our power is.

So during this month of gratitude, think about taking the focus off yourself and your business and putting attention to someone who needs your support.

Remembering Bill Mignogna & Living in the Present

I’m just back from the funeral of a friend, colleague, fellow member of the Executives’ Association of the Palm Beaches. I am honored to be a member of Execs and when I was approved for membership a couple of years ago, I didn’t really comprehend how close-knit this organization, and especially this chapter, is. Think fraternity (because yes, most of our 70+ members are men) of business leaders who have each others’ backs at all times. It is an amazing family and thankfully we were there for each other today.

We were all there attending the mass to honor Bill Mignogna and support his wife and family this morning, along with a couple hundred other people. Bill was always ready and willing to help another – kind and generous, hardworking and supportive. I heard someone say this all seems surreal. How can it be? Bill was just here, we were hanging out, laughing with him only a few weeks ago. And then, October 17th, a drunk driver ran a red light and Bill spent 10 days in the hospital. He was 57 years old.

During his eulogy, one of Bill’s life long friends said that this past summer he and his wife had tried to find some time to come down to Florida to visit, but they never did. When the call came last week though, somehow he found a way to get here within 24 hours. We’ve all heard these kind of stories and maybe you even have your own regret in this area. And every time we hear another one, we remind ourselves once again how crucial it is to live in the present and to make the time for the people we love and not put important things off. We dwell on these thoughts of mindfulness for a few days or weeks, and then we go back to life as it always was and we forget. Until the next time something happens that makes us remember.

I’m including this post in my blog today because I needed to express my thoughts. But I also included it because if you’re reading it now, maybe you needed a reminder too. Now, today, before something traumatic or irreversible happens, make the time to do whatever it is that you didn’t have the time to do yesterday.