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Friday, March 28, 2014

Hanging with the Big Boys

Once upon a time, my former company provided merchandise to various major corporations for promotional use.  This often included custom apparel and other merchandise branded with the company logos, and we sometimes had the opportunity to attend events and sell the merchandise on site.  This means "entertainment" time with our customers.  Whether you are male or female, you had better be able to keep up.

Las Vegas is a big meeting/conference destination so I've spent many more evenings in Vegas than I care to remember, with several different customer groups.  It sucks to work in Vegas because it's almost impossible to get from one place to another, very difficult to meet up with people because there's no real lobby or one bar where everyone hangs out - you have to make specific plans to meet.  This can require meeting at Clubs, including expensive bottle service and limos, paid for by the supplier.  Almost without exception, customers are way more fun with a few drinks in them than they are behind their desk - and they probably feel the same about suppliers.  Seasoned professionals like myself can usually manage the situation better than the younger employees that we bring with us to work trade-show booths or sell the merchandise.  More than one employee has held another's hair while she threw up, and then both showed up in sunglasses the next morning.  This usually impresses customers.  (Digression about Vegas:  I'm not a gambler, so instead, I go directly to a store in the Venetian called Shoooz, buy a pair of shoes and then pretend that's the money I lost gambling. Also best to share this type of information with your husband so that when you get home, he doesn't see the mail and wonder why you're getting thank-you notes from shoe stores in Las Vegas.... To be fair, Dave doesn't question thank-you notes from shoe stores at all anymore).

I have applied temporary tattoos to visitors at the Woodward Dream Cruise, sold shirts at drag races, demonstrated blenders at trade shows, packed lunches into coolers under the bleachers at the Brickyard 500, labeled trophies in hotel conference rooms, hung out in countless hotel bars, ate pizza and cleaned out mini-bars with customers in the wee hours - not very glamorous, but for the most part, almost always fun.

One memorable trip was to the Suburban Reunion in Austin, TX.  I was there with a a couple of guys from the brand team and a couple of other suppliers. These were big drinkers and the reality is that I'm a lightweight.  I can't drink that much and I find that it's a good practice to keep my wits about me, especially with customers, so here's how it worked:  As soon as we were situated at the bar (another supplier was getting this tab), I pulled the server aside, handed her $20, told her I'd be ordering vodka/cranberry and to please bring me vodka the first time, then cranberry juice and water on the rocks after that.  Hope my Chevy contact isn't reading this because I never told him what I did - he still thinks I matched them drink-for-drink.  The other supplier was passed out on the bouncer's stool at the end of the night - we had to carry him to the car.  The Chevy contact was barely able to walk under his own power (good thing I was the designated driver) and I got serious street cred for being able to "hang", get everyone back to the hotel safely AND show up bright-eyed and functional the next morning.

Business girls have to be resourceful.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sh*t happens...if you're lucky.

You've heard me mention my Posse before in these posts - a group of 9 women business owners (of which I just learned that I am the Sheriff!  Apparently the Sheriff's main responsibility is to run the Doodle Poll to plan the lunches...).  We've known each other since we first belonged to the Women President's Organization about 8 years ago, a small group of non-competing business owners that pay dues to the parent organization and follow a specific meeting format, serving as an informal Board of Directors or Advisory Council for each other.  A few years ago the 9 of us seceded from the group to form The Posse, and now meet for lunch every other month.  We still do 5-minute check-ins where we talk about what we're up to, but boy, how that conversation has changed!

When we first met, several of us were in our 40's, at peak performance in our companies and oh so serious about business.  What to do about HR issues, attorney referrals and lawsuit advice, how are we handling  insurance, advice for buying or selling a company.  Once we formed The Posse, we still shared business advice but also discussed issues with kids and divorce, Botox and injectables, vacation homes and trips.

Today, the oldest of us are in the back half of our 50's and many of us have sold our companies and are on to our next adventures.  For a couple of us, it's a new company and non-profit boards, for others, following a new direction in art or science, for another, a career break with lots of special interests.  No one is sitting still, but we're all intentionally simplifying our lives.  We're still interested in injectables and youth serums, but are now acutely aware of our health.  Exciting discussions of beach vacations and referrals for cosmetic surgery procedures quickly degenerated into discussions of the benefits of liver cleanses and colonics!

As we get older I'm struck by how we just become more of who we are.  The lovable whack-a-doodles (you know who you are) become even more whacky, the spiritual become even more spiritual - you get the idea (the bitchy are more experienced bitches, by the way; I'm okay with it).  Whether it's because of planetary shifts or phases of the moon or just the wisdom that comes with age, we're all a little more mellow.  Reluctant to judge, slower to anger, less likely to hold a grudge, quicker to laugh - certainly more tolerant.  One Posse Sister explained how dealing with a difficult business partner was a gift: the partner provided her with a "growth opportunity".  I've not evolved that far yet, but from now on, anytime someone pisses me off, I will pause to think of her and embrace my growth opportunity (or maybe just bitch about it because I'm THAT one).

We're all very different and that's what makes it great.  We don't need to understand everything to enjoy each other. And we don't need Red Hats to feel connected and a sense of belonging to a group.  I love my Posse and hope we're still meeting years from now to talk about the cliques in the retirement home or gossip about the gaudy casket that one of our relatives selected.  One of us has already decided to be the oldest living white woman:  she'll bury all of us.  Please make sure the wakes are tasteful but fun!  (Note from the Sheriff:  Don't bury me. I want a fun party with photos of when I was 30; cremate me and sprinkle my ashes over the nearest kids are also aware of this).

As a result of our lunchtime conversation today:  wishing you all clean livers, low metal counts and healthy enzymes in your blood and regular bowel movements!