Entrepreneurs: Stress + The Recession

Entrepreneur Magazine
The Psychology of Stress
You’ve managed to keep your business afloat, but how are you managing the stress?
By Tiffany Meyers, April 2009

Author’s Note: At the height of the recession, business mags were full of tips for keeping small businesses healthy. But what about keeping a healthy mind? To find out how entrepreneurs were (or weren’t) dealing with the emotional stress, I checked in with psychologists and entrepreneurs. This article was more positively received than almost any I’ve written, with a letter to the editor published in the subsequent issue of Entrepreneur. 

In the economic tailspin of the late 2000s, loss is part of life. Workers are losing their jobs, employers are losing their businesses, and as credit becomes more and more scarce, everyone is losing confidence. What’s more, entrepreneurs are grappling with a sense that they’ve lost control of critical factors that could determine their futures.

Those psychological hurdles are perhaps the biggest challenges facing today’s business owners; after all, it was probably that shining confidence and ability to innovate that got you started in the first place, right?

“So much of it has nothing to do with you,” says Tarek Tay, 36, co-owner and managing partner of Atlanta’s Zaya Restaurant, which launched strong in February 2008, boomed through the summer–and then saw business drop 30 percent in September. Although well-reviewed, it has operated in the red since, even with $1.2 million in 2008 sales. “If your food isn’t good, you can improve the quality,” he says. “If service is the problem, you can train your staff. But if the problem is that no one’s going out to eat because of the economy, what can you do?”

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Biomimicry: Consider the Tardigrade

Hemispheres Magazine
Consider the Tardigrade
By Tiffany Meyers, January 2011

The fast-growing field of biomimicry encourages innovators to look to nature-in all its wonder and weirdness-for solutions to our trickiest problems.

ONE AFTERNOON IN Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dayna Baumeister stands in a room full of Herman Miller employees, next to a trunk filled with seashells, feathers and other natural miscellany, and hands a sea cucumber to Carolyn Maalouf, a blindfolded R&D engineer. Don’t guess what the object is, Baumeister says. Guess what it does. Maalouf takes a shot. Well, it’s spiky, she says. Maybe it needs those spikes to ward off predators?

Another blindfolded colleague, meanwhile, is holding a swatch of sharkskin. With some guidance, he eventually deduces, correctly, from the smooth surface that his object is designed to move fast.

That they stumble through the exercise is pretty much the point. By eliminating sight—the sense that would instantly provide the “right” answer—the exercise succeeds in what Baumeister calls “quieting our cleverness.” This is crucial. Baumeister is the cofounder of The Biomimicry Guild, a group that promotes the increasingly popular notion that many of the best solutions to problems facing humanity can already be found in nature. “Biomimicry represents a paradigm shift away from the belief that we humans are the cleverest and most perfectly evolved,” says Baumeister. “When people believe that humans are the cleverest species, they might say, Why would I bother trying to learn from nature?”

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Success by Design

HOW Magazine
Success By Design

By Tiffany Meyers, January 17, 2008

We’re five years into the new millennium, and the gurus of modern business have at long last decided to agree with IBM’s Thomas Watson Jr., who said that good design is good business. The celebrity CEOs of Apple, Target and Procter & Gamble have carried that torch into the 21st century, leveraging design as a safeguard against the commoditizing forces of the global marketplace. Their stories have been featured in the most authoritative business publications on the newsstands, from Fast Company to BusinessWeek, not to mention in the design trades.

So everyone seems to agree: Good design equals good business. But there’s something about that word, it seems; it introduces a ghost of doubt. Because while CEOs Steve Jobs, Robert Ulrich and A.G. Lafley provide examples of corporate design ambassadorship, one could argue that they have pockets deep enough, and reputations solid enough, to afford taking risks on design.

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Ad Age: Marketing to Women As Your Lead Consumer

Advertising Age
Marketing to women: If she’s happy, then everybody’s happy.
By Tiffany Meyers

Author’s Note: Women expect a lot from their products and services. So when marketers create offerings to meet women’s criteria first, they’re likely to have something that other demographics will go for, too. That’s the premise of this piece, the cover for Ad Age’s 2006 special report on marketing to women.

For all that blather about alpha males, adult men are a beta demo. There are 6 million more women aged 20 or older than males. What makes the 21st century woman a consumer phenomenon is her own deep pockets, born of greater education and clout in the workplace. The rise of the female consumer phenom–or she-nom–merits an overhaul in strategic thinking. Marketers must keep feminine preferences in mind not just for “women’s products,” but for items ranging from digital cameras to beer, that have traditionally been pitched aggressively to guys.

“The concept of marketing to women as your lead user is the way of the future,” says Bridget Brennan, founder of consultancy Female Factor Communications. In virtually every category, smart marketers will put women in the bull’s-eye, not on the periphery, she says.

Many marketers fear that direct appeals to women will alienate men, but the opposite is true, Ms. Brennan says. Products with a feminine veneer are apt to turn off not just men but women who suspect these are watered-down versions of the real deal, she says.

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Green up Your Office

Entrepreneur Magazine
Making a Green Office
By Tiffany Meyers, March 2009

Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, and office buildings are guilty. They binge on more electricity than any other type of commercial building, representing about 25 percent of the sector’s total electricity consumption. The natural gas they guzzle accounts for almost 14 percent of consumption in nonresidential buildings. But if you take a few simple steps toward a more sustainable office, you’ll see payback in many shades of green—from money saved to increased employee morale and retention.

1. COOL IT   According to the most recent statistics from the Center for Sustainable Systems, space cooling accounts for 11 percent of total electricity consumption in commercial buildings. If you’re in a mild climate, ask your landlord to consider adding an economizer, which conditions by bringing in outside air—not by using refrigerant—when it’s cooler outside than in. For optimal wintertime savings, experts recommend setting thermostats to 68 degrees during work hours and 55 degrees after hours. Stay on track with a programmable thermostat. HVAC maintenance matters, too: You and your landlord should seal leaky ducts, change filters and have your contractor come out to do annual tuneups.

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Meet Barbara Turf, Ceo, Crate and Barrel

PINK Magazine
Crate Expectations: A profile of Barbara Turf
By Tiffany Meyers |  December 2008

If not for a few details – the cash registers, the sales associates – I’d swear I was a guest in Barbara Turf’s home getting a tour of the rooms she’s lovingly decorated.

Strolling through the Crate and Barrel home store adjacent to suburban Chicago’s Northbrook Court shopping mall, near the company’s headquarters, the new CEO and I stop intermittently to admire the things she loves most – textiles from India, a French table of solid oak. As in any home, her relationship to these pieces, many of which hold reminders of her family, is deeply personal. “My daughter just bought this sofa for herself,” Turf says as we sink into the Huntley, a couch with clouds instead of cushions. “You’ll have to tell me if you think it’s comfortable.”

Of course, in many ways, Crate and Barrel is Turf ’s home, one she helped build over the last 40 years. In one of the highest-profile succession stories of the year, Gordon Segal, who opened the first Crate and Barrel in 1962 with his wife, Carole, named Turf the company’s new CEO in May.

In one of the highest-profile succession stories of the year, Gordon Segal, who opened the first Crate and Barrel in 1962 with his wife, Carole, named Turf the company’s new CEO in May. With eight new Crate and Barrel home stores up and running this year, including the first international foray, Turf is leading with the same commitment to innovation that’s prompted Segal to describe his longtime No. 2, now the company’s No. 1, as nothing short of a “retail visionary.”

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When Designers Moonlight

Communication Arts
Advertising imitates art
By Tiffany Meyers | 2005

At some point in history, the advertising industry decided to turn an adjective into a noun and formally call its practitioners “creatives.” Aside from bewildering people on the outside, the title aptly describes a type of person inclined to explore diverse forms of expression in a lifetime, and not just those that move product.

More than a few creatives manage to produce a body of art even as they build successful careers in advertising. Invariably, one influences the other.

Creative director Tom Lichtenheld is also the author/illustrator of several acclaimed children’s books, including “Everything I Know About Pirates” (Simon & Schuster, 2000), “Everything I Know About Monsters” (Simon & Schuster, 2002) and “What Are YOU So Grumpy About?” (Little, Brown & Company, 2003). Two more titles, “Everything I Know About Cars” (Simon & Schuster) and “What’s With This Room?” (Little, Brown & Company) are slated for publication in 2005.


Lichtenheld—who began as a fine-art student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, then realized he might want to buy a car one day—served as a creative director for BMW and United Airlines at Fallon, Minneapolis, when he stumbled into book illustration by accident: His young nephew asked if he might draw him a pirate or two. Lichtenheld more than satisfied his requirements as an uncle, completing a pirate book—his first—with Fallon’s support.

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The Rise of the She-M.O.

PINK Magazine
The Rise of the “She-M.O.”
By Tiffany Meyers

In a business of predominantly male pilots, mechanics and engineers, Joanne Smith has had to shout over more than the din of aircraft engines in the course of her marketing career. The vice president of marketing for Delta Air Lines recalls a meeting at another airline a short decade ago, when she tried to convince a roomful of men not to cut hot towel service on flights as a way to save money. When she added that, in fact, the hot towels should be scented, her former CEO tossed a quarter across the table and quipped, “Call someone who cares.”

Contemporary boardrooms are hardly free of chest-puffing antics like these, but Smith believes such an incident probably wouldn’t happen today. “Not so much because it’s rude behavior,” she says, “but because I think women [marketers] have forced the point that consumers do care about these kinds of things.”

At Delta, Smith often finds herself reminding colleagues that the concepts of “safe, clean and on time” are merely the price of entry. “In a male-dominated industry, I find that I sometimes have to be a very loud voice that says, ‘If operations is all we focus on, we’re going to lose an opportunity to engage customers in a brand connection beyond those things.'”

Such sensibilities among women in marketing are earning more respect in corporate America – and giving women execs a boost up the career ladder. A quick scan across the business vista shows that in marketing, women are thriving in the most senior roles – making the CMO into the “She-M.O.,” as it were.

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Gen Y + Boomers: 2 Sides of Same Coin?

How Magazine
Generationally Speaking

By Tiffany Meyers

In many ways, an assessment of Boomers and their babies/grandkids (or the millions of young Americans known as Generation Y) is an apples-to-oranges prospect. The two groups have come of age in vastly different eras of U.S. history, consuming and creating different cultural touch points.

To compare the two generations, you’d have to compare the space race to MySpace, Earth Day to Green Day, the Mod Squad to the iPod, and so on all the way up to Watergate vs. Monicagate. Perched on (almost) opposite ends of the demographic spectrum, each group brings a unique set of needs to the marketplace as consumers.

All of this makes the traits they do share particularly notable. For one, these groups both live with a rather unflattering reputation for suffering from self-entitlement issues. Also from the Department of Blanket Statements, they’re said to view the future of the world through rose-colored glasses-particularly in comparison to the purportedly nihilistic Generation X that sits between them.

And of course, they’re two highly sought-after consumer sectors.As the two largest generational segments in the U.S., Boomers and members of Generation Y exert tremendous influence over the nation’s social, cultural and political landscape. Wielding formidable power and influence in economic terms as well, they’ve emerged as two of the sweetest spots for marketers pitching all manner of products and services.

The first thing to know about Generation Y is that it possesses more monikers than a demographer’s spreadsheet. In its roughly 30 years of existence, this group has been called Millennials, Reagan Babies, Generation Next, Echo Boomers and iGeneration, to name a few.

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How to Motivate Your Sales Team

PINK Magazine 
Sales force stuck in a rut?
Top women managers tell how attention to individuals builds a more productive team
By Tiffany Meyers | February 2008

When it comes to motivating talent, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. But in sales – which teems with naturally driven, highly independent professionals – the value of a customized approach redoubles. “Everything you do in terms of recognition and reinforcement needs to be meaningful to the individual,” says Jill Eichwald, sales effectiveness consultant at Maritz Inc., a sales and marketing services company.

When Maritz conducted a national study on employees’ favorite rewards, results showed that each of six employee types – described and organized according to what they find inspirational, from praise to bonuses – split rather evenly across gender lines. “We were amazed to learn that from a gender standpoint, there’s not a lot of difference,” says Jane Herod, president of Maritz Motivation, a division of Maritz Inc. It’s further proof, she adds, that recognition programs need to be individually customized.

While motivation incentives appear to be gender-neutral, many of the qualities of effective sales managers – who have to light a fire under each seller and cultivate collaboration among competitive types – seem to come more naturally to women. Experts point to the attributes of empathy, consensus-building and intuition more often exhibited by women managers – which are precisely the qualities that result in several best practices in sales motivation.

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Entrepreneurs: Make Like a Bird and Go Cheap

Entrepreneur Magazine
Frugal is Back
Here’s how to channel your inner miser–the right way.
By Tiffany Meyers

As recessionary gale storms blow, entrepreneurs are reining in runaway costs. “Smart entrepreneurs are doing more with less,” says Joseph R. Cardamone, president of the U.S. Federation of Small Businesses. “With diminished cash flow and tight credit, only those businesses that operate efficiently will survive this economic downturn, which may last several years.” So if you’re going to make like a bird and go cheap, these measures can help and range from relatively to totally painless.

SYSTEMIC SAVINGS
Announce your plan to ration paperclips and watch employees use binder clips like they’re going out of style. “Whatever savings you see from one-off efforts will be short-lived, while costs pop up elsewhere, like for binder clips,” says Adam Hartung, managing partner of strategic business consulting firm Spark Partners.

Instead, ask employees to map out how they do their jobs from start to finish, then solicit their ideas for efficiency gains, explains Hartung. “Instead of saying, ‘We need to cut travel costs’–which will get everyone groaning–say, ‘Let’s look at how we get work done and see where we can make changes.'” To jump-start imaginations, ask: How would you do your job if you worked at a different company? How would you do it if you were four years in the future?

You might discover that some part of billing could be automated, a step in payment processing could be eliminated or client interactions could be handled via web conferencing. “Now you’ve introduced more efficient processes,” Hartung says, “and the savings will be everlasting.”

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Marketplace Opportunities for Entrepreneurs

Author’s Note: Entrepreneur Magazine’s annual “Hot Trends” roundup of marketplace opportunities for entrepreneurs, including the two sectors I covered.

Green
Decades in the making, this $209 billion market has its roots in everything from water to energy to food. Look especially to organics, clean energy, alternative fuels, and water reuse and reclamation services.

Boomers
Representing the biggest wealth transfer in history, these individualists started the green movement and are ready to cash in on the environment, health, financial planning, travel and everything in between.

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