Friday, February 22, 2013

4 Things Every Kid Must Know, Courtesy of My Career

Working full-time is a tough gig for a mom. For a single mom - of three? Tougher still. There are days when I wish I had those years back.... The 9 years I spent at home, taking care of my babies, freelancing on the side. Being there always.  But you know what? There are things I've learned in business - specifically in the marketing industry - that have helped me as a parent.  

So, for all you moms out there who get up at the crack of dawn, get your kids ready and off to school, and then head into the office, work all day, and then race home in rush hour to get your kids, make dinner, help with homework, give baths and tuck your babies in, only to do it all again the next day (whew!), this one's for you. (Come to think of it, this one's also for you moms who stay home all day, parenting, running a household, and parenting some more.)

Here, the top 4 things I learned from my career, that I've tried to pass on to my kids. Things they might not learn in school, but will need one day in the not-to-distant future.  Can you just picture your youngest now, college diploma in hand; a wide-eyed idealist filled with a nice mix of fear and excitement, heading out into the "real world"?  

But I digress.  Here's my (short) list of things every kid should know before graduating:

#1   How to Shake Hands. 
This is important, and not just for boys!  Nothing irks me more than when I meet a professional – man or woman- who barely touches my hand with a feminine lightness.  It’s bad enough from women, but when men do it?  UGH! Teach your kids to:
A. Use a confident grip.
B. Look the person IN THE EYE.
C. Employ basic, reciprocal communication (i.e. how are you? I’m good, thank you, how are you?)
When I went back into the "working world" one of my first clients told me that what most impressed him about me was the way I shook hands.  I've never forgotten that.  

#2  How to Manage Money  
Many of us learn our first money lessons at home, but let me tell you, being responsible for creating a budget, getting it approved by a client, and then creating and running a marketing campaign, and staying within that budget (or explaining why you didn't), sheds a whole new light on money management. So, take your allowance lesson one step further: 
A. Give your child a way to earn money. 
B. Teach them how to save!  Every time my kids earn money, they can take their pay in cold, hard cash, but they know that whatever portion of that money they choose to put directly into savings I will match.  So, if they earn $20, and put it all in savings, I will make a deposit of $40.  If they want $10 in cash, and put $10 in savings, I will make a $20 deposit into their savings account.
C. Decide what you can afford to spend on clothing for your teen. Now put your teen in charge of that budget.  When the money's gone, it's gone. If they have $150 to spend, and they put it all towards that expensive pair of designer jeans, so be it.  But there will be nothing left for tops, shoes, etc.
D. Never, ever let them borrow money for something they want right now.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a store when one of my kids sees something they want.  Inevitably they don’t have their wallet with them. Or worse yet, they have money, but not enough.  And I get the” “I’m babysitting/mowing the lawn this weekend, so I can pay you back then!” speech.  Do NOT fall for this.  It only teaches them to borrow.  And guess what, you’re not a bank.  If you must do this, be sure you charge them interest! Better, though, to teach them instead to save for what they want.  9 times out of 10, by the time they have earned enough money, they’ve forgotten about that “must have” item anyway.

#3 How to Protect your Brand  
Marketing is all about branding:  Raising awareness about a brand, consistency of brand message, how a brand wants to be perceived.  From the sales brochure, to the customer service rep, to the social voice, the online and tv ads to the in-store POS, there must be synergy. 

Your child is a brand. Her name, her face. And everything having to do with Brand: You, must be consistent.  From the way they act in school, to their social media profiles and they way they talk around their friends.  How do they want to be perceived?  You can’t get straight As in school and then run around on the weekends in your school sweatshirt swearing up a storm and posting inappropriate comments on social profiles, and then apply to top-notch colleges.  Belive you me, your actions will catch up with you.   Make sure they understand that in this day and age, anything they say or do can easily be recorded, uploaded to the internet, shared among friends and strangers alike.  And once it's out there - forget about getting it back. I see this happen with brands all the time. It's a PR nightmare. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, once said: "Personal brand is what people say about you when you leave the room."  So, protect your brand image.  And don't give anyone the opportunity to ruin it for you.

#4 How to Dream Big.  We do a fair amount of concepting (brainstorming) for clients. And when we're all sitting around a conference room table (or in a circle of beanbag chairs), trying to think of a fun/cool/big way to introduce a product, or increase sales, we've got to get outside of the typical way of thinking.  No idea is too big, no thought is too crazy.  Because if we can dream it up, then we can find a way to make it happen.  So if your daughter wants to be an astronaut, or your son wants to host his own cooking show - give them the confidence to believe it can happen, and the tools to get started making their dream a reality.  All it takes is a little creative thinking, and the right people to get the job done.  The only person who can stop you from realizing your dreams is you.

Your turn: What have you learned from the business world that you've taught your own kids?  Go ahead - tell us in the comments... it's nice to share!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Give it Up for Lent OR My Religious Rant

Facebook, soda, sugar, bad words, yelling, etc., etc.  So many things I've heard this week about what people are going to "give up" for Lent.

My oldest son and I have had a few (short) conversations on the subject.  His take is that there is no point.  He calls it all Malarky (yep, he's making good, clean fun of our Vice President, Joe Biden, with that one).  My take is that you have to take it with a grain of salt.  To me, the point of giving up something for Lent is about a reminder of what Jesus gave up for us - his life.  It stands to reason, doesn't it, that we should be able to sacrifice a bit.  Temporarily, of course.

I know I'm going to catch some hell (you're welcome) for this one, but Religion is a business.  It is a business, my friends.  And any organization as large as Christianity, for example, must have set rules, leaders, boundaries, a mission statement... all of these things in order to keep it (hopefully) running smoothly.  In this case, the book of rules is, apparently, the Bible.  This is good.  Except that every religion sort of "picks and chooses" which parts of the Bible they should follow, listen to, take seriously.

I, for one, don't believe that no one of the Jewish faith can go to heaven because they haven't accepted Jesus as their Lord.  Come on, now, people! Jesus was a Jew!  He went to heaven!  Heck, he's seated at the Father's right hand, is he not?  So, God in all His infinite wisdom is not going to say, "Hmmm... you're Jewish?  Out ya go!"

I have a very strong faith. I really do. And I don't feel that my faith needs to be constrained by rules that some very old, uninformed men place upon me.  Heck, these same men are the ones who still insist on calling all its followers "Men."  Ummm, I'm no English major (oh, wait, YES I AM!) and maybe these guys didn't get the memo, but "Men" means MALE.  As in... pees standing up.  "Men" does NOT encompass all people.  "People" encompasses all people.  "Men and Women" would also be acceptable.

But I digress.

This never really bothered me until I had my daughter.  As parents, we sort of say "mess with me all you want, but if you even so much as lift an eyebrow at my kid..."  So, as I stood next to my mom in church all those years, I was mortified each time she'd speak the word "She" loudly, as the congregation was saying "He." And replacing (out loud, mind you) the word "men" with "people."  Why does it matter, I thought?  It never really bothered me.  Except that now, in church, I refuse to say "men" - not because I don't like them.  I do.  I mean, I really do (ask my friends).  More than that, I happen to be raising two of them, who, in my humble opinion are pretty kick a*#.  But I don't want my daughter to feel left out.  I don't want her to think she's not every bit as important or worthy.

Remember last year when the Catholic Church changed some of the congregational responses during mass?  Instead of saying "And Also With You," as we all did for our entire lives up until that point, suddenly, when the Priest says, "May the Lord Be With You," we are to respond, "And with your spirit."  Really?  How many man (yes, that was intentional) hours do you think it took, how much budget, to get that line changed?  There were a few others, too.  Did they not think it was high time to finally change some of the wording to encompass ALL congregants?  No?  Well, why not?  I have a little girl who is going to grow up hearing "for us men..." Do they think she won't catch it? Forgive me, but she's smarter than that.  And if this religion can give pardons to priests just for listening to confessions during Lent (oh, yes they do) then what, pray tell, is the point? And please don't get me started on the whole business of confessing your sins to the man behind the curtain.

But I digress.  Again.  Deep down, I believe in the traditions passed down by those who came before me.  I think it's a good idea to remind myself of the sacrifice, the love that is my God. So, this year I'm going to quit those four letter words that seem to flow so smoothly from my mouth.  And maybe, after four weeks, it will become habit not to say them. I'll also avoid meat on Fridays. I realize not everyone does it, but it's such a small thing to do. And it serves to remind me of the season.

Fellow Catholics: What do you give up? And do you follow the practice of avoiding meat on Fridays? And for anyone of another religion, how do you feel about the business side of your faith?