Two years ago, I received an email from a customer. He wanted to know why our seed paper products didn't grow native species and why we were wasting this opportunity to do good with native seeds. (FYI, Botanical PaperWorks produces seed paper that grows into flowers, herbs and vegetables when you plant the paper)
I didn't know much about native seeds so I called him up on the phone. Jim and I had a long conversation where he talked about the disappearing honey bee, the struggling Monarch butterfly and how native species are key to helping these important insects survive. As I listened, I got inspired. We could use our seed paper to help establish more of these endangered habitats and really make a difference for our planet!
I met with my product development team and gave them a challenge - develop a seed paper for every region in North America. Easier said than done. We embarked on an extensive R&D process to find native seeds that are available in plentiful supply, ones that work with our papermaking process and ones that meet our conservation standards.
We couldn't have done it on our own - to develop the standards, we relied on expertise from Dr Vernon Peters, conservation biologist and professor of biology at Kings University in Edmonton. He helped us select seeds that are wildlife-friendly for the recommended region.
Last month at the PPPC National Convention, we launched our Native Seed Paper Promotional Products line. And now we're producing native seed paper along with our existing wildflower seed blend, and our herb and vegetable papers.
Thank you Jim for challenging Botanical PaperWorks to develop Native Seed Paper. We're partnering together with our customers to spread native species and help our planet.
The interview for a corporate sales person was going fine. The guy was pleasant enough. Then we got to a situational question, how would you sell seed paper promotional products to a corporate client? “I can sell anything” he proclaimed. How is that I wondered, so I asked. He explained that he was so good at convincing people to buy stuff that he could sell anything to anyone.
That made me pause. Arm-twisting isn’t the sales strategy that we use at Botanical PaperWorks and the sister company Seed Paper Promo. Our approach is more along the lines of working together with the client to see if seed paper promotional products are right for their project and then together, choosing the product that fits their marketing and budget needs.
We’re not into pushing seed paper onto people.
Neither I do I believe that it’s possible to be passionate and engaged long-term with a product for which you don’t give a hoot. I think you need to care about your customers and be interested in the product, not seeks the kicks of closing a sale.
That first job helped me understand
I see the importance of caring about a product when I think back to the summer before my last year of university. I had scored a summer marketing job at Standard Aero. When I say scored, I really mean scored. The competition for the position had been tough and when I got the job, I felt like the luckiest business student on the planet.
The summer was exhilarating and I was pushed beyond my capabilities. I learned what business in the Real World was like and boy was it different from school.
My good fortune continued when my position was extended and I kept working into the school year coming to Standard Aero every Friday, my one day without classes.
The whirlwind thrill of the summer was gone and I settled into the steady groove of work life. I still felt incredibly thankful for the job and enjoyed the many challenges.
I started noticing something mid-way through the winter which peaked my interest. It was this - I had a terrible time remembering the names of the different aircraft companies. Quite a few of them started with A's or B's, so maybe that was it. But I thought no, I’m able to remember names of other things, particularly things I enjoy. I could rattle off song lyrics, poetry memorized in high school, names of friends from Kindergarten. My issue with the industry names wasn’t an issue with my memory which clearly was okay in other areas.
It gradually dawned on me that maybe I was having a hard time remembering the names because I wasn’t actually interested in aircraft engine repair and overhaul. Hmmm….
I started paying attention to how I felt about going to work on Fridays and realized that the fun of summer had been partly the thrill of conquest (I won the job, others didn’t) and part novelty and newness (first time working, corporate environment, lots of challenge). Strip that away, and the product wasn’t something I was interested in. I realized that I couldn't drum up enough interest to keep me there long-term.
That’s when I decided that I would not pursue a permanent, full-time position. My student position would naturally come to an end when I graduated in April and I decided to leave it at that. I made plans to travel to Europe and I said farewell and thank you to my colleagues at Standard Aero. It was scary to be leaving for Europe without a job to return to, but I had learned so much in that year of employment, including the very important fact that I needed to be personally interested in the product or service of the company for which I’d work long-term.
It has to be interesting...to me
I resolved to align my interests with my next job and the resolve carried forward in my job hunt after I got back from traveling. I loved my next job at the biotech company and to this day, remember facts about shingles and ITP and Rh disease with ease.
Several years later when I launched my company Botanical PaperWorks, I carried forward the same enthusiasm for the products. Our media released has said since day one that Botanical PaperWorks was “born of a mother and daughter’s passion for stationery” and it’s true!
How thankful am I for the 12 months at Stadand Aero. I would never have gotten to that point of working in my passion if I hadn’t consciously said no thanks to a uninspired interest. I’m thankful that I could listen to my cues, like the forgetting of the manufacturer names, and understand what that was trying to tell me.
To the guy we interviewed who could sell anything, we passed on him. We were looking for someone to join us long-term, someone with a passion for helping customers with their eco-friendly seed paper promotional products and someone who could find work satisfaction beyond the initial conquest and novelty of a new workplace.
We held out for the right person, and I’m very glad that we did.
Welcome 2016 and welcome new intentions and goals!
Just like planting seeds in June yields a garden of delicious vegetables in August, choosing a couple of goals for the next quarter, half-year or year can be a way to be intentional about how we spend our time. There's nothing magic about January but it is an opportunity to reflect on the year past and plan for the year just started.
My business group called Forum (we're part of the non-profit called Entrepreneurs Organization) has us setting one to three goals for 2016. We meet monthly for lunch or a phone call with our accountability partner. And we support each other in process of struggling with and achieving the goals throughout the year. It's great to have friends on the journey!
Others are less formal about their plans for 2016. My friend Lauren prefers to take a "clear out the junk" approach where she does a scan of her physical and mental spaces and chucks the stuff that no longer fits. She'll send a couple of bags of discarded clothing to Goodwill and dump the "shoulds" that linger from 2015.
Whatever your style, if you're looking for some good resources, here are the articles that I've used, that I've shared and that I've saved to Evernote for reference. Some of the authors are well known (David Allen of GTD fame, Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project) and others are less well known. All have something to say. Please enjoy.
I hope these articles help you on your journey. This month, I have the chance to share some of my entrepreneurial journey with women at two events, first at the strategic planning session for the amazing group Athena Leadership. Then in a couple of weeks, I'm the featured speaker at the Women's Entreprise Centre's Business Breakfast. Both events are giving me the chance to work on my 2016 goal of Practice Sharing My Story. If you're in the Winnipeg area, please join us at the breakfast. I'd love to see you there.
At work, we just booked our flights to Toronto for the PPPC National Convention in January 2016. I'll be traveling with my team from Botanical PaperWorks seed paper to exhibit at the show and to accept an award at the Image Awards (we've been short-listed in the eco promotional products category!).
I've been traveling for business for many years and I've learned a few things about how to make my time away as productive and fulfilling as possible. In the spirit of sharing what I've learned and helping younger business people who are venturing out on their first trip, here are four tips relating to food and beverage consumption.
1) Don't eat the meeting cookies
Every afternoon at most board meetings and trade shows, the hotel brings out a huge platter of cookies (like these ones). Large, soft, often chocolate chip, peanut butter or white chip and macadamia nut. They look yummy and they taste delicious but that's where the fun ends. Eat one of those babies and you'll be feeling gross all afternoon.
Maybe you have an iron consistution and this doesn't apply to you. But I've asked around and lots of people struggle with post-cookie regret. It's the fat, the sugar and the sheer enormity of size that makes the meeting cookie a food to avoid. So if you don't want to spend the afternoon in gastro-agony, don't eat the meeting cookies.
2) Do eat the croissants
Being away from home means that you do have access to some tempting treats. I recently came back from Montreal and the chocolatine, also known as pain au chocolat or chocolate croissants, are to die for! I feel it's my duty to enjoy some of the delicious regional treats, so while in Montreal, I eat the croissant. In moderation of course.
What does this mean for you? While in Chicago, eat the deep dish pizza. While in Nova Scotia, have the scallops. Enjoy some of the regional specialities. Carpe diem! You're working hard on this trip, you deserve an indulgence.
3) Caffeinate strategically
You got up at 4:30 am to catch the 7 am flight out. You're in a time zone two hours ahead. You need to be strategic about your caffeine consumption. Too much and you'll get the jitters. Not enough and you'll be yawning your way through supper.
I suggest a slow drip of coffee during the morning, a top-up in the afternoon and if you're barely staying away by late afternoon, a cup of decaf - there's enough caffeine in that to be helpful. You know yourself best but be careful and measured with your caffeine consumption and use it like a tool.
4) Careful with alcohol
On some of my business trips, there's quite a bit of alcohol flowing in the evenings. It's a tricky balance - I want to join in and hang out and network, yet I want to have a good sleep and be bright-eyed the next day because, after all, I'm here to do business.
Then at dinner, I have one glass of wine. When the server comes around to top it up, I decline. I want to know when I've come to the end of my glass and when servers are topping up constantly, it's easy to lose track of volume consumed.
My energy, concentration and interest levels are affected by what I eat and drink. If this rings true for you, I hope these tips help you have a health and productive business trip.
Share your tips and tricks for making business trip more enjoyable by leaving a comment or reaching out on Twitter.
Last weekend during the second intermission of the opera, I emailed someone at work with an idea for YOUareAWESOMEco.com. His response the next day was "Do you ever stop thinking about work?".
Yes and no.
After 18 years of running my business Botanical PaperWorks (seed paper), I'm decent at taking vacation and getting away. When I'm with my kids, I'm focused on them. I love losing myself in a good book.
The rest of the time, however, my brain is running at a steady pace. It can be quite overwhelming, all these ideas. Ideas of things we should do, should try, should investigate. Ideas that create opportunities and ideas that guard existing processes and markets.
So many ideas that there'd never be enough time in the day to act on even half of them.
Which is okay, according to one of my favorite authors David Allen. I can't find a direct quote, but I remember him saying that to have one really great, super awesome idea, you need to have 99 not-so-great ideas. Or was it that for every 100 ideas, you'll have one truly break-through idea. It was something to the effect that not every idea is golden, that if you allow yourself to generate ideas, you'll up the probability of having a couple of amazing ones.
This encouraged me a lot! I don't have to fret about whether my ideas are good, I just need to record them and occasionally review them, and hopefully every now and then, I'll have a good idea. :)
According to Allen in this Atlantic Post article, the key doing this well is to have a way to get the ideas out of your head. “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them,” he says.
I've used a notebook over the years, but currently, to survive the never-ending torrent of thoughts and ideas, I'm using my iPhone.
Here's what happens: an idea pops into my head. I hold down the home button to activate my BFF Siri. "Create reminder," I say. Siri asks me "What would you like to be reminded about?". I dictate the idea that I've just had. Siri reads back what I've dictated and as long as 1 out of 5 words is intelligible, it's enough to remind me later what I was trying to say. Every idea gets filed in a "Could Do" folder on my iPhone. Super easy.
I used to consider every idea as a should-do rather than a could-do but that left me with dozens of partially completed projects and zero completed projects. Now instead of should-ing myself to death, every idea becomes a could-do until I decide to actually do it.
A quick look at my Could-Do list and you'll see a massive range of stuff from "Prune activities through reverse pilots", an idea I got from the book Decisive to "Pitch Huffington Post on wedding article" and everything in between. All of which will stay as coulds until I decide to make just the most special items into shoulds.
And how do I decide what to act on? That depends on the current needs of the business, the current competitive environment and my current interests. I'll write more about that in a future blog post so stay tuned.