Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Working with your Spouse Part 2

A recent conversation reminded me of a post I wrote quite some time ago about working with your spouse. Now almost 2.5 years later, I think it needs a bit of revision! So, don't get me wrong, it's all still valid advice, but the reality is that most of the rules are pretty darn hard to follow.

So, here's the reality of working with your spouse:

1. Hold on for the ride
It's a crazy ride with ups and downs, loops and turns. Some days you'll want to strangle him, other days you'll want to kiss him all over. Some days, he's the only one in the world that can relate (which is a total relief) and other days he's the co-worker who's resume you want to secretly send to the business down the street.

2. Forget about vacations FOREVER!
Ok, my advice about taking "no work-talk" vacations...well, you can forget about that! The reality is that the business is almost like another child. Parents naturally talk about their children when they have down-time, making decisions and having discussions that can't be had in front of the kiddos. Well, this business-child is no different. The part that I have found to be necessary is having a "no work talk right now" rule. Mark and I both reserve the right to ask POLITELY that we not talk about work at that moment. It can be on vacation or just an evening on the couch, but when one of us needs to check out, the other respects that.

3. Tune out the opinions of others and follow what you both know to be best
This is certainly a tough one, but ties back to my old comment about gender roles. See in business, gender roles don't apply. Technically I'm the CEO and Mark is the COO. What does that mean exactly, I'm honestly not 100% sure. We both work our butts off doing whatever needs to be done and we rely heavily on the other to pick up the slack where we leave off. So, we've come to realize over the years that not all outside parties understand our little arrangement (like in-laws we'll say as a 'random' example)...they may feel like I'm the mom and should tend to our children more than Mark. Or they may feel like Mark should ultimately be the 'boss' at work and I should be home planting flowers. Well, I have accepted that this may be their opinion, but it's not ours, so I just have to accept and leave that behind. I don't have the time or energy to carry the expectations of others, as long as I know that Mark and I are on the same page.

4. You won't always be on the same page
Yes, I know what I just said one sentence earlier, but the reality of working with your spouse is that although you are very much connected, sometimes you are not on the same page. The rule here is that you MUST commit to accepting differences and talking through them calmly. Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree, but this is when we turn to our roles at the company to see who's opinion trumps who's. It's kind of rare that we don't come to compromise, but there are certainly times when I have to say, "I respect your opinion and understand where you're coming from, but I feel strongly enough on this to move ahead anyway." It's rare, but it happens.

5. Be prepared for what you are getting yourself into
Here's the reality...working with your spouse is NOT easy. The benefit is that you'll likely never have an employee that you will trust more than your spouse. And, they are likely involved in many of your business decisions anyway. The negative is that you blur all lines of a marriage, which is complicated enough as it is already. This negative is a pretty big price to pay, so you have to be just plain stubborn enough to make it work.

6. Pride is a difficult thing and there is no room in a marriage for its presence
This is a super difficult one. I don't care who you are, everyone struggles with ego in one way or another. I've always wondered how on earth celebrity marriages work, especially when one is more of a 'celebrity' than the other. Look, I don't want to be famous, but I have to admit, if everyone was kissing Mark's booty and I was only known as "Mark's wife", it would make me pretty crazy. I know it would be the same in reverse. Of course I want nothing but success for Mark and all of the attention in the world, but I also want us both to be grounded by what's truly important. Be prepared for pride to get mixed into business one way or another and be prepared to work through it together, lovingly.

7. Marriage comes first!
This is one rule from my previous list that applies just as much today as it did years ago. If you make the decision to work together, you also must make the decision that the marriage comes first. Have a plan. How will it work? What if it doesn't work? You have to agree that whatever your differences may be that you will do whatever needed to support one another and put the marriage before the business.

Any of you watch Bethenny Frankel's show Bethenny Ever After? I realize the show was filmed months ago, as all reality shows are, but that still doesn't stop me from wanting to pick up the phone after every episode to call and talk her ear off. If you don't watch it, Bethenny, who is obviously an uber-successful entrepreneur (and pretty funny gal...I'm so jealous of her quick wit), is debating the decision to have Jason, her hubby, come work with her. I feel like anyone at this crossroads of whether or not to work with a spouse should at least get to talk to others in the same circumstance. Get an honest opinion. Not everyone is going to have the same experience...some will tell you to run as fast as you can in the other direction, others may tell you it was the best decision of their life. Regardless, it is a HUGE decision, so this is just my fair advice to anyone ready to take the plunge. Let me just say this, if Mark and I had our own reality show it would be quite the train-wreck. I honestly don't think many people would understand our let's just say unusual relationship, but so far it works for us. I truly can't image running RuffleButts without him!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Life Lessons

I know this sounds a bit cheesy, but when I started RuffleButts, I had long prayed for a career change that would allow me to "do good". I had tossed around ideas to start a non-profit but didn't know how to direct my passions. I considered being a public speaker, but didn't really have much to say (and I dislike being the center of attention, which is likely not an asset in this career path!). I wanted to write a book, but writing is far from my strong suit. It was then that my answer came, crystal clear, RuffleButts was my calling.

To most, they would say that starting a children's clothing line, covering baby's booties in ruffles, is not saving the world. Well, you are totally right, but RuffleButts was my path to contributing something greater. It is on this path that we try to contribute daily. If it is just making a customer's day a little brighter with stellar customer service, or making a grandma smile at the sight of her 1st grand-baby in sweet ruffles, or being blessed to share our financial successes with others in need; it is these small victories that we feel are giving back to the world that is good to us.

So, I write these little lessons below in hopes that just one of them gives you some sort of little 'gift'. It may be a prayer that you prayed of your own, or maybe just a little lesson that you have yet to stumble upon in your own life. Maybe it saves you just one little heartbreak or hiccup. Maybe you're already here with me, but know of someone in their own valley. It is with this hope that I share some of my personal life lessons learned to date, often not the easy way.

1) People-pleasing ways rarely please anyone in the long-run. 
For many years, I made decisions based mostly on what would please others. Although making others happy is still extremely important to me, it is not at the sacrifice of what I know to be true and best in my own heart. The best gift age has given me is the ability to care much less of what others think, and instead living for what I believe to be best and right. It brings an amazing clarity to life decisions.

2) Anything in life really worth having requires TREMENDOUS effort. 
The cool thing, I have found, is most often it works out that the more effort it requires, the more worth having/rewarding it turns out to be. It is nice to remember this when something seems extraordinarily difficult...I can rest easy knowing that it will be one of the most rewarding, and almost always worth every ounce of effort I put in. My best examples here are marriage and children...at times a bit (ok, let's get real here....very) exhausting, but by far, the two (well, three really) most valuable things in my life.

3) As soon as you lose humbleness and gratitude you will be voted off. 
This is my 'Survivor Theory', of which my employees are likely tired of hearing about. See, after 10+ years of watching Survivor, I have learned that 90% of the time, the moment the player begins telling the camera that they are the "puppet master" or the "master" of the game, the moment they are bashing others and feeling indestructible is the moment they are voted off. And even with the few exceptions when they actually stayed in the game for a few more episodes, rarely are they rewarded with the $1M prize. I think this theory translates from game to life...the moment you stop operating with gratitude is the moment you lose.

4) Do the right thing, you get the right results.
This applies to so much in life. It's as simple as doing your job right, working hard, and getting the results that you are working so hard to achieve. It may not be tomorrow (and sometimes feels like an eternity), but if you continue doing the right thing, working hard, not taking shortcuts or slacking off, the results will come. Same for life on a bigger scale...you treat people the right way, appreciate your customers, invest in your relationships, operate with ethics and gratitude...it all comes back around, pretty much guaranteed in one way or another.

5) Finding a career that is rewarding and even inspiring is truly possible. 
I wanted so badly to believe this when I was in my early twenties, although I pretty much wanted to burn every "do what you love and the money will follow" book that I read! They made it sound so simple, "just follow your passion" they would taunt me. Problem was, I wasn't sure what exactly that meant! I wish someone would have just told me, "work harder than everyone else...at least make yourself proud at the end of everyday for giving it your best", "if you don't do it with heart and maximum efforts, then don't do it at all",  "spend time figuring out what drives and excites you, then try to find a career that ignites those things in some way", and "God's timing is not always your timing".

6) Sometimes you have to go through the 'gunk' to get to the 'glory'.
This very much follows my comment about God's timing. I have learned to accept this over the years. Sometimes I need to follow a path that is not only unpleasant, but also unclear in order to prepare me for the glory on the other side. Even though I feel I am ready, and sometimes beyond ready, looking back, I understand much better why I had to take the 'not so pretty' path to prepare. I will use my children to explain my theory here...it was more than two years before Aubrey was conceived that I began 'trying' to get pregnant. It was with tears, joy, and ultimately patience that I received her into my life following years of question, and the miscarriage of another child. It was certainly not an easy path, but prepared my heart with patience and faith.

7) Suck it up!
Sounds a little harsh, right? Well, let me make this promise to you...there is someone out there who's got it worse. Life is tough sometimes, but it is your choice what to do with that. Is your glass half empty or just half full of opportunity to be filled? I look back at opportunities I had in my life when I chose a pity-party instead of a celebration. I watch this go down with people over and over again. Life goes by fast, you are never the only one struggling, it will NEVER fix your problems to bring down those around you, and it is never as bad looking back. The one who ultimately pays the price for your pity-party is you! It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

8) The last, but in my opinion, MOST IMPORTANT gift I have to give...when uncertain or lost, PRAY ABOUT IT.
I have learned, especially from my twenties to my thirties, that I do not have all of the answers, and neither does anyone else. The only place I can turn for guaranteed peace and direction is God. I, like many others, often forget this, but if I look back on the best decisions of my life, it is not with coincidence that I remember turning to God in search of the answer.

I certainly know that I have so much more to learn, but only wish I would have received these valuable lessons earlier in life. Then again, as stubborn as I am, I likely would have been determined to fall and learn them on my own! Anyhow, it is with a humble heart and hope that just one word of this touches your life in a positive way.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The post below is from one our RB team members that we recruited randomly one day from a store at the mall. Mark and I were browsing (kids in tow) and she was super patient, not too pushy, but still very helpful…my favorite kind of sales/customer service person! Great team-members are sometimes hard to come by, so I figured it was worth a slightly awkward conversation, recruiting her away from her current job! She has turned out to be a fabulous addition to our team, and it has been super fun to watch her grow into her own since joining RuffleButts. My lesson learned from her post: Anyone can do anything, as long as they are willing to put in the effort and learn with a smile. She has certainly done both! ~Amber

What to write this blog about? When I was first asked to write a blog post about anything pertaining to the company, my mind raced with lots of ideas. I could write about my colleagues, my job, the company’s mission, or what it’s like working for such a fast growing company. I finally settled on making a list. The five funniest things I have learned since working at RuffleButts. Or as you may like to call it, the five things that will make moms everywhere chuckle.


1. Diapers: Diapers come in different sizes, not a one size fits all

2. Sizing: 3T doesn’t necessarily mean it’s for three year olds

3. Newborns: Who knew they are so small? Newborn Bloomers are the size of my hand (not really, but a lot smaller than expected)

4. Diaper Changes: Working for a children’s apparel company means that there are inherently going to be kids around who are in need of a diaper change. Lesson learned here, I do not have a strong stomach.

5. The Big One: Just because your kid is napping, it does not mean you have time to yourself to relax or get everything done. I learned this one from a customer who laughed at me when I asked if she was able to get a lot done while her baby was napping.

Did I mention that I am 23 with no kids? Oh how naive I must sound to all you moms out there, or anyone who has ever babysat a child. So thanks RuffleButts and RuffleButt customers for putting up with my previous ignorance to all things baby and teaching me with laughter and jokes.

~Guest Author, and RuffleButts Employee: Bri.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Guest Blogger...Going, Going, Gone... Green

As the COO here at RuffleButts / RuggedButts I'm always trying to read as much information as I can on a daily / weekly basis to ensure our company is staying up with the latest in trends in social media, technology, innovation - and anything else that will help us to deliver the best possible experience to our customers.  While skimming blogs the other night, the title 10 Easy Ways to Go Green in Your Office (http://smallbizbee.com/index/2012/04/24/10-easy-ways-to-go-green-in-your-office/) caught my eye.  I thought to myself, we're green, we recycle our paper/plastic & have a Britta - I wonder what else we could be doing?

It was as I read through the article that I realized we're actually doing a really good job in staying as green as possible.  Of the 10 things on the list, we're doing 7 of them!

1) Recycle.  We have ~6 paper recycling bins throughout the office, and anything paper / cardboard that we can recycle goes into them.   We also have a bin in the kitchen for metal/glass/plastic. All of our cardboard boxes we receive from inbound shipments are cut-up and put into our recycling dumpster out back and picked up every two weeks.  Sure it's a cost to have this service, but it's absolutely worth it.

2) Don't waste energy on unnecessary lighting.  We definitely do our best to shut-off lights when not in use - and even direct some of the warehouse fans to blow cool air into the office-space vs. running the air conditioning.  We have all employees turn off their computer monitors and desk lights nightly.

3) Reduce paper use.  We've installed .PDF 'printers' on all of the computers in the office, combined our 'picklists' to include multiple orders per page, have duplexing units on our two main printers, and generally try to print as little as possible.

4) Move away from bottled water.  We've had a Britta in the office since day 1.  Sure it's a pain to make sure it stays filled, but I know I always cringe when I see shoppers at Costco with a cart full of bottled water!

5) Programmable thermostat.  One of my first changes after moving into the new office space was to install one.  They're great, easy to setup, and well worth the $20-$40.

6) Choose green products.  From our printers that have powersave modes, to the energy star refrigerator we purchased for the kitchen, we've got this one covered.

7) Recycled print cartridges.   They (usually!) work as well as the originals, and are definitely cheaper too.  We've got a pile of to-be-returned empty cartridges in the supply room - once we have enough stocked up - we'll bundle and ship them back to be re-reused.

I'm sure there are some additional items that we can instill / install in the offices to make us even more green, but I think we're off to a pretty solid start.  I'm proud that our team is diligent about keeping up with our environmentally friendly efforts.  In fact, our 2,500 square foot office with the equivalent of 14 full time employees generates on average only one large garbage bag full of trash a WEEK!

Whether your living by yourself, with a large family, in a small or enormous office - there's always something that can be done to help better reduce, re-use, and recycle.  How many items are the list can you check off?

~Guest Author, and RuffleButts COO: Mark