Monthly Archives: May 2013

Lucille Ball, Ann Romano and Sheryl Sandberg: What I Learned from my TV Moms and Facebook’s CEO

By Gail Z. Martin

Thanks to Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, the headlines have revisited one of my least favorite memories of the 1990s—the “mommy wars.”

Back in the 1990s, when Nirvana was climbing the charts and Wolf Blitzer was the “scud stud” of the first Iraq war, pundits prattled on about the so-called “mommy wars” between working moms and stay-at-home moms.  It was a take-no-prisoners battle that left everyone with battle wounds.  After twenty some years, I thought we might have reached a truce.

Then comes Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”, and it reminded me that we’ve still got some battles to fight.  And as I thought about it, I realized how my views on being a working mom were formed long before I was an adult—sitting in front of my living room TV.

Do you remember Lucille Ball?  Whether you saw the re-runs of “I Love Lucy” or “Here’s Lucy” or “The Lucy Show”, she was a fixture on TV throughout the 1960s and 1970s.  And while some of the early episodes now appear quaint in their fixed gender roles, (“Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!), I remember how in her later shows, she played Lucy Charmichael (and later, Lucy Carter), a single working mom facing all kinds of workplace dilemmas.  I laughed at her problems with Mr. Mooney, her demanding boss, but oddly enough, more than a decade later, Mr. Mooney could have sat down for a cocktail with Dabney Coleman’s despicable boss character in the movie “9 to 5” and they would have been soul mates.  Things hadn’t changed all that much.

Lucy’s characters overcame workplace discrimination, overly demanding bosses, and people who underestimated her abilities, all while juggling the demands of motherhood.  And what did I, as an impressionable youngster, take away from that?  I learned that the workplace wasn’t a friendly place for women (especially mothers), but that humor, persistence and a good network of friends could get you through anything.

Fast forward to the 1980s, when actress Bonnie Franklin played Ann Romano, taking it “One Day at a Time.”  The workplace hadn’t gotten any friendlier for women, or mothers, but now women at least had a broader variety of jobs in which they could deal with the vicissitudes of life.  Where Lucy was a secretary and then worked in an employment agency run by a family member, Ann was an account executive at an ad agency—a step up toward management.

Ann Romano tackled much more serious issues than Lucy Charmicael, including divorce, suicide and harassment.  Where Lucy had coquettish humor and an old-school tendency to be sneaky, Ann had attitude and a willingness to take things head-on, but she still fell back on the loyal support of family and friends.  I learned that it still wasn’t smooth going for women (or mothers), and that there were times when humor wasn’t enough and you had to take a stand.

Which is why I find the reactions to the new “Lean In” book by Sheryl Sandberg so interesting.  The book appears to mean something different to everyone who reads it, depending on where the reader is in her career and what cultural baggage each reader is dragging along with her.  Sadly, some of the workplace situations (non family-friendly company policies) are ones that Lucy and Ann might have recognized, while others (too few women on corporate boards of directors) are what Twitter would deem “first world problems”—in other words, problems that you have once you’ve reached a fairly high level of advancement.  Interestingly, Sandberg’s prescription is for women to “lean in” and invest themselves in creating change rather than fleeing the corporate world.

Funny, but I think Lucy and Ann—and those of us who had mothers in the post-War period who worked outside the home—already knew a lot about “leaning.”  Here’s what Lucille Ball said: Luck? I don’t know anything about luck. I’ve never banked on it and I’m afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: Hard work – and realizing what is opportunity and what isn’t.”
What does this have to do with marketing?  I believe that today’s under-40 workers, having grown up with moms like Ann Romano, and having seen their struggle, want more from their work life.  That’s especially true for workers in their 20s and 30s, who are among the most entrepreneurial young workers we’ve seen a long time.  To keep them, you’ve got to create a workplace where “leaning in” is expected and rewarded, and where trust, appreciation and flexibility combine to create a balance that is both productive and human-friendly.  Workplace culture still has a long way to go on that point, but for the companies that do a good job, such a culture becomes a potent marketing factor.

And in the meantime, we’ll keep trying to find the balance and get it right—one day at a time.

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Filed under Balance, Business Planning, Gail Z. Martin

Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan

Today’s guest post is an excerpt from the bestselling business book by Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest, “Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan” To celebrate the release of the paperback version, the authors are giving away free gifts with purchase here:

This excerpt from chapter 1 is based on interviews with Professional Movers, a world-class moving company located in Walled Lake, Michigan.

Eighty-seven-year-old Gladys has a reputation among her fellow retirement community members. She’s known as a cranky complainer who is impossible to please. But to her surprise, when she called Andrew Androff’s company, Professional Movers, to move her into her new apartment, she was treated with warmth and respect. When her sales rep, Chris, visited her home to quote the job, he noticed her prickly personality and made a conscious decision to focus on her spunk and tenacity. By the end of his visit, Gladys had bonded with Chris and booked the move.

On moving day, there was a mishap. One of the movers accidentally cracked Gladys’s marble tabletop. Andrew knew that she would be furious. Determined to set things right, he prepared himself to let her vent before she could even think about possible solutions. As predicted, Gladys had steam shooting out her ears.

Andrew felt compassion for her while she vented and assured her that his company would have the table repaired, and that if she wasn’t satisfied with the results, he would replace it. Although he continued to reassure her that things would be set right, she was still spitting mad. Gladys wanted to talk to Chris, who had sold her on the company in the first place, and Andrew promised to have Chris call her as soon as he came into the office.

Chris arrived dead tired after a long day filled with meetings with potential new customers. When Andrew told him about Gladys and asked if he’d be willing to call her, Chris responded, ‘‘No way. She’s going to need more than a phone call. I’ll stop by her house on my way home.’’ Chris arrived at Gladys’s house ready to comfort her through her anger and outrage. Then he assured her that he would personally oversee the repair of her table. This calmed her down, and she thanked him for coming over.

Unfortunately, the repair was less than perfect. Andrew knew that he had to set things right, even though doing so would be expensive. He called Gladys and promised that she could meet Chris at the marble store and personally pick out her new marble tabletop. Since Chris knew that Gladys didn’t drive, he called and arranged to pick her up and take her to the store himself.

Gladys is now living at one of metropolitan Detroit’s premier retirement communities with her new marble table. While it cost Andrew and his employee Chris extra time and extra money to make things right, the payoff was outstanding. Gladys tells everyone moving into or out of her assisted living complex that they have to hire Professional Movers if they want to work with the best movers in town. High and persistent praise from such a hard-to-please person attracts attention. As a result, Andrew’s company is now the number one choice of movers for Gladys’s retirement complex. By creating a culture that values compassionate connection with his customers, Andrew has built a referral base that has helped his sales grow by over 40 percent in two years.

This culture of connection has been particularly effective in building a strong business with senior citizens. Seniors often move from their homes to be nearer to their children or to retire to a senior community. Professional Movers has found this population to be a good fit for its particular style of customer service, so it put a great deal of effort into developing the market segment. Everyone at Professional Movers makes a practice of creating a human connection with her clients. The staff members show respect for their clients’ wisdom, experience, and opinions.  They also know how moving affects their clients, both physically and emotionally. It isn’t easy leaving behind the security of their homes, their friendships with neighbors, and the familiarity of their routines. Andrew’s employees are trained to be sensitive to the unique issues of downsizing. They are sensitive to the emotional connection to their precious family heirlooms that senior citizens feel as they leave behind the past. Professional Movers strives to give seniors the sort of service they would receive if their own family were doing the job.

‘‘It’s like we’re their sons,’’ Andrew said with a laugh. ‘‘We get very close with their families. We interview their caregivers and their social workers. It really helps us develop a customized process to address their concerns.’’ This needs-based approach to both customer service and sales has helped the company become the top provider of moving services in metropolitan Detroit’s retirement market.

Enjoy  “Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan” – available at most online booksellers.

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Filed under Business Planning, Guest Blogger, Image & Identity