BLOG ARCHIVE FOR: January, 2006

Jan.31
2006

The wild, wild, Web

When I moved from PR to the Communications group in 2002, Quixtar Communications had just one Web site to support — quixtar.com (www.quixtar.com).  And at that time we provided content — copy and design assets — but didn’t manage the overall look and feel of the site.  That changed with the redesign of Quixtar.com in 2004.

What a difference a few years can make.   Today we manage dozens of Web sites, ranging from properties that change to reflect business needs like www.quixtarfacts.com to new and exciting real estate like www.naocosmetics.com and others.  There are aging sites like www.quixtarresponse.com that filled short-term needs and new properties that are added as our business grows and changes, like www.thisbiznow.com.

Some sites are updated regularly — like quixtar.com,  thisbiznow.com, and www.quixtarnewsroom.com.  We’ve even added a new site to the portfolio with the launch of www.quixtar-inc.com, which is more specific to the relationships Quixtar has with other companies.  Others have less frequent updates.

But all are part of the story Quixtar has to tell.  The visitor to the NAO site may or may not care about the Quixtar business opportunity.  She might just want to find out more about a glitter eye pencil or mineral pigment powder.  So naocosmetics.com meets her needs.  Someone else might want to know what kind of company Quixtar is and what some of those we do business have to say about us — so thisbiznow is their destination.

Few companies limit their Web presence to a single site — and certainly not a company as diverse and expansive as Quixtar.   It seems complicated, but it’s designed to make things more simple by connecting people specifically to the information they need.  The complications come in with the care and feeding — in

So what Quixtar is online is constantly changing, from the product brand Web sites to sites that explain our business model, company, and IBOs.  But it’s all part of helping create a better understanding and awareness of who we are and what we do.

Jan.27
2006

The view from wherever you are

We’ve just pulled the new Store for More off the presses.  It’s a beautiful catalog featuring a cover that literally puts the reader on a gorgeous beach, viewing the spectacular shoreline from the reader’s perspective as well as through the display of a digital camera.

The cover concept followed a fall treatment where a couple looked over a stunning vista from a deck, their stocking feet resting on the deck rail.  One might guess they were enjoying the last of summer or an early fall getaway at their “weekend place.”  But it could have been a deck of a mobile home.  Last year’s spring book featured a shot of a woman resting in a hammock — she could have been on a balmy beach or on the balcony of a studio apartment. With just blue sky above, it’s up to the reader to decide.

The cover photography has a dual purpose — to help you imagine yourself in a place you’d like to be and to encourage you to take a minute and enjoy the view from where you are.

It’s a “picture yourself here” idea.

And that’s what a lot of IBOs do in their Quixtar businesses.  They set goals and work to achieve them.  Part of that might include picturing themselves in a different situation — one where they might replace an aging car with a newer model or where teeth straightened by braces replace a crooked smile.  They picture themselves somewhere else and then make that picture a reality.  If they stick with it and keep focused on what they want to achieve.

I heard this week that January 23 was the day most people give up on their New Year Resolutions.  I know that it’s pretty much down to the “5 a.m. regulars” at the gym where I work out.  It’s easy to dream and set goals but tougher to stick with them.  That’s why people go on and off diets or exercise plans or stop smoking dozens of times before kicking the habit for good.

Sometimes appreciating the little steps — or stopping to relish the view from where you are — helps you get from here to there.  A pound lost is still a weight loss.  Cutting down to a half pack a day is still a reduction.   Celebrate little successes or victories on the way to a goal.  It helps to appreciate what you have right here, right now while working toward something you don’t.

So picture yourself where you want to be — but don’t forget all that’s good about where you are right now.

Jan.19
2006

Born, Married, Buried …And other information that may be online but not true

There used to be an old saying that a lady's name should only appear in the paper when she's born, when she marries, and when she dies.

I first heard this adage from the ancient copy editor who oversaw my work as a fledgling reporter — which included writing obituaries.  While not the most glamorous work in the newsroom, it did teach me respect for details and for how important accuracy and a precise historical record can be.  I posted this week about how we misidentified someone in a photo.  A simple mistake, but disturbing nonetheless to the person who was misidentified.

I remember the first time I spoke to grieving and teary widow about an error in her husband's obituary.  The coroner who provided the information and I were confused about a fact and collectively made a decision on how it should be handled in the obituary.  You can probably guess that we were wrong in our reasoning.  Something that seemed like a little thing was a huge issue for this widow.  We ran a retraction and corrected the reference, but we couldn't take back the damage that was done.

Today, the Internet is our hometown newspaper, and it's pretty rare not to find some fact about yourself online — whether your birth, marriage, deaths of parents or grandparents, or other details.  You may find a lot of information that's right, and a lot that's wrong.  While the Internet has become a valuable resource for information about anything from arthritis to zebras, what you find there isn't always correct — and in some cases may be outrageously false.

The Internet has breathed new life into urban legends (which I won't repeat here as I don't want to share bad information.) And while satire and parody has its place and is usually recognized as such, others have fabricated reports that have been reported, repurposed, and circulated elsewhere as fact.

If you haven't already, Google your name.  You'll be surprised at what's out there, and what may or may not be accurate.  I found out that someone else and I shared the same maiden names – beginning, middle, and last — and lived in the same state for a period of time.  Since we both also attended the same university (although years apart), a search resulted in both of our histories intermingled.   Luckily there wasn't anything damaging or embarrassing in either of our pasts, so it wasn't a big deal.  But it could have been very damaging.

Years ago I was in the Philippines for the opening of Amway's affiliate there.  I took a tour of a World War II monument to fallen U.S. soldiers and scanned the initials for my maiden name and married name.  There, on a giant granite wall, was my father's full name and hometown.  While may Dad had been stationed in the Philippines during World War II, he returned home safely — otherwise I wouldn't be here. 

But it was another lesson that sometimes facts aren't always what they appear to be and it takes a little due diligence to determine what's what.   

  

Jan.18
2006

Nobody’s perfect

Quixtar Communications produces thousands of communications every year.  And most are practically perfect.  I say that because the copy may be error free, the right images are in the right places, and everything is as it should be.  But there isn’t an editor or art director in my shop who looks at what they’ve done and doesn’t think of ways it could be better.  It’s this constant critique that keeps us constantly improving what we do and how we do it.

Offer a compliment to any editor or art director and you get the “thank you…but” response.  For example, I complimented an art director on some beauty work and got the response…”thanks, but next time I would….”  Rarely does someone just accept the compliment and enjoy it.

But then again, sometimes we screw up.  Sometimes when we’re dealing with hundreds of photos of IBOs, the right name doesn’t get attached to the right photo (that happened just last week — I sent flowers).  Or a number in a SKU gets transposed.  Or something is late.

Sometimes there’s an easy fix — we can update something on the Web immediately.  Sometimes we need to address an aspect of our processes and make improvements.  Our goal is not to repeat mistakes but fix them and move on.  There’s always an apology.  But no finger pointing and blaming — if someone messed up they fess up, fix it, see if we need to change anything and we move on.

Because no one’s perfect.  And if you create a climate where you can’t accept that we all make mistakes, you’re fostering a place where creativity is stifled, innovation gets discouraged, and risk-taking just doesn’t happen.  And that’s when you cease to really improve, stretch, and grow, because you just won’t take the chance that you might fail.

One of my favorite questions is, “What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?”  Sometimes the difference between a good idea and an exceptional one is erasing that fear of failure.  And that’s when truly spectacular work happens.

So we’re going to make mistakes.  That said, we’re also going to take risks and make mistakes along the way.  But we’ll continue to grow and improve the way we communicate with and support IBOs.  And that’s what really matters.

Jan.17
2006

You can’t please everyone

Lots of chatter around Quixtar this week, as the new floorplans and materials samples were posted.  The whole floor plan is on display, including where departments and people will be situated.

And, the project officially launched last week when Finance moved out of their existing space into a staging area while the new Finance area is created.

Some people are positive and optimistic about the change; others more guarded; and still others downright unhappy.  They don't like the colors.  They don't like the carpet.  They don't like where they're seated.  And they may not like who they're seated near.  There's one person who seems to be staring at the plan every time I walk by.  I sense she's not happy about something.

There's a lot we can't control about our workspace, but a lot we can.  There's a woman in Catalog Marketing who literally designed her workspace to reflect her personal tastes — it's a lovely office with a trunk for storage, floor pillows and various throws.  It has kind of a Casbah feeling to it.  There are minimalists who have only the essentials.  There are some who have created shrines to boyfriends, wives, children, or pets.  And there are others who choose to just decorate with all the stuff they collect from day to day, week to week, year to year. 

I'm very low maintenance about my workspace.  I just need a laptop, a phone, an AP stylebook and a dictionary.  I like having some personal photos and tchochkes around, but I don't really need them.  I've often joked about taking over one of the tables with stools near our kitchen area — that's really all I need to work.  But I know I'm in the minority.

Ultimately, it's not where you do your work but what you do that matters.  How you contribute.  And in Quixtar's case, how we support IBO success.  For our team, that means creating compelling and effective catalogs, videos, Web sites, and other tools to support IBO selling and sponsoring.   

Jan.06
2006

Achieving with Achieve

Neglected to mention while crowing about the redesign of WYW that Achieve magazine has also received a facelift.

The masthead has changed, as has the photostyling for the cover feature.  The new look and feel helps really underscore what makes IBO leaders tick and what drives their passion for their businesses.

Also check out the video companion to the cover story at Quixtar.com.  It literally brings the words and thoughts of leaders to life.

Speaking of bringing something to life, check out “Jason Roberts’ Taste” this weekend on the Independent TV Network at 3 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time and 2 p.m. CT, MT, Hawaii and Alaska time on Saturday, January 7.  The energetic and passionate iCook spokesperson shares healthy recipes and tips in this fun and exciting show.  For local stations, visit www.ionline.tv/stations/list.cfm.

Jan.04
2006

Problems in blogland

I've been in the middle of a move during which my cable Internet access didn't move with me (and still hasn't).  To complicate matters, my husband's DSL line hasn't been activated either.  So, to access the Internet when I'm not in the office, I have to go to a nearby coffeehouse that offers free wireless Internet access.  Or at least park outside so I can check e-mail.

And, I had some posting problems with BlogHarbor, so I haven't been here at Inside Quixtar Communications for a while. 

The biggest frustration I had with all of this was having the answers (or rather URLs) to several questions that I couldn't provide without being able to go to  QuixtarFacts.com or Quixtar.com.  Makes you wonder how we ever got by without so much information at our fingertips.  Or how important getting that information is to our success — or the feeling that we're successful. 

A new year has brought some changes here at Quixtar.  First, check out WYW, the renovation of the What You Want monthly product magazine.  There's a new look and a new focus on what's new in products and services. 

Second, we're starting an office renovation shortly to give the whole place a new look and feel.  So it will be moving time here at work in a few months.

Third, we haven't seen the sun so far this year.  We've had 12 consecutive days with no sunshine here in West Michigan — the record is 15 — and no sun in sight for the next few days.  A gloomy start to what I hope will be a brighter new year!

Finally, speaking of the blogosphere, check out Kathleen Parker's recent column on blogs…..interesting insights from an always interesting columnist.

http://www.townhall.com/opinion/columns/kathleenparker/2005/12/28/180480.html