Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Supporting the USO

My schedule today called for an early lunch at Masraff's on Post Oak to learn more about the USO, the USO Auxiliary, local volunteers and their upcoming plans.

Filling me in on all of this were Lavonne Cox, president of the Houston Auxiliary, and Amanda Malloy, a staffer with the national organization. Amanda had flown in from her home base in Destin, FL. Her husband — on active duty in the Air Force — is stationed there.

The USO is a non-profit, private organization, chartered by Congress. It relies on the generosity of individuals and corporations to support its activities. The USO is not part of the U.S. government, but it is recognized by the Department of Defense, Congress and the President of the United States, who serves as the honorary chairman.

This afternoon, I learned the Houston Auxiliary is moving full steam ahead. Several activities are being planned for the fall and winter, including a big fund-raising dinner set for Presidents Day, 2012. I also learned the Houston Auxiliary has a Facebook page (The Houston Chapter of the USO Auxiliary) and is soliciting both friends and supporters.

I told Lavonne and Amanda they could count on me to join the Auxiliary and to help local efforts in any way I can. I promised to feature the USO in the September/October issue of Houston Woman Magazine.

Like most patriotic Americans, I strongly believe in the work of the USO and appreciate its mission — to lift the spirits of American troops and their families.

I grew up in a military family, so I am very familiar with the USO. Often, my dad has told me about how important the organization is to the men in uniform and cited examples of good deeds done all around the world —  including Bob Hope's wonderful USO Shows. (Needless to say, watching those USO shows on television when they aired at Christmastime was always must-see TV for my family.)

My dad's favorite story, though, took place at the USO Center in Washington D.C., shortly after World War II. It was there, while attending a USO dance, that he met my pretty mother!

Needless to say, that USO story is my favorite too. 


I got up early this morning to attend the summer meeting of the Houston Woman Business Book Club, a group I formed two-and-a-half years ago for purely selfish reasons.

At the time, I had been reading (and enjoying) business books for many years. But, unfortunately, I never had a lot of friends who shared my keen interest in "biz-ed."

Often I would read a great book on leadership or entrepreneurism, get inspired by the wisdom I found among its pages and, then, have no similarly inspired buddies to discuss my findings. It was always a letdown.

Finally, in January 2009, I decided to solve this problem. I organized a group of women who would meet regularly and read only business books! I figured the best of these books wouldn't be bestsellers if there weren't plenty of others out there just like me! I also figured those who would be interested in joining such a group would be the kind of people I would truly enjoy meeting and getting to know!

Needless to say, I was right on all counts.

This morning, our group met for the 24th time to discuss the 24th book on our list. (Can't you just imagine how smart we all are now?)

We met at Ouisie's Table on San Felipe for breakfast and discussion of Tina Fey's new book, Bossypants.

Members arrived early, eager to re-connect with each other and to offer their comments on the funny lady's book. All said they laughed out loud as they read Bossypants and could literally hear Fey's voice as she told her stories.

Time did not permit us to discuss everything in the book, but much was said about Fey's chapters on 1) her father Don Fey, 2) her Poseidon Adventure honeymoon, 3) Photoshop, 4) Breastfeeding for 72 hours, and 5) what she's learned about being a boss.

Most importantly, she said, "My advice to women in the workplace is this: When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism...ask yourself the following question: 'Is this person in between me and what I want to do?' If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you're in charge, don't hire the people who were jerky to you.

"If the answer is yes, you have a more difficult road ahead of you. I suggest you model your strategy after the old Sesame Street film piece 'Over! Under! Through!' ... Opinions will change when you're the boss!"

Fey also reminded us not to fret when someone calls you "bossy."

She said, "You're no one until someone calls you bossy."

That Tina Fey, she is so funny — and oh so very wise! Who knew?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lazy Sales Reps

Some days in the office of a magazine editor and publisher are more challenging than others, and I'm not talking about the work of writing or editing or generating enough revenue to keep it all going. No, the real challenge is keeping my cool when dealing with lazy, uninformed sales reps who solicit my business.

Case in point: Today, I received a call from a young woman who works for a printing company. First, she calls me up, talks so fast that I never catch her name or the name of her company. Then, she asks if her (still-a-mystery) company could print Houston Woman Magazine.

She paused to take a breath, so I was able to squeeze in this question: "Have you ever seen our magazine?"

She responds, "Well, ah, no. But, I've seen your website."

Needless to say, I was annoyed.

Without ever seeing Houston Woman Magazine how would she even know if her (still-a-mystery) company had the capabilities to print our type of magazine or handle the size of our press run?

I didn't scream at her, but I did give her unsolicited advice about the importance of "doing the homework" when one is in sales. If I embarrassed her, so be it. Somebody (maybe her boss) should be mentoring her!

Sadly, that young woman was not the first sales rep for a printing company who has called and annoyed me in the same way.

Just a few weeks ago I had a sales rep from another local printing company (this one a big, well-known one) call me up and ask if I would mail her some back issues so she "could figure out if they could do the printing."

I told her, "No, but you can order a single copy of the current issue online. The cost is $7.

Instead of saying, "Great. I'll do that and get back to you," she responded in a weak and timid voice, "I'll see if my boss will approve the expense."

I've never heard from that sales rep again, and I thank God. Dealing with clueless sales reps really tests my patience.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Afternoon Tea at the St. Regis

Members of the River Oaks Women's Breakfast Club gathered this afternoon for Afternoon Tea at the St. Regis Hotel on Briar Oaks Lane. Being part of the group - and a big fan of events of this sort - I was eager to attend and join in the fun. 

Well, which woman wouldn't be?

Afternoon Tea at the St. Regis is always a treat! The environment is lovely; the service is impeccable, and the three traditional courses - finger sandwiches, scones and desserts - are always delicious and eloquently presented. 

Our gathering was coordinated by Candace Baggett, our social chair extraordinaire. Candace picked the date, booked the tea room and worked out the details. She put the invitations together and got them out. Then, she followed up by he talking up this special event at many of our weekly meetings. As expected, many responded in the affirmative, and we filled the tea room.

Candace suggested we all show up in hats, and some of our group did just that, including one of our newest ROWBC members, Interior Designer Peggy Hull. 

Seeing Peggy and so many of our other friends (all businesswomen) dressed in printed summer dresses and wide-brimmed bonnets made such a lovely picture. If only I had thought to bring a camera!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Reality Check

Earlier today, I created a survey for Houston Woman Magazine and solicited responses (via Constant Contact) from its readers. In short, it was time for a reality check!

I wanted to give readers an opportunity to tell me how they viewed the publication I have, for seven years now, devoted so much of my time and energy. Specifically, I wanted to know if the demographic it served is as obvious to them as it should be.

I wanted to know how they first became aware of Houston Woman Magazine and how long they had been reading it. I wanted to know what immediately came to mind when they hear the name of the magazine and what they viewed as its specialty and uniqueness. I also wanted to know what I could be doing more or less to better serve them.

I had no idea how many readers would offer their opinions, but it didn't really matter. Any amount of feedback is, as Martha Stewart says, a good thing.

I was pleasantly surprised when, within a few hours, dozens of responses to my survey came in and gave me the information I sought.

I am happy to report that the readers "get it." They see Houston Woman Magazine is designed to inform, inspire and connect women, that it focuses on business and career issues, primarily, and that it is designed to be fun without fluff.

Many of the readers gave me some great ideas for future issues, and I can't wait to move forward on their suggestions.

I love working on Houston Woman Magazine. I love too that so many amazing women are paying attention — and contributing!