The Portwine Glaze (An Explanation)

The Portwine Glaze (An Explanation)

I first heard this phrase drop from the mouth of one of the servers at Beast over our dinner shift one night. Portwine glaze, it was describing chicken or perhaps lamb or something. All I remember is seeing imagery of deep purple birthmarks dancing along faces, around necks, and in my case, dripping down legs.

It’s summer, y’all and it’s f’ing hot. Even though I’m an all-season-boot-wearing femme there are even those days where it’s just too damn hot to want to pull them up. I wish I were one of those girls who had easy legs. You know, a free flowing dress, a sandal, a satchel and I’m on my way. But I’m not and for a multitude of reasons, some of which I will not go into here.

Most people know when they see me that I have a pretty prevalent birthmark. A rash, as I used to call it. I’m used to it, those who love me are used to it, even glory in it, loving up the purpley rose color that decorates a lot of my body. G-d bless the lovers who actually see it and not say, Oh, I don’t even notice it’s there anymore, it just blends in.

Yes, it’s who I am. But also yes, it’s there, always there and not invisible.

And while sometimes I forget about it and move on with my day, my life, there are times, like on the subway, when I am reminded that my legs are a bit different.

Going out somewhere in public that necessitates a subway ride usually I will wear boots or leggings to cover up my vulnerability. But you know, sometimes, I defy the need to cover up, the desire to stay safe and decide it’s just too hot or I’m too lazy or too something and go on the train, legs bare, with just a skirt hanging by the knee.

I’ve gotten to a place in my life where I can handle most birthmark related comments regarding my face because I’ve had and well, my face is out there and can’t really be hidden. “Oh, is that a burn?!” “Did somebody hit you?” “What happened to your face?” People are stupid and insensitive and ignorant. This we know. Those comments are few and farther between now, but when I was growing up, they seemed to hit me whenever I was out in public. And while I still get a wave of vulnerability tumble through my belly and it makes my neck arch a bit, I can easily relax and lean into it within seconds.

But it’s an intimate and different experience with the legs.

I sat on the subway the other day, probably listening to some music on my phone when I noticed this middle age lady looking at me intently. She stared at my bare legs, then up at my face, then at my legs for a bit longer, then up at my face. Her face was neutral, she was just studying me. I felt my body burning up but I caught my anger and understood her confusion. She’s trying to figure out what it is, what I have, and why it’s covering my legs. I just stare back at her, not aggressively, not shyly, just stare back, feeling my core rise in the seat and my legs shine in their color. I get back to my music.

I was crossing the street after a run (therefore in running shorts) the other day in front of the library at Grand Army Plaza when this young guy, probably 17 or so, was with his sister. He was staring at the backs of my legs. I look away, not really wanting to deal on this particular morning, but as that crossing light in that location is kind of long, I look back and he is still staring, this time, leaning into his sister and asking, in a voice I can hear, what it is. What is that? It’s some sort of rash, she answers. He nods and they cross the street.

What I’ve determined is that these looks, these stares, are to me the portwine glaze. I am guilty of it myself, when I see someone who has a similar marking. I stare, I can’t help it, I look at its shape, its coloring, its placement. Is it more intense or invasive than mine? I am not aware of the lapse of time as I do my detective work.

I think it’s OK to look. If the lookers are well-intentioned and can hold that space with respect and inquisitiveness. Unlikely, maybe. But possible, yes.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be a part of Meg Wachter’s photo project called, Atypical Cool. Wachter, a Brooklyn-based photographer took a portrait series of individuals “with visible facial flaws, abnormalities, and other imperfections deemed by societal standards of beauty.” The project “aims to highlight their individual and unique types of beauty.”

Designing Your Whole Package

Designing Your Whole Package

Do you know that there are generally five FDA requirements necessary for food labels but a whopping 23 OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) requirements for cannaboid edibles?

To me, that seems outrageous.

But it’s true and that’s why packaging is so damn important to get right. Otherwise, it can look like a monstrosity.

Good packaging design creates memories, has personality, and captures the imagination.

This was according to Keith Svihovec of Keel Creative in PDX, at a recent event called Designing the Whole Package held at the Lucky Labrador Brew Pub on Hawthorne. The event was part of a series sponsored by The Caputo Group and ORCA (Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association).

But back to design.

Svihovec talked about the design process for his client, chocolatier Todd Shangold of Crop Circle Chocolate. The chocolatier makes medical truffles and just hit the shelves two months ago.

Given all the regulations, the goal is to “take this information and make it [the design] more appealing,” said Svihovec.

For Svihovec, the design process is comprised of a number of elements: OLCC requirements, product story, brand story, competitor analysis, consumer audience and trends, and point of sale limitations, requirements, and opportunities. Since budtenders are the main point of sale for edibles, educating people who are doing the selling is key.

Here are some trends Svihovec pointed out from a BDS Analytics survey:

Consumer trends include:

  • A shift from flower toward higher price point concentrates, edibles and pre-roll joints.
  • Those participants who consumed cannabis in the past six months are more likely to be engaged in physical activity on a once a week basis or greater, than people who don’t use cannabis.

And then there are the design trends:

  • Custom structures
  • Printing techniques
  • Texture
  • Conceptual illustration
  • Puns & humor
  • Pairings
  • Small brands: provocative stories
  • Human touch

And when it comes to working with a designer or agency, Svihovec has some suggestions:

  • Know your brand
  • Know your goals
  • Know your audience
  • Know your budget (remember, budget is more than just money; it’s time, energy and money).

“Stay in your zone of genius and let the agency be part of your team as a collaborative effort,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more.

Dear White People (Who are Coming into Consciousness)

Dear White People (Who are Coming into Consciousness)

I don’t care about his affect so much as his decisions.

Though I do think he’s deplorable.

I question the choices he makes for the administration.

Not really into elevating or even helping anyone outside of their own kind.

Who are taking a wrecking ball to everything.

Should this elite crew really be running the United States?

I don’t think so, but maybe you do.

Sometimes you are surprised to who a person really shows themselves to be.

Sometimes you can make use for it, sometimes you can’t.

We are being pulled to either side

And it makes sense

Senseless things are happening daily, by the minute

Mostly to the most vulnerable people we have

And 45 sits by and strokes the fire

Adds to the load,

When he has so much power to change this direction

To extend a hand.

Step into dignity, man.

Breathe in the toxic air you are blowing

Tune into the people who are not your own, who are not feeding your ego, who don’t have personal, political or corporate agendas.

Stand up for the masses who believe in equality for everyone.

Stand up for where we have evolved as a nation.

It’s by no means perfect but it makes room for more

Maybe you will bring the country together because we are so clear in where we need to fight

Relationships will break up, business partners will divorce, people will avoid each other

Aside from the head-on violence and destruction coming from every direction.

Some are feeling it much harder and we need to take notice.

We need to protect our own.

If it doesn’t touch you, you are steeped in privilege

If you need help with understanding and dismantling that let me know

I’m actively working on it

Basically, all white people should be actively working on it

We have a lot of listening to do from our friends and family who are people of color, living in this society.

Reparations are due.

So, no I don’t care about his affect. Though I find him visually unappealing,

I care about the energetic arrows he is putting out in the world.

I care about his toxic energy, his violent tendencies with his decision-making and wordsmithing. I care about his enforcing of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy,

As bell hooks coined long ago.

I care about blatant disrespect for the presidency and any legacy Obama created.

I care about resisting his presence in our lives and his demands. I care about not holding back on talking to friends and colleagues and acquaintances and family members about what is fucked up about what is happening in this country.

I care about standing in my own dignity.

And it only starts there.

We all have our own way of interrupting moments, where someone says something questionable and someone needs to say something.

Say it.

If you hear something, say something.

If it strikes you as inappropriate or confusing, say something

Get clarification

Make them explain what they mean.

It can be scary at first but it does get easier.

Just do it.

And feel better for it.

Your silence is dangerous.

FreshBooks Live Comes to PDX (a Recap)

FreshBooks Live Comes to PDX (a Recap)

“Brand loyalty is shrinking.”

“Everything you are doing should be memorable or creating experiences.”

“Eight six percent of all word of mouth happens in the real world. Real world is where the stuff happens. Do something in the real world and put it on social media, instead of putting it on social media and hoping it takes off.”

These are the words of Saul Colt (@saulcolt), otherwise known as The Best Marketer in North America and the Smartest Guy in the World. Don’t believe me? Go to his website.

His schtick in speaking to a crowd is unabashed and it works. We know it’s a schtick, because he does it for the laughs. He says he’s allowed one inappropriate comment per talk but he probably pushes the edge on that. He has a lot of experience working with brands as a consultant and forcing drumming up new ideas that are so beyond what the competition is doing. How does he do this? Acting on the belief that little ideas can be as dramatic and meaningful as the big ideas, and by using a secret sauce (more on that later) when it comes to making a really great experience.

I’m quoting Saul from the recent #imakealiving event put on by FreshBooks Live. They are traveling the country, hanging out with small business owners every month, providing them treats and some cool swag, and talking about what makes them tick. I am a FreshBooks user currently and though I almost broke up with them for 17Hats because I am looking for more automation in my workflow (how’s that for jargon) I’m still in the game with good ‘ol FB cause it’s so damn easy and reliable.

So, when I was invited to come to the event in Portland, OF COURSE, I had to go. Held at The Cleaners at Ace Hotel, I was psyched to meet a local bookkeeper/accountant immediately upon entering. (Side note: I cannot escape the accountant/CPA types wherever I go). We shared the same penchant for more activism and equity in the accounting world, hot pink nails and we even had a slight variation of the same business card from Moo. So. Good.

We weren’t there to just hear Saul, though he did get a chunk of time at the end to share some of his creative ideas for inspiration. There was a panel! I’m always up for a good panel. The panelists were:

Lindsay Wolff Logsdon, Head of the Brand Culture Strategy practice at Liquid Agency.

Meghan Sinnott, Brand Manager at Nutcase Helmets.

Reggie Wideman: a consultant for the Salesforce Customer Success Platform.

Rick Turoczy, a staple in the Portland startup community for more than 20 years and founder and editor of the blog, Silicon Florist.

Nathan McKee, an artist and illustrator who is inspired by comics, sports, music and other elements of popular culture.

Full disclosure: I realized halfway through the panel that I should be taking notes on what was being said, so this doesn’t represent the entire discussion, but will hopefully give you a few nuggets to take home with you.

On imposter syndrome:

Lindsay: “Everybody experiences this. If you don’t you are so self-deluded you are out of touch with your own talents. Ask for someone’s opinion.”

Rick: “I’m old enough where I found a comfortable spot. I do deal with entrepreneurs who are deeply suffering and are over-compensating. Every founder is lying to everyone in their lives. Nobody knows what they are doing. Every overnight success is 10-15 years in the making.”

Nathan: “As a creative, anything that I do, I think I can do better.”

Meghan: “My partner is coaching me to think like a mediocre white man. What would he do?”

Saul: “Faking it until you make it is more about tricking yourself until your mind and body catches up.” (Basically, it’s not about other people)

Other choice gems that I caught, you should check the #imakealiving if you want to see more:

Lindsay: “People stay at a company to solve a problem and then move on.” (Otherwise known as a “tour of duty”). “Life priorities change over time.”

Nathan: “I’d be doing this anyway (making art).” The fact that people are interested in it and I’m getting paid for it is crazy.”

Reggie: “Focus on what you’re good at and what makes you happy, then find a way to use that in your industry.”

Saul: “The contractor’s dilemma: I’m hired to be the smartest person in the room but the moment you tell the people who are signing the checks they are wrong, they don’t want you there.”

Speaking of Saul, what’s makes a really great experience?

1.  Make people laugh.

2.  Make people think.

3.  Create genuine emotions.

Good ideas hit two out of three.

And remember, you gotta have sizzle and substance when trying to reach people. Sizzle by itself doesn’t sustain.

One last thing: “If you don’t feel like competing on another person’s terms, just change the rules.”

Are you Ready for Your Firm to be Seen?

Are you Ready for Your Firm to be Seen?

If you’re a small to midsized accounting firm trying to build up your client base around your geographic or niche area, you need to be paying attention to your search engine optimization (SEO).

Which means, you must pay attention to your website.

You already know that your website is the online version of your firm shingle. You already know that there is a need for your services (accounting, tax, advisory, etc.) in your area. The clients are out there. Referrals are great; but what about another way to generate leads?

This is where SEO come in.

When you add in blogging with well-designed SEO optimized images, it’s the perfect strategy for the firm who is focused on expanding its presence, both online and in its geographic area, building out a specific practice area and developing thought leadership in your market.

SEO best practices are changing all the time. And it can get confusing. I caught up with Amna Shamim, SEO specialist and founder of Legal Green Marketing to talk shop. Shamim works with small and medium size cannabusinesses who are looking to come up first among the ranks of Google. Can the same strategies be used for accounting firms? Yes. Especially those firms who identify themselves as cannabis CPAs.

LG: You have a three-part process when you work with your SEO clients. Can you tell us about that?

AS: Yes, the roadmap to a well-optimized and high-ranking site is in three steps. The first is your site analysis, which is assesses your current site status. This includes your authority numbers, some sites with which you share keyword competition and up to 10 keywords you are currently ranking for and where. The second part is implementing your on-site recommendations, which digs into the top areas to target to improve your on-site SEO.  This can be a range of things.  Some examples might be: optimizing your meta-descriptions, rewriting your copy to be more Google-friendly, optimizing your images, etc. And third is your off-site strategy, a way to raise your authority numbers (and with them your Google ranking) and to drive traffic to your site. Depending on what part one looks like, this could be press releases, guest posting, building your presence on social media etc. I also do regular broken link and spam link checks as part of this on-going service to ensure all links are good and driving traffic/SEO juice.

LG: For the off-site part of the process, you only work with clients for six months or longer. Why is that?

AS: This is an on-going process that takes time. I require my clients to sign up for a six-month contract. This is because a white-hat SEO strategy generally takes 18 months to fully take hold and about three to six months to see any progress. Anything faster requires shady methods that Google could notice and punish the site for by deindexing it.  Deindexed sites are impossibly hard to get back into Google (there are people who do nothing but help deindexed sites get reindexed…there are no guarantees…for lots of money.) If you’re trying to rank for a really tough keyword (“lawyer nyc” for example) it takes longer and can cost six figures/year.  Really. Usually there is some improvement to report within six months so although the client may not be where they want, they’re at least seeing progress.  In a non-competitive market (“breast implants reading pa” for example), it’s often possible to get on page 1 within 6 months and then the focus is getting to the top.  

LG: Part of the off-site process requires building up your online presence. Blogging is a great way to do this. For many firms, coming up with four blog posts a month can be challenging. How often should a firm or company publish new blog posts?

AS: As they say, more is better.  I recommend at least 4 blog posts/month but have allowed clients to sign up for as little as 2 blog posts/month with the written understanding that their SEO rankings could take much longer to improve. Fresh content is very important to Google so if we’re only publishing twice a month, we’ll still see results but slower. Increasing the length of the blog posts can help mitigate some of impact of fewer blog posts/each month.

LG: What do you say to people who know they need their website to be more optimized but don’t know where to begin?

AS: I feel like SEO for most people is like taxes. You know it’s important and you need to do them right so you don’t get penalized. However, learning how to do them correctly while getting the most return is really time-intensive and scary and takes away from actually building your business. I pay an accountant and most people who are serious about their ROI also pay a SEO person, whether that’s in-house or a consultant.

 

Yes, You Can Budget on a Commission-Based Salary – Here’s How

Yes, You Can Budget on a Commission-Based Salary – Here’s How

The good news:

“A salary plus commission job has the benefit of providing a guaranteed base salary plus the potential for uncapped commission,” says Lori Dietzler, founder and financial planner at Zero Gravity Financial in New York City.

And the not-as-good:

“The biggest challenge with this type of compensation is that monthly income is unpredictable and makes it tough to create a budget,” Deitzler continues.

“In real estate, commissions are not written in stone but are agreed upon between parties,” says Michele Silverman Bedell, owner and principal broker at Silversons Realty in Westchester. “This gives one flexibility on how much they can earn. A challenge is that there is less consistency in how much one earns, which means that one has to be diligent in their budgeting and saving. Also, one has to have a certain personality that can handle uncertainty and risk.”

Your pay structure may vary

One common misconception about earning this type of income is that all base pays are low and commissions are paid higher on the back end to provide more “incentive,” says JoAnne Kao, director of sales at SourceMedia in New York City. This isn’t necessarily true, as the arrangement will depend on the company and industry structure.

“Some jobs give you a draw the first few months to tide you over until you start making sales,” Kao says. “Then you either keep the draw depending on how much you bring in or you ‘pay back’ the draw over time; some are straight commission, some are a combination of both.”

The key is to look for positions that have a base salary where most or all of your fixed living expenses are covered, Dietzler recommends. Find a job where the base salary will pay for your living expenses and keep them as low and predictable as possible. Commission payments can be used for savings by building a buffer for lower income months by funding an emergency fund.

 Don’t forget about taxes

“Ask your employer which tax method they have chosen to apply to commission earnings- either the flat tax rate (25%) or aggregate method (your ordinary income tax rate),” says Dietzler. “Be conservative when planning your budget based on the salary plus commission compensation. Until you have funded your emergency fund, keep your spending in check while you build up your savings buffer in case there are future lower income months. Avoid using your credit cards to pay bills or discretionary spending that you can’t pay off each month.”

Cynthia Fick, a Phoenix-based investment advisor and author of the book, “The Sisterhood of Money: The Art of Creating Wealth from Your Heart, comments that many of the women she’s talked to see “budget as a four-letter word,” but most end up feeling much better after taking a few simple steps to review their spending. The best place to start is to conduct a cash flow analysis by looking at your purchases for the past month and determine if there’s anything you can cut back on.

Keep 2 bank accounts

Though your income may fluctuate, you can take steps to make the most of what you are earning. “Since your monthly income is unpredictable, use two bank accounts to manage your budget,” Dietzler suggests. “Deposit all income into your savings account and each month transfer the minimum amount to cover living expenses into your checking account, where you can set up automated bill payments.”

“Have separate accounts for bills,” agrees Kao. “Checking accounts are free so open as many as you need. Rent below your means because there will be very slow months.”

Automate your living expenses

Dietzler says once you have a few months of living expenses saved to your savings account, set up automated transfers to fund your other goals – e.g. vacations and retirement. The tools You Need a Budget and Mint are both great for managing personal finances and setting up a budget.

Kao seconds the strategy of automating one’s expenses – particularly the basics such as rent/mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, and taxes, if you’re an independent contractor.

Build your wealth

Next, focus on building your wealth with investments by determining a regular amount that is comfortable to set aside on a monthly basis, says Fick. “When you have a good month of commissions, you can add a larger amount to the investment,” she says. A Roth IRA is a great option for tax-free growth.

Though it can be difficult to set up automatic investments into a savings or mutual fund account when your income fluctuates, it is imperative to your financial success, stresses Fick.

Continue to prioritize spending

When it comes to spending – be conservative and prioritize what is necessary and important, says Bedell. She also recommends having a few months of expenses in reserve and limiting the amount of items you charge or put on credit. She also points to systems such as Quicken or QuickBooks to manage bookkeeping and budgeting.

The $ky’s the limit

“Having the opportunity to earn commissions as well as a base salary is perfect for someone who likes to see the fruits of their labor,” Fick says. “In the long run, you can usually make more money if you can handle some momentary fluctuations in income. That is the reward of being more entrepreneurial.”

Set Yourself Up For a Big Promotion In the First 90 Days of Your New Job

Set Yourself Up For a Big Promotion In the First 90 Days of Your New Job

You’ve got your best suit or dress on, your shoes are shined, every last hair is in place (or so you hope), and you’ve got a rollercoaster of excitement and nerves swirling in your stomach. Today’s the day you start your new position.

For the ambitious, no matter where you are on the career ladder, starting at a new company or organization requires pulling out all the stops. And while you may want to go all in immediately, expect there to be a period of transition and a fairly high learning curve.

“It’s important to make a good first impression on everyone that you meet,” says Erika Kauffman, executive vice president and general manager at 5W Public Relations in New York City. “Getting along with your coworkers should happen. Make it a goal to be super friendly to everyone. Ask questions and make a name for yourself — you want others to respect you.”

You’ll also want to learn who’s who — all companies have culture and they have players. It’s your job to learn who they are and act accordingly. While this is not the time to be a wallflower, you can often learn a lot by watching what’s going on around you.

“This is a new environment that needs to be navigated,” says Maxine Attong, a career coach and author of the book “Lead Your Team to Win: Achieve Optimal Performance By Providing a Safe Space for Employees,” who divides her time between the Caribbean and the United States. “Understand who is who just as you did in the playground — the bullies, the informal leaders, the jokers, the whiz kids, and all the other characters. Observe from a position of curiosity and a state of learning without making judgments or assumptions.”

Depending on the size of the company and your position within it, you will want to know the assistants of each of the top executives, says Lorraine Flett, a partner at Zumado Public Relations in San Francisco. Learn who to go to in each key department that’s pertinent to your position.

“Are you a project manager responsible for requisitioning contractors and processing invoices? Then make sure you know the people in finance/accounting,” Flett says. “If you’re responsible for maintaining the company’s website, make sure you know your copywriters, HTML programmers, and graphic designers. Essentially, you should know everyone upon whom you depend to get your job done or whose help you might need in a pinch.”

One of the best things about being new is that it’s expected that you will have a lot of questions. Take advantage of this time. Set goals with your supervisor, understand their priorities, and take notes on how workflow moves through your team and within your company.

“Be thoughtful in directing questions to the right resources,” says Alicia Nash, senior manager on PwC’s marketing and sales team. “So by all means ask your supervisor about their expectations of you, and the goals you should be setting for the short and long term. If you have access to company leadership, do your homework so you’re able to have a more meaningful conversation with them about the company’s strategy and the role you will play. Save the questions about logging into voicemail, ordering business cards, and where’s the best cup of coffee for your peers.”

Within the first three months, you want to ensure that you not only meet the expectations of what’s required of your position, but that you are able to take the initiative and go beyond expectations, says Flett. You want to demonstrate that you are a team player with a can-do attitude, aptitude for learning, and the ability to take on additional tasks.

“In practical terms this can range from understanding the company’s email protocol to being prompt and prepared for meeting with timely follow-up,” she says. “If I were to give one tip for career advancement, it would be to make sure that you are pitch perfect in all your communications.”

One no-no is coming into a new environment and thinking you have all the answers — even if your ideas are creative and people seem receptive.

“Show respect for the status quo by not complaining about the organization or the way that things are done.” Attong says. “Even if you have the solutions to all the problems, ask questions before making changes or put forward a suggestion so that you understand what efforts were made before, why they did not work, and the impact of failed efforts.”

Attong also recommends not comparing your old company to your new one: You left your old job for a reason, and people tend to be disinterested in hearing about how wonderful your former company was. “If you want to bring elements from the previous job to the new, do so in the spirit of improvement so that team members do not feel that they are being compared to a different standard,” she says.

Many companies — whether large or small — offer the opportunity to telecommute. While this may provide more flexibility in the day-to-day and you may only be required to show up at a physical location time and again, new hires aren’t off the hook when it comes to demonstrating the ability to excel.

“Do what you say you will, when you say you will — and just like in a physical office location, over-communicate at the start about what’s on your plate and how you’re planning to prioritize tasks,” says Nash, who telecommutes from her home in Rhode Island. “The little things in the early weeks, especially when you’re virtual, help set the right tone: Dial into conference calls a minute or two early, be accessible through your company’s instant messaging platform, and meet soft deadlines proactively.”

Nash also stresses to not over-rely on email. She recommends picking up the phone, arranging a video chat, and putting 15 minutes on your boss’ calendar to do what you can to accelerate building rapport.

As you move through the first three months, remember the journey that got you hired at the company in the first place. Have confidence in your abilities and believe you are the right person for the job. Your new boss and company brought you on for a reason, and they are looking to you to knock it out of the park. Good luck!