Attention is Our New Currency

Attention is Our New Currency

We are more connected to our phones than ever before. Constantly checking to make sure we’re not missing anything (even if it’s not beeping or vibrating or ringing). It’s the last thing we check before bed and the first thing when we wake up. And yes, many of us are finding it easy to do since we’re increasingly sleeping with our phones. I almost had a heart attack last month when I left my phone in the supermarket by mistake. Some nice lady let me borrow her phone so I could run around the aisles dialing my number until I heard it quack. Phew. I realized at that moment that I am an addict. Always connected.

I am constantly in touch and have so many ways to communicate; it’s hard to keep up. Text, WhatsApp, email, Skype, FaceTime, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc. All in their silos. Each one with its own rules.

While there are more ways for us to communicate than ever before, this is also a huge issue. It’s harder than ever to get someone’s attention. Before email and cell phones, there was only one way to have a two-way conversation – the landline telephone. Often attached to the wall. Now we are always on. We can communicate with anyone anywhere in real time using any number of ways. We are no longer dependent on voice calls since we can now see each other while we’re talking. We can even broadcast live.

The intermediaries are gone. Everyone can be a “radio” or “TV” star. But there’s a rub. With access to the technology, there are more eyeballs. But they’re no longer staring at the TV. Their attention is on multiple screens and multiple channels. So the battle is no longer about getting your 5 minutes of fame, those who can get and hold people’s attention will win the war. But it won’t last because the shiny new thing is right around the corner. Just wait until AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) are widely available…

Rules of Engagement

Rules of Engagement Photo

I started seeing a new dentist recently after being frustrated by the constant salesmanship of my last dentist. I was very clear with him on my expectations and explained that I often talk about “the new consumer” in my keynote speeches. I’m sharing my requests regarding transparency and authenticity in case they come in handy.

  1. Be on time – respect runs both ways. If you schedule an appointment during my lunch hour, don’t ask me to wait while you finish yours.
  2. Don’t sell me shit I don’t need or want. I understand that you train your staff to sell, sell, sell but no, I don’t need the new $160 miracle toothbrush before I’ve even seen you.
  3. Develop a relationship first. Trust is established when we’re both honest with each other.
  4. Don’t ask me for reviews. See #3. If I’m happy, I’ll lavish you with praise.
  5. Don’t promote yourself on multiple deal sites (using different prices) and then tell me you didn’t know about it. I assume that your staff = you.
  6. Don’t use fear mongering to scare me into getting procedures. See #3.
  7. I’m not a monetization engine. Remember that you’re a dentist, not a used car salesman. I expect my doctors to treat me as medical professionals first, business owners second.

My Daily Reading List

Anat Reading WSJ

“A curator we believe in will take us places we didn’t previously choose to go, because we have faith in them.”
Bob Lefsetz

I’m an information junky. I love to keep up with the latest news but also in-depth pieces about worlds I’m interested in. Until 10 year ago, I subscribed to newspapers (The NY Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today) and 50+ magazines (everything from the New Yorker to Vogue to Wired). While I didn’t have time to read them all, I tried to at least peruse them and grab whatever tidbits I could. I was very popular with flight attendants on long flights out of LAX because I’d bring the magazines onboard and leave them behind.

Now I let others curate my “must read” list. Yes, I know about social media but I can’t keep up with my feeds on Twitter and Facebook so these newsletters are sent to my inbox.

Here’s my list of current favorites. No, I don’t always read them. That’s what the delete button is for. The good news is that there’s always another one on the way.

If only someone could curate these for me…

The Skimm

Next Draft


Product Hunt

Launching Next

psfk Daily

Trendera (weekly)

Term Sheet

Mattermark Daily

Women in Business
The Broadsheet

Social Business
Smart Brief

The Hollywood Reporter Live Feed

NBWA Daily Brew

Doing the Hard Work

Doing The Hard Work

We live in a shortcut culture. The weight loss industry had a $60 billion year, with many of these diets offering quick fix solutions. In contrast, the fitness industry is a $22 billion a year business. We’re entering the holiday season to be followed by new year’s resolutions that list losing weight and getting fit at the very top. Despite our good intentions, most of these resolutions won’t make it into February. Why? Well, most people are looking for the shortcut and aren’t willing to put in the effort. Let’s face it. Losing weight is hard. Getting fit is even harder. There’s no magic bullet. Just hard work.

I’m finding a similar attitude toward work, mostly among Millennials who some call the entitled generation.

I have a friend who is 24 and fits the bill. She’s beautiful and bright and until now, has had everything handed to her, often by the (successful) men she’s dated. Because we’re friends with a big age difference, I wanted to believe that she was different. That she meant it when she discussed her ambition and asked for career advice. So I shared that when I was her age I already completed graduate school and had a great job running a division of a hotel company. Lots of responsibility, long hours and constant (not always glamorous) travel came with tremendous job satisfaction and the knowledge that I was making a difference. But I was wrong about my (soon to be ex) friend. She wants the title and the prestige, but doesn’t want to put in the time and effort. Good luck with that.

I’m happy to report that not all Millennials I meet are looking for an easy ride to the top. A few years back, I was a keynote speaker at a conference and noticed a young woman in the front row. She was 25 at the time and told me how no one took her seriously because she was young and female in a male dominated industry. I had a horrible flu so I can’t remember what advice I gave her beyond: just be yourself and do the hard work. Prove them wrong. And she did. Today, she is a bona fide influencer with a major social media presence and is awaiting publication of her first book. She didn’t sit around waiting for things to happen or be handed to her – she went for it.

Americans are obsessed with overnight successes – especially in Hollywood and tech – but the reality is that there’s no such thing. There’s a lot of hard work behind the lucky break. And Millennials will figure it out like the rest of us.

Stop Outsourcing Your Social Media

Stop Outsourcing Your Social Media Image #2

Would you outsource your personality? That’s essentially what you’re doing by letting a third party represent your business. Social is exactly that. It’s about building relationships. Some are one to one and others are one to many. Your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine etc. represent who you are – they are your voice – whether it’s in words or images. They reflect you and no outsider can copy that. Because no outsider can copy your personality. And yes, all brands have personality. Big or small they stand for something.

Many small businesses are afraid of social media. Mostly because they don’t understand it. After all, they’re busy running their business and just don’t have TIME. They see it as a foreign thing. They don’t speak the language and don’t understand the significance. They know it’s something they SHOULD do. And since they don’t know how to, they hire an “expert.”

I’m not saying that social media gurus or agencies are all bad. I’m saying that they should only be used when absolutely necessary. They can be helpful in selecting the appropriate social media platforms (for example, not everyone needs to be on Snapchat, especially if your target market is seniors), setting up the accounts, showing you how to build a following, or coming up with a promotion or contest. BUT I don’t believe that anyone can build relationships for you that isn’t you. Especially in the initial stages of your social media presence.

Social media isn’t just about content (yours or someone else’s). It’s about opinions, it’s about humanizing your business, and it’s about letting others in. To your value system, thinking, habits. The more authentic you are, the more engaged your fans/followers will be. Oh and the time issue, well, it’ll quickly become a non-issue once you make it part of your life and see the benefits. Believe it or not, it can actually be fun. Especially once you stop seeing it as a chore but as a way to share and to engage.

I’ve been advising a friend who owns a small business and wants to grow. He just hired a PR firm and part of their job is social media. They set up Twitter and Facebook accounts. These have miniscule (~100) likes/followers and almost no engagement. Why? The content they post (once a day) is boring — articles from blogs. They add little personality to each post so it’s basically vanilla content. More noise on people’s feeds but no real value. No reason to stop and read because there was nothing that reflects the company. So there are barely any likes or retweets.

Here’s the bottom line. People want to do business with other people. The advantage a small business has is that consumers can get close to the owner(s). They aren’t doing business with a faceless corporation. It’s why some consumers flocked to craft beer. It’s local. They can touch the brewery. Shake hands with the brewer. Or at least connect with him or her online. It feels real. It’s not just a purchase at the grocery store along with milk and bread. It’s a relationship. Not just a transaction.

When I released my film Beer Wars in 2009, my sister forced me on Facebook and Twitter kicking and screaming. She was an early adopter and already saw the value. I thought it was a time suck but gave it a try. I built a loyal following, wrote every tweet and post myself and developed relationships. Some even moved IRL (in real life) while others are with strangers who I feel like I know.

My theatrical and digital distribution partners both offered up their social media agencies. I declined, much to their surprise. I realized early on that no one would care as much as I do and that I wanted the relationships to continue long after the agencies were gone.

It ended up being the right call. On April 16, 2009, Beer Wars was a trending topic on Twitter! How did I do it? I partnered with other organizations that promoted the film, like Yelp and the Reason Foundation. I built trust and relationships early on. It turns out that social media is just like real life. It’s about give and take. Being nice and grateful. And most of all being real. That’s the best reason to tweet or post. Because you have something to say. And you say it best.

Organic Growth Done Right

Organic Growth Done Right

Warning: Don’t read if you’re hungry.

For tech startups these days, it’s all about getting to scale. Bigger is better and the faster, the better. But for IRL (in the real world) companies, I believe in managed growth. It’s not a race to the finish but a race for longevity. So how do you grow your company, keep your culture and customers without sacrificing quality and service? A great local example is Sugarfish – my favorite sushi bar (now chain) in Los Angeles.

It’s been 5 years since I discovered Sugarfish in Brentwood. I fell in love at first bite. The sushi was fresh, the rice was warm, the flavors pure perfection. The atmosphere was casual and here’s my favorite part – while there was a menu, I loved ordering the “Trust Me” option so I didn’t have to make decisions. The Chef figured out the best order and combination of flavors so who was I to argue? I was hooked. And judging from the crowds that appeared through word of mouth, I knew that this place would take off and be a mega success.

Today Sugarfish has expanded to 7 locations in the LA area and is rumored to be opening a restaurant in New York City next year. So how do you go from one to seven hugely popular locations in 5 years with lines out the door?

Quality: The fish melts in your mouth, it’s that fresh. My sister who lives in Bay Area has begged the owners to open a restaurant in San Francisco. They say they can’t do it because they can’t find the same quality of fish up there.

Create Demand: They don’t take reservations. You have to show up, put your name down and wait. Even if you’re Larry David. This is in LA, land of entitlement yet no one complains. Regulars know to show up early for lunch or dinner so they don’t have to wait.

Production line approach to service: This isn’t Benihana but they do have the process down to an art. Part of the genius is having “Trust Me” menu options that appear to be the most popular. That way the kitchen and servers are bringing food out all in the same order as soon as it’s made. This speeds up service and assures that the tables turn faster than at a more traditional sushi bar.

Training and promoting from within: They are constantly training new folks (as the expand) and move people up the ranks. Kevin who used to be the manager in Brentwood is now in charge of all locations. I believe that succession planning is key to having a well-run organization especially when expanding geographically.

Slow and steady: While seven locations in five years may sound like a lot, it’s actually slow in the restaurant business. But the owners are controlling growth. They know that they need to ensure consistent quality in food and service so expansion is deliberate.

Location, location, location: They know their customers and select locations where they can expand on their customer base and reputation. No oversaturation here. It’s a smart move since the lines are part of the experience.

Loyalty: They have a mobile app that tracks customer visits. They get crucial customer data while you get a free meal on your birthday. It’s a win win.

Diversification: One of the best things at Sugarfish is their hand roll. So a few months back they opened KazuNori a hand roll bar – yup, just like it sounds – in downtown LA. It’s a stripped down version of Sugarfish serving a different clientele. They get to experiment but not at the expense of their flagship.

While we watch the hyper growth of tech companies, it’s nice to see entrepreneurs succeeding the old fashioned way. One store at a time. While continuing to provide a consistent customer experience.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation of any sort with Sugarfish. The opinions expressed here are strictly my own based on personal observations and conversations with staff. I did get a complimentary dinner on my birthday in March. But you can too if you get the mobile app.

Finding Inspiration

Finding Inspiration
“How can I be inspired to innovate?” asked a young engineer following my keynote speech at his company’s “Innovation Day.” He said he appreciated the effort his company is making to foster innovation: creating a day where they can check out what special projects everyone else was working on, setting up special areas where employees can go to feel inspired, putting up inspirational quotes around the campus. But all that doesn’t work for him. He can’t just “pop out” new ideas. I told him that I wasn’t surprised. In my experience, finding inspiration isn’t something that can be scheduled or forced. That’s why so many brainstorming sessions fail to come up with big ideas.

Inspiration is often random. At least for me. It happens when you’re thinking about something else. I got the idea for this post in the shower today. Really!

On the flight home, I started thinking about how I’ve been inspired, especially as an entrepreneur. Here’s how I came up with some of my bigger ideas:

Travel Fanatic: I was sitting next to Martha Stewart’s table at Le Cirque on the night she was celebrating her big IPO. My friends who knew my background and passion for travel encouraged me to pursue a dream. Do for travel what Martha did for the home. When I got back to LA, I went for it. Built a website, became an expert on TV and online and got a book deal. Even raised a seed round. Unfortunately 9/11 shattered this dream but at least I got to see it come to life.

Beer Wars: Supersize Me had just come out and I decided (on the spur of the moment) to make a documentary film. I used an invitation to the annual beer industry convention as a starting point and 3 years later I had a finished film. Every time I got stuck (because it turns out it’s really HARD to make a movie without a script) I stopped trying and did something else. And the answers came. While I kept hiring editors and consultants to put the puzzle pieces together, in the end, I had to trust myself because the movie was playing inside my head.

StashWall: I got the idea for a tech startup by accident. Literally. That’s a story for another day. The design came to me when I was visiting the Griffith Observatory and saw the Interactive periodic table of elements. I sent photos of it to my designer and we went from there. I “borrowed” the concept from a completely unrelated medium and reworked it so it could inspire our look and feel.

So how can you get inspired?

  1. Stop trying so hard. The more obsessed you are with finding a solution to a problem or creating something new, the less likely you are to find it. And the more likely you are to become frustrated and give up.
  2. Take a new route. A friend wrote a book about dating a few years back. Her advice – get out of your own way. Stop following your routine. Pursue activities that you don’t ordinarily participate in. Basically change things up. She took her own advice. She met her husband walking up the stairs to services at a synagogue she had never attended before. Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery to change your life.
  3. Get out in nature. Nothing beats a walk on a beach or a hike up a mountain to help clear your head and open your mind to new ideas.
  4. Exercise. This is a cliché but working out is good for your brain, not just your body. Changing your focus can help you hone in on the solution that’s eluded you.
  5. Take more showers. Since a shower (or similar “mindless” activity) is relaxing, your brain may release dopamine that can help boost your creative juices.

Pattern Recognition

Pattern Recognition

Pattern recognition involves identification of faces, objects, words, melodies, etc. The visual system does more than just interpret forms, contours and colors. Pattern recognition refers to the process of recognizing a set of stimuli arranged in a certain pattern that is characteristic of that set of stimuli.

Is “pattern recognition” the latest buzzword to explain away sexism and ageism in the tech world? Or is it simple human nature? Could it be that investors are more comfortable investing/believing in founders who (a) look like them or (b) remind them of their younger selves? And since most investors are white men, well, that may explain the statistics.

There’s been so much written lately about gender issues in Silicon Valley whether it’s GitHub or RadiumOne. It’s obvious in this digital age that there are no secrets and that what you say (even in private, just ask Donald Sterling) and how you behave matter. I disagree with Sheryl Sandberg, Leaning In isn’t the answer. Standing up for yourself is. Women need to feel empowered to speak out without fear of retribution. Otherwise, nothing will change.

Ageism has also become an “issue” that’s getting some press. Another ugly truth that no one wants to admit to. This too needs to be addressed. Sure, companies are free to hire as they see fit but at times I wonder if this leaning towards youth doesn’t ignore experience. After all, technology is obviously the key but knowing how to get the word out, understanding distribution and monetization are areas where experience and connections matter. A lot.

So increasingly tech is looking more and more like Hollywood. The players may be different and the two grumble about each other but basically they have a lot more in common than either would like to admit. I can only hope that the culture in both industries will continue to evolve. That people will be judged based on their ability and not based on sex, age or race. I just hope I get to see this new, more balanced world in my lifetime.

Be Bossy

Be Bossy

Here she goes again. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and best selling author of Lean In has brought out the big guns like Beyonce to campaign against the word “Bossy.” #BanBossy

Really? Is it the word that’s the problem or the whole idea of women in leadership roles?

I’m bossy. There I said it. And I’m proud of it. I don’t think the word is the issue but rather our view of leadership itself. The real problem is that we have many examples of male leaders, some of who are known to be rather “difficult.” Steve Jobs comes to mind. Yet, his manner is excused by his brilliance and success. On the other extreme, there’s President Obama who is seen as consensus builder.

But women leaders? We simply don’t have many role models.

This struck me like a bolt of lightening while watching The Pianist of Willesden Lane on Saturday. There’s a scene in the play where photos of famous composers are projected on the stage and there isn’t a single woman among them. This of course isn’t unique to music.

Campaigns like “Ban Bossy” make noise. Especially in our celebrity driven culture. But our career/life choices aren’t external, they happen within us based on what we see and hear.

Let’s face it; we are all influenced by what we see around us — in real life, in the media, in pop culture. Our perceptions are shaped by our experiences. That’s why we need more Hillary Clintons, Mary Barras, Condoleezza Rices, Sara Blakelys, Amy Pascals, Diane Sawyers, and Susan Wojcickis. We need to see more powerful women in every field. But especially the visible ones: politics, media, entertainment, business, technology and science.

Young girls should be saying: “when I grow up I want to be like _____________” and be able to name a successful woman in every field.

I wish I had that opportunity when I was growing up. Instead I was the first woman “boss” in each industry I entered. I didn’t have an issue leading but my role models were all male. So I emulated their style. Which, it turns out is “bossy.”

So instead of banning words, let’s change our perception of leadership. In my fantasy world, more women will want to become leaders (because they won’t be deterred by being bossy) and in turn young girls will have great role models to look up to.

If you want more opinions on the “Ban Bossy” campaign check out these posts from other (smart) women:

Pushing a Boulder up a Hill

Sweat Equity

My sister sent me this article today after I brought up the difficulty I’ve had in raising money.

It begins like this:

“Women have it tough. Business propositions — whether presented in a boardroom, coffee shop or pitch contest — are discounted as soon as women open their mouths.

We’re not just saying that. There’s proof: Gender has a more significant impact on decision-makers than the presenter’s experience or the topic she’s discussing, according to a new study conducted by professors from Harvard, MIT and Wharton.

Researchers have uncovered “a profound and persistent preference for entrepreneurial ventures pitched by men.”

I’ve been meeting with potential investors for about a year now on and off. And while I rarely encountered sexism in my corporate career, lately I’ve been wondering how different things would be if I were a guy. (I almost called this post: “If I had a penis.”) There’s no question that tech is male dominated. Although the same can be said for the hospitality, entertainment, media and beer industries but in those cases I was brought in to strategize and execute. To make shit happen. Quite often, to turn things around.

This is a different ballgame. I’m asking investors to trust me with their money and make it grow. Exponentially. Just like the men they meet with. And the problem according to the research:

“The reason is simple: People connect with others like them and suffer from a self-selection bias. With so few women in tech, a woman standing before a group of men pitching her idea is about as foreign as they come.”

Will this deter me from my goal? Absolutely not. I believe that there are investors (of both genders) who will get the idea, the opportunity and see my passion and want to get behind it. I’m ready for “yes.”