The Stump Speech

At Target Optical, we each write a stump speech – a statement (or maybe a book for some of us!) about why we do what we do each day. I wrote two different stump speeches when I was a team member from November 2010 through December 2011. When I returned as an Optical Team Leader in August, I found myself agonizing over this. I like to write, and I like to write with meaning and authenticity. The stump speech is an ever changing document for many, as we all evolve personally and professionally during the course of months and years. Nonetheless, I wanted to get this right. After reviewing my stump speech nearly every week since August, I was ready to sign my name to it. Then my boss told me it was a bit more all-encompassing, so I now refer to it as “Mel’s Manifesto”. Drumroll……..

I believe investing in my team and guests will create a great business culture, thus bringing vision and happiness to an increasing number of people every single day.
I recruit as a way of life. I was once a lost, passionate person looking for a work home. Now that I have found it, I share the opportunity with the best people I meet.
I approach team members with sincerity and passion, pushing them to fulfill their potential. Settling for anything less is a disservice to my team and our guests.
I lead by example and set high expectations. I am approachable and expect conversations to be productive. I demand a positive outlook and showing respect to others, including ourselves. I show appreciation for a job well done.
I enjoy dressing up for work each day and sharing my fashionista sense with those around me. I stay on top of the latest fashion trends, thus empowering me to truly give the best service to every guest.
I thrive on efficiency and fun. I constantly try to find ways to make the Target Optical team and guest experience better. When people walk into Target Optical store 4002, they think, ” Wow! I love it here.”
I am committed to growing our business by retaining current guests and constantly marketing to potential guests. I strive to keep my eyes on the large picture: being the best brand in the optical industry.

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April Recap

1.  Celebrated niece Lucy’s 1st birthday.

Lucy enjoying her very own birthday cake

2.  Kansas City for 23 hours.  Short yet productive trip.

3.  Donated books to first graders at Jefferson – Edison Elementary.  Woot for Scott County Republican Women!

4.  Attended a PR Network Power Workshop at the iWireless Center in Moline.

5.  Traveled to Mount Pleasant for the 2nd District GOP Convention.

6.  Enjoyed a relaxing afternoon with Lexi at Fireside Winery.

February Recap

This was hands down one of the best Februarys ever.

1. Traveled to Kansas City with the Miller family to partake in some wedding dress shopping festivities with bestie Jen.  We found her dress and our bridesmaids’ dresses.  Woot!

The panel of wedding dress judges. 🙂

2. Super Bowl Party in Durant was a blast.  I didn’t really have a horse in that race so randomly picked the Giants that Sunday morning.  Go Giants!

3.  I met a reporter from Inc. magazine, thanks to my old boss Steve who invited me out to lunch to discuss apps.

4.  Attended my first Clinton Chamber event, and it was so fun.  Lots of great food and drinks at Medical Associates, a very impressive facility.  Also had a free blood pressure check, and I passed with flying colors.

5.  Also attended my first Muscatine Chamber event at Salvatore’s restaurant.  It was an early morning event, but they made it worthwhile with delicious coffee and breakfast.

6.  Enjoyed Final Friday at Bucktown Center for the Arts in Downtown Davenport with Beth.  Lots of cool art and discovered the Leap Day cocktail.

7.  Attended a Dubuque County Republican Women meeting at The Naughty Dog coffee shop in Dubuque.  Enjoyed meeting the ladies and discovering another cute place with great coffee.

8.  Celebrated my 33rd birthday.  The fam got together for brunch in Durant, and I treated myself to wine at The Grape Life in Rock Island.  On the day of my birthday – a Monday – I had assumed the fun was pretty much over.  Much to my delight, Shelly took me out to lunch, and Sarah, Gabriel, and Lucy brought me dinner.  Also had two flower deliveries from friends.  Awesome!

9.  Made my first sale at Rainbow International of the Quad Cities!

Another Fave Coffee Shop – In Clinton!

While I was visiting insurance agents with Shelly a month or so ago, we drank a ton of coffee.  We both like coffee anyway, so you combine our cravings together, and we were never without a cup in hand in between stops.  While in Clinton one afternoon, we were in dire need of coffee.  So I googled “Clinton Iowa coffee shops” and crossed my fingers that something good would pop up.  We had been burned by the random “coffee shop” the day before, so I clicked a few links before settling on one.

I put “coffee shop” in quotes because some places think they are coffee shops when they are not.  If people can’t order a good espresso drink or enjoy a great atmosphere with free wi-fi, you are not a real coffee shop.  I am not a snob.  I just know my coffee.

So we decided to venture into 392 Caffe.  (I’m having issues with the degree symbol and accent agu on Caffe in this blog format, so please bear with me.)  Immediately we were smiling.  We found a great one!  We ordered our coffees.  Shelly had a scone, and I had some quiche.  All was delish.

We had to ask a stranger to take a photo because of the beautiful tree on the wall.  The red, black, and gray decor was simply fabulous:

Say, "We love coffee!"

As we departed, I knew I’d be back there every time I could when my work brought me to Clinton.  I was sad to leave, but then I found 392 Caffe on Facebook and Twitter.  And they get it with social media.  They update frequently and post fun things.  Not only was their coffee awesome, they knew how to market.  And for this marketing gal, it was a great discovery.

Then last week I saw they were having a ribbon cutting on February 29.  They had just opened in January 2012 and now they were going to make it all official.  I love supporting fellow chamber businesses, as we at Rainbow International of the Quad Cities are a member of the Clinton, Quad Cities, and Muscatine chambers.  And it was happening on Leap Day – a day when I was looking for something special to add to my schedule.  (Yes, I am a nerd and proud of it.)

The ribbon cutting was great.  I found out the place is L.A. inspired and a family business.  I even heard, “Hi, Melissa!” when I walked in the door.  Being remembered is awesome and another key part of the coffee shop biz.

The family owners talking about their awesome coffee shop.

After the official ribbon cutting, everything was 39.2% off for an hour.  Another clever marketing move!  I met some great Clintonites (or are they Clintonians?) and enjoyed a bigger (they have sizes big and bigger) salty caramel latte and a cranberry orange scone.  So yummy.

I said goodbye to all of my new friends and immediately started to think about when I’d need to come back to Clinton again.

The idea to write this came to me when asked about blogging as I left that day.  Yes, flattery does motivate.  Then I was thinking about coffee lovers like me who are always on the lookout for great places.  This should qualify as a PSA if you ask me!

Thanks to the 392 crew!  See you soon!

Changing the Headline…..Yet Again

I made a few big changes at the end of 2011.  I retired the red and khaki on December 29.  I also left the headhunting business.  It was bittersweet to leave good positions to pursue an awesome opportunity.

My Optical Family 🙂

While I no longer babysit G and L for a full Friday every week, I continue to see them as often as possible.  And since I barely blogged during the fourth quarter of 2011, I have plenty of Fridays with G and L posts in the file yet to publish.  And when I am through those, I will have new posts from random times together.

I have been in my new role with Rainbow International of the Quad Cities (Like us on Facebook!) for 53 days now, and I absolutely love it.  My official title is Business Development Associate.  I travel across Scott, Clinton, Jackson, Cedar, and Muscatine counties in Iowa, as well as Henry and Rock Island counties in Illinois.  I meet with insurance agents and others, promoting Rainbow’s restoration and cleaning business.  I attend various chamber events in the Quad Cities, Clinton, and Muscatine.  I manage our social media accounts and website.  I take care of all marketing activities and purchases.

My Cute Rainbow Office

I continue to work the SendOutCards and Red Goose Solutions businesses on the side.  And of course I am still doing the political thing like a mad woman too.

So now my headline includes “marketing gal”.  I had already been a marketing gal for quite some time, just had not realized it yet.  Self realization is a wonderful thing!

December Recap

December definitely went down as one of the best months in 2011.

1. Bestie Jen got engaged on Christmas Eve, and I will be a bridesmaid this year!

2. Cousin Kris had a baby girl on Christmas Eve (her due date) – Lena Helen.  Yes, Christmas Eve was full of surprises.

3. I accepted a new position as a Business Development Associate (BDA) at Rainbow International of the Quad Cities.  I spread the word about the company, manage their social media, meet with insurance agents, and network at various chamber and community functions.

4. I left Target Optical and A-PLUS Recruiting, which was bittersweet.

5. Our Davenport Target Optical store finished #1 in our region (the entire states of Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas) for 2011 sales.

6. Final official Friday with G and L was on December 30.  The posts will continue under a new name.  Aunt Mel will be babysitting nights, weekends, and whenever else I can.

7. Attended bestie Lexi’s baby shower.  She is due any day now!

Stay tuned for my end of year recap: “2011 from A to Z”.

Personal Branding Via Your Headline

Marketing has taken over the world, and not only for businesses and products.  Now we are told to market ourselves, to create our own personal brand.  At first glance, this may seem silly.  Since I’m a nerd though, I love the concept of personal branding.

Melissa Gesing:  Organizing queen, headhunter, political enthusiast, concert-goer, bookworm, godmother.  Make it a venti in the morning, red in the evening.

Too often we let our random jobs define us, when it should be the other way around.  For many years, I was the student, retail manager, political staffer.  But I’m so much more than my full time job!

Since I began this blog, I’ve reviewed my headline many times and have tweaked it a few of those times.  I keep this as consistent as possible with my summary on social media sites.  LinkedIn is a bit tougher, because I want to create a more professional persona.  But then I struggle to let my personality shine if I feel too restricted.

How to create your personal brand headline: Brainstorm the top ten things you like to do!  Some of these may be work related, recreational, or random hobbies.  Throw it all together into something consistent with the message you are sending to people on a day to day basis.

My personal brand headline is quite a hodge podge of stuff.  I have so many projects and interests, so I find it daunting to narrow it down.  I am  Type A and constantly evolving, which leads to a lot of reviewing and adjusting.

Organizing Queen: I love organizing everything – messy rooms, small and large events, volunteers, you name it.

Headhunter: I recently began a venture with A-PLUS Recruiting where I cold call businesses to drum up new business and search online for qualified candidates to fill spots.  I also like hunting for the right people in general – whether it’s expanding my professional contacts or simply being a social butterfly and enjoying the company of fun people.

Political Enthusiast: I left the political mention off of my headline for quite a while, but now it seems foolish not to include it.  I often shy away from mentioning politics because people often zero in on that item and ignore all of the other things that make me who I am.  Alas though, I love politics and will always be involved in some capacity.

Concert-Goer: One of my favorite past times is going to concerts with my best concert buddy Jen.  Most recently, I went to see U2 in St. Louis.

Bookworm: Ever since I have been able to read, I have enjoyed it.  I read everything from chick lit to biographies.  Currently, I am reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Godmother: Talk to me for ten minutes, and you will inevitably hear about my nephew Gabriel and niece Lucy.  I love them to pieces and babysit them on Fridays.

Make it a venti in the morning, red in the evening: Coffee and wine are fabulous.  I enjoy various area coffee shops including Starbucks, Dunn Bros., and Redband Coffee.  I also enjoy Target‘s selection of wine and winding down at The Grape Life.

The toughest part of the headline is to leave out job titles.  As mentioned above, this may be necessary to include on LinkedIn, but think of it more as keywords there to let your imagination go.  If you love your job title and that is what you do with your life, more power to you.  However, I am aiming for a well-rounded headline that shares a glimpse of me.

Skeptics of this sort of thing likely think people who know us will know who we are without a headline.  True, but what about those people who only know you on the surface and might benefit from knowing more?  I have stumbled upon several new projects and opportunities by showing more sides of myself than just the full time or day job that threatens to take over my life.

Your Twitter profile is a good place to start with summarizing your brand in a headline, and I love reading others’ blurbs.  The character limit is a good thing, because it forces you to be concise.

Most importantly, have fun creating and refining your personal brand.  I am living out my headline today – babysitting Gabriel and Lucy.  Happy Friday, everyone!

Cold Call Love

Say the two words “cold calls”, and most people will shudder.  Rejection, head glued to a phone, monotony, hesitation.  Boring.  And the list goes on.

I love cold calls!  My first paid political job during college was full of cold calls.  I’d say it was 90% of my job during the first month.  I would barely hang up the phone before I dialed the next number on the list.  My task master nature was thriving.  I had tangible numbers at the end of each evening:  total calls made, number of identified supporters, prospects for county leadership, opposition supporters, and the rude chauvinists.

Now, over a decade later, I find myself calling again.  However, now I refer to it as warm calling.  Unless you are calling from a list of anyone and everyone, it really is warm calling.  I offer a service to prospects who probably need it.  At optical, these are past patients who are due to schedule an annual eye exam or may be interested in our new eye wear.  With my side business ventures, it is not quite as easy, but I enjoy the tougher challenge even more.

I find the most common barrier with cold calling is over thinking the process.  Too many people want to analyze the list, think about the script, and mull over anything just to avoid picking up the phone and making that first phone call.  And now with social networking and email, it becomes easier to justify not picking up the phone.  Online tools are great supplements but should not be a substitute for the old fashioned stuff.  Maybe a few years down the road, but not now.

Cold calling is simple yet requires sharp communication.  You can’t cover up a flub with an emoticon or a friendly smile.  It’s all about your voice and message and the faceless person on the other end being receptive.  I love that challenge.  Simple yet no room for error.

The personalized phone call is still effective, if you deliver the message correctly and don’t give up.  Here’s some Boiler Room inspiration:

The Right People and Authenticity = Brand Loyalty

It’s pretty obvious which brands and places I love if you watch my Twitter feed on any given day.  I am a creature of habit, but I am also a creature who appreciates great customer service dished up alongside a fabulous product.

I am likely a marketing guru’s dream.  I make choices partly on emotion and image.  While they create ad campaigns, the marketers don’t control the employees who represent or sell the brand.  And for me, the front line employees are the make or break factor in determining whether I keep coming back.

My new job at Target Optical includes the role of representing the brand and training employees to represent the brand well.  So many components feed into this:  dress code, friendliness, guest service, product knowledge, and efficiency.  Hiring the right people is key, as some skills can be taught while others are deeply etched into who we are already.

I enjoy learning from outside of my Target bubble and have made a few observations about the following brands.  I hope to utilize these observations to increase my effectiveness at optical.

Dunn Bros.

We finally have one in the Quad Cities!  I fell in love with this coffee chain when I discovered a Dunn Bros. during a business trip in Rochester.  The employees were super friendly and the brand stood out for their freshly roasted beans.  It was right next to my hotel and kept me fueled for my four day media tour with a little known congressional candidate in southern Minnesota.

The Dunn Bros. in Bettendorf is always buzzing with people, a bit more upbeat than the area Starbucks.  I am always offered samples of the coffee, and the employees are allowed to deviate from a standard colored dress code.  The hippie side of me also loves the chances of seeing these in the parking lot:

Volkswagon Beetles, Dunn Bros.

I also like the added touch of the doggie dishes:

dog friendly business

And this brings me to my next favorite coffee shop, Starbucks.

Starbucks, while different from Dunn Bros., is a great coffee shop.  Most Starbucks have friendly employees who engage in conversation and suggest items to try.  I admire the brand and realize it is no coincidence that it is literally an icon of American coffee today.  I am a proud gold card member, and Sumatra is my favorite brew at home.  My favorite to go drink is a Venti (with whip) caramel latte.

The Grape Life and Wine-Nutz

Two local wine bars, both with fabulous owners.  The Grape Life is in Davenport; Wine-Nutz is in Muscatine.  Not sure what you want when you walk in the door?  No problem.  Whomever is working will make you feel at home and invite you to try something new.  Not pretentious, always fun people around.  You may lose track of time.

Frackie’s

So, it’s a west end dive bar.  This makes it all the more notable that I’ve received better service here than in some of the more upper scale restaurants in the Quad Cities.  Their vodka tonics actually have a decent amount of vodka, and Taco Tuesdays are delicious.

Mojo’s

G likes it.  Enough said.  If you are looking for speedy service, this isn’t your place.  But it has an artsy atmosphere, and the food is great.  I am willing to wait if I am treated well.  And they don’t even flinch when a toddler walks in the door.  The lunch performers often like to sing directly to G, which is awesome.

AT&T

I recently stopped in to ask about a billing issue and to change my address.  Deric was very professional and kind – even held the door open for me when I left.  Very cool.

These are just a few of the local spots I love.  Others – most recently Dunkin Donuts and The Gap – have been disappointing, given their national prominence.  Maybe my expectations are high since I have worked in the service industry and know the difference between OK and great.

I have also been in the shoes of the hiring decision maker, and I would always sacrifice a great staffing score (having all positions filled) in exchange for waiting to find the right people for positions.  So much is at stake with finding the right people.  It’s your brand on the line.

Even if you have a do-it-yourself online company, someone friendly needs to answer the phones and help customers solve problems.  People do make the difference.  I am willing to pay a few cents more if it means better service and fewer headaches.  The experience makes me loyal to a brand.