When Work and Passion Collide

75 days. 25 cities. 5 countries. 190 interviews, with people ranging in age from 12-74, representing at least 25 countries. I spent my summer following U2 around the world, meeting incredible people, hearing inspiring stories, and immersing myself into an amazing community. Working on “Dream Out Loud” was a dream come true, and it’s no exaggeration to say it’s been life-changing. I’ve been home for a few weeks now, but I am still processing all that’s happened, and will probably continue to do so for a while.

I took on this project in the first place because it was something I was passionate about. I didn’t see a down side to mixing my work with two things I love – travel and U2 concerts. It turned out to be everything I thought it would be, and more. Of course, it wasn’t without its challenges – several long days of work and travel, dealing with heightened security at the different venues, fighting weather issues, etc. And, for some reason, the band didn’t invite us to travel with them on their private plane, so we drove thousands of miles across the US in a PT Cruiser. But, we easily overcame those obstacles (with the exception of the incessant rain in Berlin), and they won’t be what I remember when I look back on what we created with this documentary. Instead, I will cherish the experiences I had, the connections I made, and the lessons I learned.

 

“Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”

One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with my entire life is accepting help. I’m stubborn. I believe I can do everything myself, and have worked really hard to prove that I can. As I get older, however, I have started to accept and appreciate help in the right circumstances. Throughout this journey, I was blown away by the kindness of others. People in every city went out of their way to help – many stopped by to see how we were doing and offered us kind words of support; some brought us food, raincoats, or helped carry the gear; some even gave us concert tickets to thank us for our hard work. Those in the U2 fan community often say, “We get to carry each other” (from the lyrics to “One”). I witnessed this first-hand, and felt what a difference it made to embrace the assistance rather than push it away.

 

“This is Where You Can Reach Me Now

I am always urging the importance of clear communication in business and personal relationships. This was especially significant while working on this film, due of the volume of people and locations that I needed to coordinate. In addition, many of our subjects were not native English speakers, did not have American cell phones, and/or did not have access to WiFi or cellular data on the interview days, which surely complicated matters. We often had to make last minute changes, and I had to figure out the best way to notify each individual – I couldn’t just send out one blanket email and hope everyone got it. But, I applied my standard communication rules – be clear, concise, and friendly – and everything ran pretty smoothly.

 

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

One of the main reasons I went into business for myself was to have more freedom and control. I wanted the ability to work on different types of projects and to surround myself with the right people. This summer was a profound reminder that I made the right decision. It was also a strong motivator to keep searching for work that makes me feel the way I did while making “Dream Out Loud.” It’s so easy to get complacent – to get used to a routine, a job, or a method – instead of pushing for that thing that really makes us feel fulfilled. As we navigate our lives and careers, I think we’re always searching for clarity about what that is. Now that I’ve had a taste, I’m more excited than ever to keep looking for more.

 

Wrapping production was bittersweet. We accomplished so much in such a short time, and I’m proud of what we did. But, it was also sad to say goodbye to all the new friends I made along the way, and to return to “reality.” I am happy to be home, however, and am ready to start the next chapter, whatever that may be. Throughout this project, whether it was about an achievement or a challenge, people often heard me say, “It’s all part of the adventure.” Ultimately, that’s what I believe this was – one truly great adventure that I’ll never forget.

With the Edge in Santa Clara, May 2017

With the Edge in Santa Clara, May 2017

With Adam Clayton in New Jersey, June 2017

With Adam Clayton in New Jersey, June 2017

Dream Out Loud

How did it get to be May already? This year has been a bit of a whirlwind so far, in the best way imaginable. I just passed the one year anniversary of operating Aardvark Girl full-time, and I haven’t looked back once. Every day, I appreciate the freedom to control my own schedule, to choose the people with whom I work, and to take on projects that enlighten and challenge me. If any of you out there are contemplating taking a similar leap, please let me encourage you to believe in yourself and do it!

It is that newfound freedom that has allowed me to pursue a longtime passion project, producing a documentary about the U2 fan community, entitled “Dream Out Loud.” For years, my friend David Barry (a filmmaker and fellow U2 fan) and I have talked about how special U2 fans are, and how great it would be to tell the stories about their connection to the band, the music, and each other. Then, with the announcement of the Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary Tour, it seemed like the right time to make it happen. So we launched a Kickstarter campaign in February to see if others would support the endeavor. U2 fans from around the world answered the call, and now we are making this dream a reality.

Most people who know me know I’m a huge U2 fan. I grew up listening to their music with my family, and went to my first U2 concert when I was 11. Since then, I have seen them 21 times, a number that is about to increase with the JT30 tour. In 2008, I met Bono and the Edge at an event honoring BB King, where they played “When Love Comes to Town” with him. I will never forget standing backstage waiting to watch them perform, when suddenly the Edge was on my left, and Bono and BB King were on my right, and I was just in the midst of their conversation. Later, I was in a small room with them, just a few feet away from my musical heroes, while they were being interviewed about the blues for a project Dave was working on. At the end, one of the crew members asked for a picture. Bono looked at me from across the room and excitedly said, “I want to take a picture with her!” He and the Edge came over and took a picture with Dave and me, and we got to chat with them for a little while. That was one of my top life moments so far.

BonoEdge

But being a fan is not the only reason I wanted to be involved in this film. Right now, one of the things I’m most attracted to in life is community. I feel there is so much negativity in the world these days, and so many people are fighting to hold each other back instead of being supportive and lifting each other up. The U2 community is an extraordinary group of people who are kind, encouraging, and inspiring. The way they came together to support this film was truly special. I’ve seen the interaction on social media, and have gotten to know many of them throughout pre-production, as I’ve scheduled more than 150 interviews in 25 cities and 5 countries. I know making this movie is going to be an incredible and rewarding experience.

It’s also something I never would’ve been able to do if I was still working for someone else. It’s funny how everything ties together sometimes. I started this company not quite knowing what my dreams really were, but once I focused, my dreams started presenting themselves. It really is that concept of dreaming out loud, something we should all do a little more often.

So wish me luck on my adventures, which are already underway and kick into overdrive with the launch of the tour this week in Vancouver. If you’re interested in following the film, we have pages set up on Facebook and Instagram where we’ll post updates throughout production. And if you'll be at any of the shows, please come by and say hello!

And you can dream, so dream out loud.
— U2, "Acrobat"
She’s gonna dream up the world she wants to live in. She’s gonna dream out loud.
— U2, "Zooropa"
One highlight of this experience already was making the trek to the area outside of Death Valley where the actual Joshua Tree (from the album photos) is located. It has fallen (and has become a fan shrine of sorts), but the symbolism could still be felt out there in the middle of the desert.

One highlight of this experience already was making the trek to the area outside of Death Valley where the actual Joshua Tree (from the album photos) is located. It has fallen (and has become a fan shrine of sorts), but the symbolism could still be felt out there in the middle of the desert.

New Year, More Optimism

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to reflect upon the past and set expectations for the future. And, based on what I’ve seen on social media, more people than ever are ready for change in 2017. I have enjoyed reading all the posts today about everyone’s resolutions and goals. And, while I’ve never been one to put much pressure on the new year (mine is more of an ongoing process, not just once a year), I appreciate the sentiment. It seems to be the one time of year everyone seems hopeful.

A common practice in yoga is called “setting an intention,” which is basically the idea of identifying a specific quality or behavior and then mindfully incorporating it into your life. This is a great way to start the year, but the key is to continue to cultivate that purpose (while also developing new ones), throughout the year. And I have always been convinced that the trick to making that happen is to maintain a positive attitude.

Focus on the good experiences, and look for lessons in the bad ones. Appreciate the people who are encouraging and supportive, and let go of those who try to keep you down. And always try to make the best out of every situation, while helping others do the same. Sometimes all it takes is a smile or a laugh to turn someone’s mood around, and a person who feels good tends to do good, and that behavior can be contagious.

2016 was actually a pretty exciting year for me. Aardvark Girl became my full-time job and I quickly discovered how much I enjoy the freedom and control over my own schedule. I worked on some rewarding projects (one of which allowed me to go home to Colorado and spend some much-needed time with friends and family), and met some great people along the way. And, I exceeded my net income goal by 20% in my first year on my own, which helped justify my intuition that had nagged at me that it was time to do something new. I don’t believe I could’ve done it without my positive attitude and faith that it would all work out.

So, whether you make resolutions, establish goals, or set intentions for the New Year (or do nothing at all), try to think optimistically every day and see the impact it has on your life. I hope we all find the positive change we are looking for in 2017!

Intention is the starting point of every dream. It is the creative power that fulfills all of our needs, whether for money, relationships, spiritual awakening, or love.” – Deepak Chopra

Millennial Behaviors I Can Actually Support

There is a lot of talk about the generational differences in today’s workforce – baby boomers vs. Gen X vs. Millennials. Then there are those of us in between the last two, because no real consensus seems to exist regarding the cutoff year. This in-between generation has been given several unofficial names (my favorite being "Generation Catalano" because of my love of “My So-Called Life”), all mostly stemming from the fact that most of us on the cusp do not want to be classified as millennials. We don’t feel that we subscribe to the negative traits (e.g. a bloated sense of entitlement) associated with the youngsters, and we are proud of the hard work we’ve done to get where we are. That being said, however, there are some “Millennial” behaviors in business that I definitely support and encourage. So maybe we shouldn’t protest quite so much after all.

They rebel against outdated norms.

Just as we must adapt with new technology, we must also expand our mindsets. Millennials are great at this – they don’t just accept “this is the way it’s always been done, so this is the way we have to do it.” Instead, they push for change. They don’t want a set daily routine – they know what needs to be done and by when, so it doesn’t matter if they’re working at 1pm or 1am. They don’t wear suits to the office every day, because they know they’re more productive when they’re comfortable. Some don’t even go to an office every day, because technology allows them to do their work from the comfort of home, the local coffee shop, or anywhere else they’d rather be. It doesn’t mean they are lazy so much as they want to use their time in better ways than staring at the clock waiting for 5pm.

They demand reciprocation from their bosses.

Traditionally, bosses are in the power position. They make the rules and decisions, and control the work lives of the employees. Meanwhile, they often aren’t held as accountable themselves, especially when they own the business and don’t answer to anyone else. I’ve seen many with the attitude that they are doing the employee a favor by giving them the job. But the Millennials are turning the tables. They now recognize that they have the talent the business needs, and they are the ones doing the favor by accepting a job. They are demanding that employers make the effort to keep them happy, and not just the other way around. This may be frustrating for some, but I think it’s beneficial for all to have a more reciprocal working relationship.

They push for work/life balance.

The concept of work/life balance wasn’t around when I started my career. But it’s probably the Millennial agenda I respect the most. Work is important, but it isn’t everything. People who are happy in their personal lives are better workers than those who are frustrated at home (or worse, who aren’t even home often enough to be frustrated there). There are so many ways to improve this balance – telecommuting, flex schedules, better benefits (beyond insurance), etc. These solutions don’t always work for everyone, but business owners and managers need to look for potential ways to help. Employees with more flexibility tend to have higher levels of job satisfaction, and happy employees care more about their work.

So what do we (Gen Xers and in between) do?

It’s easy for the older generations to scoff at this behavior, to think these kids don’t know what they’re doing and need some good discipline. But times are changing. The overall business culture is changing. And the last thing we want to do is to get left behind. So why not embrace these new work attitudes? We can still demonstrate our values, teach our work methods, and share our experiences. But, we can also learn from new ways of thinking, even if they seem contradictory to what we’ve always known.  

If you’re not willing to evolve or accept this new normal, be prepared to defend your systems with logic. If your way is better, show and explain why, and help people understand. As a business owner/manager, you might feel that your employees should just do what you say and not question you. But, if you want engaged workers, they need to understand why things are done that way. If it doesn’t make sense to them, they won’t do it effectively. I once argued with my high school chemistry teacher after he said I couldn’t sleep in class (I worked full-time, so I was often tired). I pointed out that I had an A in the class, so it shouldn’t matter. He didn’t have a logical comeback – my naps weren’t negatively affecting anyone – so he let it go. Maybe I do have a little bit of millennial in me after all. The point is, if you turn down an employee’s request for flexibility, make sure it is for a valid reason and not just because the traditional 40-hour work week is what you’ve always done.

Finally, please understand that you may lose some great and valuable employees if you’re not adaptable. If you won’t compromise, they will seek opportunities that better align with their priorities. Instead, be a positive role model and encourage their growth and ideas while also giving your own guidance. We might not agree with all the Millennial behaviors, but we do have to work together. So why not give them a chance and discover how we can all learn from each other?

The Debate is Over, But the Lessons Remain (Not a Political Post)

For the past seven months, I have been working as a Project Manager for the Presidential Debate that took place at UNLV last week. It was an amazing opportunity to be involved in such a high-profile event, and to see how much behind-the-scenes effort goes into putting together a project of that scope. I was fortunate to work with an incredible team who persevered through months of hard work to deliver a successful outcome. And even though it was stressful and demanding at times, I am grateful for the experience.

The Debate was definitely a unique project, unlike any I have worked on before (and probably unlike any I will work on again). Even so, it served as another reminder of a few key principles that are important for any job, regardless of size, nature, or objective: communication, teamwork, flexibility, and a positive attitude.

COMMUNICATION

Effective communication is vital. Always. Whether it’s two people or 200, the ability to convey and interpret messages is essential to success. The bigger the project, the more difficult this can be, because it involves more people, more information, and more potential for errors. Be clear and concise, but also be prepared to offer more detail when needed, or to explain in a different way if necessary. And ask questions! It seems many people are afraid that admitting that they don’t know something, or don’t fully understand a request, is a negative quality. But, asking for clarity shows that you are making the effort to do it right, and can also save a great deal of time and energy.

TEAMWORK

Nearly all projects, regardless of scope, involve multiple people working together. And while combining different personalities can cause tension and other problems, it can also expose you to new (and sometimes better) ways of working. The key is to remember that everyone is trying to achieve the same goals – a successful project and a happy client. A team is strongest when people focus on the tasks they do best, so don’t be afraid to speak up when something is out of your wheelhouse. It’s great to be ambitious and want to expand your skills, but it’s also important that you don’t hold up the rest of the team while you figure it out. Take your ego out of it, and embrace the opportunity to both teach and learn from others.

FLEXIBILITY

In business and in life, change is constant. You can plan to the best of your ability, but the slightest detail can change and throw it all off course. But, rather than getting hung up on how things were supposed to be, or how they should have been, you’re better off going with the flow and adapting to the new direction (which will probably change numerous times along the way). Most of the time, these changes are out of your control anyway, so the best you can do is remain flexible, accept the new challenge, and show off your problem-solving abilities.

POSITIVE ATTITUDE

I’ve always believed that a positive attitude is one of the most important assets a person can have. Behavior is infectious, and the way you carry yourself (good or bad) can have a huge impact on those around you. This becomes especially important in high-stress, busy situations. You can complain about what is going wrong and bring others down with you. Or, you can remind others that, even when situations are not ideal, the best you can do is let it go of any negativity and keep focused on doing the best job you can do. Not to say that a good venting session isn’t therapeutic, because sometimes just verbalizing your frustration is the best way to move on. But, the longer you dwell on adversity, the longer you will stay unhappy, and likely bring others down with you. Instead, if you can take the challenges in stride, keep a smile on your face, and maybe even make someone laugh, you can keep the team moving forward in a positive manner.

Whether you are working on a small project with a few people, or a huge project with hundreds, these simple concepts are essential. No matter what the situation may be, if you communicate efficiently, collaborate well with your team, remain flexible, and keep a positive attitude, you are setting yourself up for success. And, you never know who you might meet along the way, what new skills you might learn, or what overall impact it could have on your career. I hope the Presidential Debate is just the first of many unique, challenging, and rewarding projects I will work on as I take Aardvark Girl into the future!

What Do I Do?

I’ve always felt a little like Chandler Bing from Friends. It seems that even people I have known my entire working life don’t really know what I do. And my recent journey hasn’t exactly made the answer any clearer. When I formed Aardvark Girl, I thought I was on a pretty clear path. I was focused on helping small businesses, especially those in creative fields, get organized. But then I landed a huge opportunity to be the Project Manager for a high profile event (more on that later in the year). I now realize that I prefer to manage multiple projects rather than holding one full-time management job. It keeps me challenged, motivated, and engaged, and allows me to continuously learn and develop my skills. There is also something to be said, however, for keeping some work that is comfortable, with people I have been working with for years. So, I am still in the production/post production field, producing and helping others produce various video and still projects. So now, when people ask me what I do, my answer is that it is really a hybrid of project management, production, and business consulting. For now. Who knows what the answer might be in six months or a year. I like to think I am constantly evolving.

My situation, and several recent conversations, has led me to think about focus. There was a time when job roles were clearly defined. People had distinct titles that identified what they did, and they were encouraged to find one specialty. Those with too many interests and talents, the jacks of all trades, were often at a disadvantage because employers wanted those who were masters in one area. Those who excelled in multiple areas were too “scattered,” and their “lack of focus” was a weakness. But, those unwavering lines in each person’s specific responsibilities made collaboration especially difficult, and often interfered with the company’s ability to grow and improve. In addition, employees with broader interests would get bored with doing the same thing every day and seek out more fulfilling opportunities.

Fortunately, many work environments have changed. Employers are understanding that multiple talents lead to multiple benefits, and they can often hire one person to fill various roles. It can help businesses operate more efficiently, while also keeping workers more satisfied. Not that having one specialized talent is a bad thing by any means, but why not let people explore all of their passions if they want to? Some of the most successful people I know got that way by not letting roles define what they are able to do. They seek out more opportunities, think outside the box, and prove why a broad skill set is a huge asset.

I have always been someone who will do whatever needs to be done to make a project successful, whether it is in my job description or not. I feel that having the ability to do multiple things well is a strength, and doesn’t mean I lack focus so much as that I don’t like to limit my abilities. So maybe what I do isn’t simple to define with one title, but maybe that’s okay.   

What do you think? Is it better to have one defined focus, or a variety of talents? Let me know your thoughts!

Management – Change Your Ways, Not Theirs

When you own or manage a business, it is important to understand the psychology behind human motivation if you want to bring out the best in your employees. A big part of this is realizing that there is not one universal way to effectively communicate with each person on your staff. Everyone responds to information differently – some do better with written instructions, some need visual displays, and others need oral conversations. Most often, a combination of approaches is the most successful. Regardless of the method, communication is the key to understanding what your team members can do, what they want to do, and figuring out how to develop their career paths accordingly.

In too many instances, the biggest deterrent to employee progress is not the lack of individual drive, but poor leadership. The people in charge often dictate the way things must be done, expecting employees to adapt (the “my way or the highway” power approach). But micromanaging tends to diminish the potential, creativity, and satisfaction of employees. Conversely, those who are given the freedom to figure out which methods work best for them tend to be more productive, happier, and may even find better solutions that lead to a more successful business.

Instead of trying to get others to change their ways, see what happens when you change yours. Embrace the differences in your employees, and be open to new suggestions. If things get done well, it shouldn’t matter how they get done. Allow people the freedom to figure out what works best for them, and appreciate unique perspectives that you may not have seen before. And, most importantly, communicate in the method that works best for them, not for you. If you continue emailing written instructions to someone who absorbs information better in person, you likely will not get the optimal results. If your method of organization is too complicated for the person actually completing the tasks, you will lose productivity. Additionally, you and your employees will all become frustrated, which will negatively impact the work even further. Your job as a manager is not to get everyone to do their jobs in the way you would do them. It is to ensure their jobs get done efficiently and effectively, while also encouraging growth, development, job satisfaction, and success.

Obviously, learning the traits of each individual gets increasingly difficult the larger your staff becomes, because it is not always practical to spend significant one-on-one time with everyone. The people, however, are the most important element of your business, and you should make the time to get to know them. Otherwise, the chance of missed potential and opportunities is far too risky, and your business may not thrive to the best of its ability.

At some point, you have to decide whether it’s worth fighting for your process, at the expense of turnover and low morale, or if it’s time to change your behavior instead. In general, most people want to do well. You just have to give them the chance.

Leadership: You Can Be Liked and Respected

There has been a long-running debate about whether leaders should strive to be liked or respected. Of course, the proper business answer is always that respect is the more pertinent quality. I do not believe, however, that the two are mutually exclusive. It is quite possible to be both liked and respected. I think that what it really comes down to, like so many other situations in life, is how you treat people.

If you are willing to put in the same amount of effort that you expect from your employees, they will recognize your work ethic. If you include them in the decisions that affect their work lives, and show that their input is important (even though you can’t always appease everyone), they will feel valued. And, if you communicate with them clearly so they know what you expect from them (especially by giving them feedback when they do well, not just when they make mistakes), they will strive to do their best.  All of these actions consider the human element of business, and thus command both likability and respect.

Conversely, if you just give orders without showing your own contributions, employees may become resentful. If you make decisions without recognizing how they might impact your employees, you will cause frustration and low morale. And, if you expect workers to read your mind, you will have difficulty getting the desired performance from them. In any of these scenarios, your employees probably will not like or respect you, and your company will suffer.

Employees who feel they simply work for, and not with, someone are not usually satisfied with their jobs. People want to feel connected to the company’s future. So, owners and managers who take the time to discuss work with the employees, and get their points of view about how the business is running, often get helpful insight and ideas for improvement. According to Goman (2014), “Today’s most successful leaders guide their organizations not through command and control, but through a shared purpose and vision” (para. 8). This type of collaborative leadership is key to bridging that gap to be both liked and respected. When you show employees that they are important to the business, the entire dynamic can change, and your reputation as a leader can flourish.

Reference

Goman, C.K. (2014). 8 tips for collaborative leadership. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2014/02/13/8-tips-for-collaborative-leadership/

Telecommuting: A Win-Win For Owners & Employees

One of the most important skills of any successful business owner or manager is the ability to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the industry, technology, and the working population. Historical data can be helpful in identifying trends, but making decisions based on present (and anticipated future) conditions is crucial. That often means embracing change, however, which can be difficult for those who are comfortable or feel that their companies are running fine the way things are.

But, while business as usual might be acceptable, the goal should always be to improve. And, at a time when work-life balance has become a huge priority, telecommuting options can offer solutions to improve work for business owners and employees. Jacoby (2015) listed five prominent ways that telecommuting can help companies: increased productivity, higher retention rates, competitive edge, environmental friendliness, and cost-effectiveness. Employees with more flexibility in their schedules tend to be happier, dedicated, and willing to work harder, while the company benefits from better work output and reduced costs.

Understandably, many business owners are hesitant to relinquish the control of overseeing employees at the office. But, it is important to recognize that times have changed and requiring people to sit in an office for eight hours a day is not always the most effective policy.  Instead, trusting employees to fulfill their responsibilities and meet their deadlines on a more variable schedule just makes sense. Of course, not all employees are self-motivated enough to handle such freedom, and not all jobs can be done properly from home. But, for many, a telecommuting option can make a huge difference.

Employees who telecommute save valuable time and money, while also being able to properly balance their work-life needs. These benefits, which can greatly reduce daily stress, are often more important than a higher salary. In addition, without the distractions of an office (socializing, noise, etc.), many employees find they can focus better at home, which increases productivity and the quality of work. In a recent study, Bloom (2014) found that employees who are allowed to work at home were happier, more loyal, and more productive. Therefore, employers benefit from higher morale and job satisfaction, while also spending less on overhead, office supplies, and wasted time. The right schedule can truly be a win-win.

My suggestion to business clients is always to start slow. Perhaps you can allow telecommuting one day a week as a trial to see if it makes sense for your company. For those who find face time important, you can schedule mandatory in-office days when meetings and group discussions can be conducted. Another option is to rotate telecommuting days amongst employees, so each department has employees in the office every day. An example of one such schedule would be to require all employees to work at the office on Mondays, but then half of the eligible telecommuters work in the office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and from home on Thursdays and Fridays, while the other half do the opposite. Then, you can monitor the results from both the management and employee perspective, and see if it is a long-term viable solution.

So, please do not let fear or uncertainty hold you, your employees, or your company back. A telecommuting option does not have to be permanent. But, why not give your employees the chance to be happier, your business the chance to be more efficient, and allow everyone to be part of a motivated and successful team that values the needs of its members?

References

Bloom, N. (2014). To raise productivity, let more employees work from home. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/01/to-raise-productivity-let-more-employees-work-from-home

Jacoby, M. (2015). 5 benefits of telecommuting for your small business. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-jacoby/5-benefits-of-telecommuting-for-your-small-business_b_7101894.html

An Introduction

Welcome to the new Aardvark Girl!

First, the obvious question, why “Aardvark Girl?” Well, it’s basically a nickname I’ve carried with me since I was a weird teenager. After a concert, my brother and I were talking to the band’s keyboardist, Robbie Gennet. I can’t even remember what I said, but I've always liked the word “aardvark,” so I found some random way to work it into the conversation. As we were leaving, he gave me his demo tape (yes, tape – that shows you how long ago this took place) and said his email address was in there so I could keep in touch. I said, “You won’t even remember who I am.” He then replied, “Sure I will! You’re the aardvark girl!” And from then on, that’s who I was. To this day, people still call me “Vark.” Incidentally, Robbie is still a very good friend of mine. It’s funny how a couple of off-the-wall comments nearly two decades ago formed the entire basis of my brand identity. When it came time to pick a name for my new business venture, there really was no other option.

So, that leads to Aardvark Girl the business. Most of my career has been spent organizing and managing chaos. I’ve gone into companies that were recently formed, reorganizing following bankruptcy, or restructuring due to changes in ownership, and helped them become smoothly running businesses. I have always loved the challenge of figuring out how to fix things – whether it’s setting up new systems, saving money, improving communication, etc.- basically just finding ways to work smarter so the company and employees all benefit. I have a great track record of making a difference, and it has been very rewarding.

But, after several years with one company (I’m going on nine at my current job), that challenge tends to fade. Operations end up running so well that there is little left to improve. And, without any forward motion, I start to get restless. So, I began contemplating what my next move could be, and realized that what I would really love to do is help multiple companies succeed. If I could go in, get them organized, and then leave them in a better position so they could maintain themselves, that would be ideal. Then I could move on to the next place and do the same, without ever running into the possibility of boredom.

And thus Aardvark Girl LLC was born. And while the company is essentially focused on consulting, I have always more or less cringed at that term. To me, it conjures up images of stuffy businessmen in suits trying to impose their outdated corporate policies on others. The newer, younger description seems to be “coaching,” but I am not sure I like that either. But, I haven’t found an appropriate term that appeals to me yet. Maybe that will come later. But, in the meantime, I am ready to do whatever I can to help business owners, managers, and individuals grow their skills and find deeper levels of success. I am especially drawn to smaller to medium-sized businesses, those that have better personalities and the flexibility to allow more creative solutions than the typical corporate structures allow. So, I am ready to get to work. If you (or someone you know) want a new perspective for your business, please reach out and schedule an initial consultation. Also, because this company relies heavily on word-of-mouth referrals, please spread the word.

"If one advances confidently in the direction of her dreams and endeavors to live the life which she has imagined, she will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. She will put some things behind and will pass an invisible boundary. She will live with the license of a higher order of beings. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

- Henry David Thoreau

I hope Aardvark Girl LLC will become the foundation for my castle in the air. Thank you for joining me on this journey!

Amanda