Buttoned Up

Company culture gives me a casual Friday at the office.
Jeans and a knit jacket are perfectly appropriate for me.

Shirt: NY & Co.

Knit Jacket: Target

Jeans: TJ Maxx

Boots: Ross

Necklace: Forever 21

Earrings: NY & Co.

Like the outfit? See more details here!

We talked about company culture in my technology class last night, particularly as it related to Perot Systems, mentioned in one of our case studies. The discussion centered around my group presentation about vendor evaluation and selection, and we mentioned that the culture of the vendor was important when making a selection.

We found that Perot Systems, at the time, was run by a lot of ex-military personnel, so the culture was extremely hierarchical, structured, and detail-oriented. Imagine if you were an open organization, with a flat structure and “loose” dress code. How well do you think your relationship would be with such a buttoned up company? IBM used to be the same way, with a suit-and-tie-everyday mentality. Silicon Valley is the complete opposite, where engineers and business people wear shorts, flip-flops, and t-shirts to the office daily. It’s a pretty humorous movie stand-by: the scene where the start-up genius tries to meet with investors, and they tell him that surely his million-dollar idea can buy him a decent pair of shoes!

But culture is more than just the dress code, it’s also the mentality about doing business. Are you blunt and to-the-point, or ambiguous and beating-around-the-bush? Do you have flexible scheduling or a 9-5 day? These types of attitudes have been changing, and my generation is particularly interested in company culture. I would say that more job postings boast “a cool workplace” than ever before, and higher value is placed on cultural “fit” when interviewing candidates. It’s interesting, because I’m still not sure how a dress code influences success, but I think there’s a strong case for flexible scheduling and open communication. My brain shuts down around 10 pm, but my husband comes alive at the time of night. Thus, it works much better for me to perform during the standard 9-5, and for him to perform from 10 pm to 4 am. But does it really matter if I show up in a suit or jeans? Does it really improve his performance if he is in shorts or khakis? The buttoned up cultures at IBM and Perot Systems seem to think so, but Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs disagree.

I think it all goes back to whether your client is buying into the illusion. If you’re in a client-facing environment, you’ve got to match their culture. If that culture says, “suits”, then suits it is! Today’s outfit works perfectly for a casual Friday in my current office culture. How does dress code factor into your company culture? Does it change based on your meetings for the day? Like the outfit? See more details here!

Deal Conversions

I’ve bought a few daily deals in the last year, and I’ve found it to be an interesting experience. The golden egg in the deal world is a repeat customer that pays full price. So, have any of these daily deals converted me?

I’ve bought deals from Living Social, Groupon, and TravelZoo. For me, food tends to be a great option, so all but one of my deals was strictly to try out a new restaurant or directly involved food. I bought a Living Social coupon to Let’s Art Party, a Groupon deal to Black Finn and a Murder Mystery Dinner Bed and Breakfast, and a TravelZoo deal at Rafain. The buying experience on each site was about the same: simple, quick, immediate receipt. I received my vouchers in a timely manner, and I’ve only had issues using one of the vouchers. When I had an issue with a Groupon voucher, the company refunded my money, true to policy, no questions asked. My refund showed up on my credit card bill a few days later, just as promised. So, from a site preference standpoint, none of these three sites has influenced my likelihood to convert.

The venue experience, however, is the deal-breaker. This makes perfect sense, as the deal is not trying to convert me from one daily deal site to another, but from a non-patron to a loyal (or at least one-time, full-price paying customer) of the company providing the coupon. And, it’s not rocket science, if you provide a great experience to every customer, they’ll come back. Sales people try to make the pitch that the coupon will significantly impact your business, but I would temper that assessment with the caveat that people must be willing to spend full-price if your company is actually going to reap long-term benefits. For example, my husband and I are willing to spend Rafain-level money on dinner sometimes, so you want us to buy your coupon to try you out, since we’ll definitely be spending that kind of money at some point in the future. This is the difficulty in coupons and promotions in general, since it’s incredibly difficult to measure whether or not you’re actually reaching people with strong potential to become paying customers.

Now for the conversion: the TravelZoo coupon to Rafain converted us from Fogo de Chao diners to Rafain diners. We’ve tried one other Brazilian steakhouse in the DFW area, and it was terrible. The meat was poor quality for the money, the selection was scant, and the service was mediocre. We determined that if we’re going to pay for a nice dinner, we’ll shell out the extra cash for something like Fogo de Chao. But, Rafain blew us away! We went on a Sunday night, and they treated us like royalty. No shortage of attention when it came to bringing around decadent meat selections, folding the napkins when we left the table, and keeping the sides fresh. Excellent quality, selection, and service have kept Rafain in our conversations for the last 3 weeks, and we’ve been raving about the experience to friends and family. Rafain converted us by delivering an experience on-par (if not better) than its competitors.

Let’s Art Party is another one that converted me. The BYOB and paint-a-canvas classes are becoming really popular, and I’ve seen several friends’ positive reviews on Facebook. But, I’ve just never wanted to pull the trigger, until I saw the Living Social deal for half off. If the evening was terrible, at least I didn’t spend too much on it. The evening was amazing! Not only did I go, I took my mom, and we made a girls’ night out of it. Let’s Art Party converted BOTH of us, and we’re planning to take my sister to a class in the near future. They’re ending up with a paying customer that they didn’t even need a coupon to reel in, because they provided such a wonderful experience to the two coupon holders. My painting is hanging in my office at work, and again, I’ve been telling all my friends about the great evening I had at Let’s Art Party.

The other two places don’t deserve another mention, since I don’t really want to give them the publicity that the other two amazing venues received. Another golden egg aspect, is the social media and word of mouth you receive if you exceed expectations. By delivering top-notch experiences, Rafain and Let’s Art Party now have the benefit of my online and in-person reviews, which reach much further than just the initial reach of a coupon. It’s becoming harder and harder to convert people via deals, but if you can deliver greatness, you’ll get benefits far beyond what the sales rep can show you.


I’m back from a wonderful long holiday weekend, complete with two Thanksgiving celebrations, a homemade bread-making day with my husband, singing and even a stats study session! The madness over Black Friday provided some great inspiration to start the week.

We love stuff, and in America, we’ve got plenty of it. And yet, there’s people who pepper spray others or shoot others to take their stuff during a sale. Really? REALLY? I heard about the lady with the pepper spray, and thought, “That’s what’s wrong with America, that lady and everything she stands for.” Basically, when we’re so controlled by our stuff that we can’t even act like decent human beings, that’s a problem.

This hits home for me, as a marketer, especially hard. Part of my job is to convince people that they need more of whatever item my company sells. I like to believe that my personal practice of marketing does not induce such abhorrent behavior, and that I’m more about telling people about real solutions to real problems. I don’t want to “sell” someone something that they don’t need.

My husband and I read a lot of personal finance blogs, including two extreme bloggers, ERE and Mr. Money Mustache. Both denounce the devotion to stuff, and one goes so far as to use the concept of storing his stuff on Craigslist. If he doesn’t need this lawn mower right now, he just sells it on Craigslist, with the mindset that when he does need a lawn mower, he can simply retrieve it from Craigslist by purchasing another. Since he almost exclusively uses the secondary market, this is a very economic option.

This is a pretty polarizing issue, with many people trying to slim down, while others are hoarding every last item they can find. At what point are we convincing people to buy more unnecessary clutter, instead of educating them about the benefits of using your solution for a real problem? At what point are we enabling consumerism, instead of responsible, reasonable ownership? Is Black Friday the ultimate genius marketing campaign, or devious device of consumerism?

Losing Yourself

Dark wash jeans and polka dots for a casual Friday at the office.


Silver cut-out flats for a little flare.


Jeans: TJ Maxx

Tank top: Charlotte Russe

Cardigan: Target

Necklace: Forever21

Earrings: Silpada

Flats: Payless

Like the outfit? See more details here!


This is the final post in my discussion about how retailers and bloggers work together to bring fashion to the masses. I’ve discussed many types of incentives and partnerships, but I haven’t discussed how it makes readers and bloggers feel, and how it impacts the perception of a blogger. While the partnerships happen all the time, not everyone is happy about it.

First, some readers dislike seeing free items or promotional plugs from their favorite bloggers. Part of this is because they feel like a friend has sold them out, and that instead of being the trusted, unbiased source of information, the blogger is now speaking on behalf of a retailer. And, if the reader wanted to know information from the retailer, they’d just view the traditional advertising, or go to the retailers website or store. Many bloggers try to combat this by blatantly calling out items that were given to them by the retailer, and being selective about which retailers to work with. By being selective, they hope to continue convey their own sense of style and approval to the readers.

However, some bloggers and readers feel that when a blogger partners with a retailer, the blogger loses their own style and voice. If they’re constantly receiving free items from one or two retailers, they stop being “themselves”, and become a model instead. Again, if readers wanted to look at models, they’d view the magazines and commercials. Readers want to see a real person, living a real life, wearing the clothes. Sure, that funky piece looks great in a magazine spread, but how do I incorporate it into my daily office wear? Of course that over-sized bag and sky-high heels work for standing still for a photo shoot, but how am I supposed to make my morning commute in those? When bloggers seem to stop functioning in the fashion, and just wearing pieces because they received them for free, or were paid to do a review, they start to lose themselves. And, in losing themselves, many start to lose readers. And, if there’s no readers, or readers who are no longer influenced to buy items because they don’t value the blogger’s opinions, there’s no reason for the retailer to continue the partnership. It’s a fine line when partnering with retailers to make sure that a blogger stays true to themselves.

And finally, the pressure of the partnerships and incentives causes some bloggers to burn out. They say you shouldn’t make your hobby your job, as it will cease to be enjoyable, creative outlet. I deal with this to some degree, as it relates to my job, classes, and scrapbooking/card-making. I do a fair amount of design work in my day-job, so my brain is usually too tapped at the end of the week to do design work for the fun of it. Creativity-on-demand is hard to provide, and the same is true for fashion bloggers. Some have admitted to being overwhelmed by too much stuff, and others have found that they get in a rut by constantly trying to bring a new twist to a retailer’s piece. Sometimes the pressure of a “job” makes it harder for bloggers to marry function with form, and their looks become less appealing. Again, when the blogger stops providing valuable ideas to the readers due to burnout, the readers leave, and partnerships are no longer appealing to the retailer.

There are many pros to blogger-retailer arrangements, but bloggers must consider the risks before jumping into an agreement. There is a real risk for losing yourself, and eventually, losing your readers. How do you feel when you “c/o” in a blogger’s item list? Do you like seeing a head-to-toe look provided by one retailer? Have you stopped reading a certain blogger because they lost themselves? Like the outfit? See more details here!

Before Internet…

How did we work before the internet? After a storm last night, the internet is down at our office. This means no email, no network, and no web. So, I’m sitting around with nothing to do. I could send some mock-ups for approval… oh, wait, no I can’t. Oh! I’ve been meaning to book a dentist appointment…. but the number is in my email inbox. Since I live close, I was finally sent home to the internet, but since the servers at the office are down, I can’t even login to the network from home!

So, how did we work before the internet? It’s such a game-changing innovation that we can’t even function without it. But, there was a time when people did work via phone, fax, and, gasp, face-to-face! A real live handshake to get deals done, and real human voices hashing out the details. I do think there’s some merit to doing things face-to-face, as it’s much easier to get things finished over conversation. It’s also much more likely that you’ll stumble on a new idea when you’re talking, instead of typing.

In short, I can’t really work until I get my internet back at the office. Who remembers what like was like BI? (before internet).

Generation Gap

I had a chat with my mom the other night that sparked this post on the generation gap. We’re in a much different place than our parents, and I think sometimes we forget that there’s a difference between today’s economy and priorities, and those 20 years ago.

First, there’s no loyalty anymore. My brother is job hunting, ready to leave his first job out of college, and my mom just couldn’t understand why he’d want to leave so soon. I’ve heard this sentiment from people my mom’s age, as well as the media. My boss was with his previous company for 27 years! I can’t imagine being with any company for that long, and I tend to think I fit in more with the old-school crowd in terms of job loyalty. Basically, our generation needs to keep moving to the next challenge, promotion, or city, and we have little regard for our employer’s “feelings”. The difference, though, is that employers aren’t loyal to us, either! I was telling my mom that companies today have no problem laying off or firing employees, in favor of computers, outsourcing, or just over-loading the employees they have. In “the good ‘ole days”, the employees remained with their employer because it came with steady growth, pay raises, and a pension upon retirement. I’m not going to get any of those things with most companies, so my only options for improvement are changing jobs every few years.

Second, I think my generation is starting to realize that time is more valuable than money. We can travel all over the world cheaply and easily, so why would we want to spend our years behind a desk? Technology allows us to work remotely, and increases our efficiency, so why would we want to put in 8+ hours a day at the office? This cuts both ways, as my parents’ generation had much more work-life balance. Companies would actually let you leave at 5, and you didn’t have a Blackberry beeping all through dinner. People could actually take a vacation, since there were no cell phones or Wifi on the beach to keep you working. It’s just that now, my generation wants the “break” earlier and more often. Flexible work options are becoming a much higher priority for a lot of people my age. For people in the previous generation, this concept that we “deserve” to work different schedules, go on trips, or work remotely, is completely foreign.

And finally, I think my generation is much more aggressive about negotiating. Again, there’s no loyalty between employees and employers, so if we’re all out for ourselves, we should get as much as we can. My brother wanted to negotiate his starting salary, and my mom wondered what prompted him to want to negotiate an already decent offer. His response, “Because I can, so I should.” Straight-forward, no thought, just assuming that everything is open for negotiation. I think a lot of us are tired of the traditional model that we just do as our company tells us, since there’s no end reward tied to following those rules. In generations past, following the rules meant you got your big pay-out at 65. These days, rule-following won’t get you noticed, so you end up with fewer raises and promotions, and less prestigious work assignments and schedules. Essentially, our values have changed, so we’re much more willing to try to buck the system to make it fit into our values.

I’m not sure if these differences are good or bad. I definitely don’t want to just jack into the matrix and hum along until I’m 65, but I do think there’s something to be said for finding contentment and stability. I think that once my generation is “in charge” the whole tone of work is going to shift. There was a great essay by Paul Graham about the dichotomy that our society enforces between work and play, and that essentially, we all view work as this unpleasant necessity that precedes and facilitates play. I think my generation is more adamant about mixing the two, and if work and play are out of sync, we’ll go find a different arrangement. Are you loyal to your employer? Do you think it’s worth it to “all work, no play” until you’re 65? How does your mentality differ from your parents (and, presumably, your boss?)

Finally Friday

I’m ready for the weekend! We had a great Thanksgiving potluck at work, and I ate way too much, so I’m looking forward to hitting the gym this weekend. I’ll leave you with a few links to get things started:


For those contemplating a big move, via Brave New Life: The Waiting Place (Dr. Seuss will hit you straight between the eyes sometimes!)

For those looking for new work challenges, via The New Professional: 5 Ways to Try New Things at Work

For those new to the corporate world, via Harvard Business Review: Do You Know Your Boss’s Boss?


Like the links? Follow me on Twitter for links and blog posts every day!


Affiliate Links, Ads, Sponsorships


Conservative office outfit with a pop of color.

Dress: Target

Cardigan: Charlotte Russe

Belt/Necklace: Forever21

Earrings: NY & Co.

Shoes: Sam and Libby, via DSW

Like the outfit? See more details here!


My recent outfit posts have been dealing with ways that retailers partner with bloggers, and today’s post discusses paid posts and revenue opportunities for bloggers.

Some bloggers use affiliate links in their posts, with a pay-per-click method for receiving revenue from a retailer. They may not go directly through a retailer for this service, as Google, Bing, and other third-party platforms allow you to sign up for affiliate links with their partners. Thus, any time you mention an item from that retailer, a link is added*. When readers click to the retailers website, the blogger makes money for that referral, just like real-life referrals often come with some type of incentive (ie: reduced rent for referring a new tenant, a giftcard for sending a friend to doctor’s office, etc.)

Just like hard copy magazines, some bloggers offer paid advertising space on their site. The payments can be negotiated on a per month, per page view, or per click basis. You see this with independent or boutique brands quite frequently, as they don’t have the budget or wide-spread appeal to support huge ad campaigns. Again, this is a win for the blogger as well, since they can support their blog with steady revenue from advertisements. Many bloggers are protective of the ad space, allowing only retailers whom they personally frequent to advertise on the blog. This is a great strategy on the part of the bloggers, as it solidifies their credibility and the view that they are a neutral observer, a friend offering their favorite items to other friends on the site.

Sponsorships are another great way for retailers to partner with bloggers. They may pay a fee for a mention in a post, or they may send over a product for a review. The tone of the review is up to the blogger, but the retailer has specifically paid for a dedicated post. Sponsorships don’t always include a product review, and some bloggers give the option to by a link or a mention on posts for a specified amount of time. This helps increase brand awareness for the retailer, and allows the blogger to post on whatever they want while making a little money.

Each of these methods creates a win for the retailer and the blogger, as retailers get a guaranteed mention by an influential blogger, and the blogger makes a little money from their side project. While partnerships are becoming commonplace in the blogosphere, they’re not without controversy. Next week’s post will take a look at how these partnerships are viewed among the web community. Like the outfit? See more details here!

*Update: Angeline mentioned in the comments that most bloggers still have to choose where the links appear, etc. instead of appearing on their own. My mention above was in relation to forums where I’ve seen a commenter mention a retailer, and a link posts in the comment, without the author including a link. However, usually the blogger must sign up through some kind of platform that provides affiliate links.

Bing Yourself

I decided to Bing and Google myself last week, and scrolling through the results was pretty hilarious. Here’s what I found:

– The internet still highly associates me with my husband. The first hit on Bing is a link to our old personal website, mattfaus.com (the link ashleyfaus.com redirects to this site). There’s nothing bad about that site, but I’m a little annoyed that with all my blogging on this site, my LinkedIn profile and Twitter feed, and my posting on Forbes and The Daily Muse, it’s the first thing that comes up. This site hasn’t been updated in over a year, and there’s no linkbacks to it (that I know of, anyways!) Come on, internet, I’ve got my own identity here! I think I need to do some SEO for myself, just to make sure that ConsciouslyCorporate pops up before ashleyfaus.com.

-The web never forgets. I came across a really old interview video that I made back in college, a cast list for last year’s A Christmas Carol, and an article about a play I did in California. Fortunately, these links are several pages back, but keep in mind that when you post stuff online, it never goes away!

– The internets have a mind of their own. I came across one link that took a few random key words from the resume on my blog, and strung them together to come up as a result for the phrase “Starbucks SWOT Analysis”. So, as much as I’ve tried to manage my web presence by putting out content that I deem acceptable, sometimes the internet and internet users will take the information you put out, and twist it.

– There’s more of me than I thought. “Faus” is not a particularly popular name, and since my husband and I are both very active on the web, results for our last name generally link to one of us for the first 2-3 pages of results. But, apparently, I’m also a junior high student and I live in Mount Holly, PA. Of course, we know that these results are not me. My maiden name, “Howard”, was much more common, and several people with my maiden name have committed crimes, posted naughty photos of themselves, or written really terrible comments online. Most of us have at least one person in the world with our name, and we don’t always want our “twin” to pop up when trying to cultivate a professional online identity.

I write this post to ask, “What comes up when you Bing your name? What comes up when you Google your name?” Some people think that it’s better to just stay off the internet altogether. Others think they don’t need to monitor their presence, because they already know what’s out there. I reject both of these thoughts, particularly from a professional standpoint! Potential employers, clients, and business partners will plug your name into a search bar as one of their first means of investigating. Don’t you want to know what they’ll find? More importantly, don’t you want to control what they’ll find? I’m not even a big internet sensation, and my blog is miniscule in relation to the whole web universe. But still, I want to know what happens when you do a search on my name.

So, what crazy results come up on your name? Share your funny links in the comments!

Shut Up

Ask anyone to describe me, and one of the first words out of their mouth will be, “talkative”. I LOVE to talk, and I sometimes joke that I’d be quite happy to carry on a conversation with a rock, if it came down to it. But, I’ve learned, sometimes I just need to shut up.

To me, the most uncomfortable portion of a conversation is silence. So, naturally, I minimize the discomfort by talking through the silence. The problem is that many times, the other person needs a minute to collect their thoughts to answer my question or comment on the point I just made, so blabbering through actually makes everything take longer. For example, I’m more knowledgeable about how to make changes to the company website. I tend to give a full explanation or offer two different options for making a change. When my boss gives me the confusion/”I’m thinking” look, I assume it means that I need to further explain the options. In reality, it usually just means he’s thinking, and if I’d give him a second of silence, he could choose an option.I’m trying to learn to let people think, instead of assuming that I need to fill the silence with more explanations to “help” my counterpart.

Another problem is that I tend to assume everything requires a drawn-out explanation of my logic in reaching a conclusion. While I think it’s helpful to have an explanation of your methods handy, I do think that in business, it’s better to just state your point. Then, if your colleagues need more detail, they can ask for it. This is also true in personal relationships, and this point hit me in the face this morning. While getting ready for work, I decided to tell my still-asleep husband that I didn’t want him to wash the light-colored laundry, because I had some sweaters that needed special treatment, so I planned to wash that load when I returned home from class. He rolls over, and says, “Don’t do the laundry, got it.” Sigh! I should have just told him that and let him sleep! Personal partners and business partners may take what you say at face-value, so practice making your point compelling enough on the surface to render your long explanation unnecessary.

Last, we discussed “talking past the sale” during our recent training session, and I’ve found this to be a common problem for any type of business. If you’ve already sold your idea, product, or services, STOP. The customer already believes you, so don’t risk losing the sale by continuing to talk and giving them a reason to change their mind. For job seekers, this is particularly important, as we tend to think that giving a potential employer more information is better. I’ve talked several times about transparency and credibility, and I think that learning to stop talking once you’ve convinced them of your ability is a good skill to have. (Again, we’re not talking about lying or intentionally side-stepping the truth, but if they don’t ask you about something after you’ve proven you’re a great fit, don’t give them a reason to find something wrong with you!)

I write this post while pointing a finger directly at myself, as my love for talking sometimes gets the best of me 🙂 So, have you found it helpful to just shut up? Does anyone else have trouble shutting up?