Once upon a time, I understood that word to mean: an adult dressed a certain way, went a certain place, did a certain job, returned, cleaned-up an excessive pile of papers and/or took a phone call or 10, from home, from a land line. Remember those??? Would our kids even know what one was if they set eyes on it? Nope.
And we kids needed to just shush. And then work was done. Until it started again. But there was in fact that space in between work and not work. And now here we are, all plugged-in, connected, and in a place where work means so many different things to so many different people, with one exception: it never seems to end.
Sitting here, on Lake Naomi with my mommy girlfriends, in the dream-come-true lake house one of them recently realized, in our pajamas, which really is a pair of lounge pants and the same sweatshirts we wore yesterday (and yes I just successfully argued the position statement that if we order dinner in there’s no need to shower and we have more time to ‘work.’) We are three-screening. Playlist rolling. Laughing. Working. And intermittently conversing and then officiously telling one another to shush so that we can work. THIS would not have been possible 20 years ago. We would’ve had to have taken…wait for it…a formal ‘vacation day.’ The good news here is: once upon a time, this would’ve been docked vacation time. And today, it’s not. #winning
All three of us work for ourselves. Which is a paradoxical statement unto itself. More on that later. Believe me, this 3rd-stage-career+stay-at-home+work-from-home mom has thoughts on that subject. Back to this one:
The other good news is that thanks to the interwebs, and career paths and work chosen, and to all the fathers, hubs, and grands taking care of our kids right now, we are on one big fat girlfriends’ workcation, as we sprinkle a day with productivity, love, laughter, friendship, maybe some bubbles and a little more productivity.
And this is some sort of work/life balance in 2018. So there’s that Insight. Now on to:
Our friend Laura started her own business, LBR Insight, 12 years ago after returning to Philadelphia from New York City. Read on – her story is an inspiration to all of us!
What’s a Philly girl native to do other than what her parents offered as their best advice: “Your JOB growing-up is to do well in school,” they said. That’s all. The end. Or maybe in this case, for Laura, it was just the beginning.
Obviously Laura was going to PENN, (The University of Pennsylvania for those of you not from here.) You know, just an impossible-to-get-into local little Ivy League school That’s where her big brother went, and therefore she would too. Her interest in PENN was all academic. It had nothing to do with his cute, smart, and Jewish upper classmate friends. Nope. Nothing at all.
Laura got into Penn, early decision (of course she did the early part – tease those of us that know her!) She majored in History because she self-admittedly had no idea what she wanted to do. And she may have studied enough Psychology and Italian along the way for minors in both, but those are details from a long time ago.
After graduating, she moved to San Francisco on a whim. She basically just put a pin on San Fran. She surveyed everyone she knew and found that she never heard anything bad about San Francisco. Apparently she comes by her market research expertise in large part, naturally. And then she was super resourceful in a young and ambitious sort of way: she wanted to be in advertising, and so she did her research. Again. She surveyed the San Fran advertising agencies and asked from which agencies they hire temps. She then signed herself up for those temp agencies and went to work. And she took jobs, all of them, at that entry level, do whatever you must do, lowest-on-the- totem-pole level that mostly involved planning and research. And then she landed her first real job doing basically the same.
Life intervened as it does, and when a friend’s brother died suddenly, she wondered if she shouldn’t move back home to be near family. She did. And spent 3+ years working at Philly Mag in their custom publication division and at Tierney’s Advertising Agency where they were genius enough to give her lots of responsibility in research and strategy.
She knew all along that NYC was where the good advertising jobs were and so off she went. She applied to grad school at Stern, NYU’s business school, but then Deutsch offered her the job she was hoping to get after Stern. So she leapt and took the job with Deutsch rather than enroll in business school. “Why go to school to then choose the path I was just offered, right?”
She lived and worked in NYC for a great agency, at its prime. She focused on strategy and qualitative research for three years. She had a strong male boss and a stronger female mentor. About what she learned from the latter, Laura says, “I learned, no typos. That the little things are so important: how you present yourself, no slop, no room for errors.” And then what next? “Then I needed to spread my wings. So I Went to McCann. I really grew. Applied all my knowledge and had a tough boss who gave me constructive reviews and I learned a lot. It was really hard at the time. I appreciate the hell out of it now. Then, you know, money talks, so I made the prosperous move and went to another agency for what I call my mistake year. But that’s another story.”
“I met Tosh while I was at McCann. He was at GSK and we were working on the same brand. I’m told that he liked my presentation (wink.)”
Tosh is Laura’s super cute hubs. Who is also a smart bomb. And a Pakistani/British Muslim. More on him later! Because you know, life takes you where it does sometimes.
“Tosh and I decided to be serious and he was in Philly so I moved back. I worked remotely. I was not finding the position that I was looking for and I knew I wanted to start my own business. So, I quit my job and was soon hired as an independent contractor moderator/qualitative researcher. I incorporated my business. I barely remember what happened next. Basically I offered up my services. Sharon, who I worked with in NY and Kevin who I met through friends got me going. (And then as life takes you once more, both ended up doing work for LBR Insight in later years.) One connection led to another. There was no overhead. Just me. So I just kept taking work as it came in.”
So how did that turn into a real business?
“Every day there was another business need. Can you do this? Yes. Yes I can. And then I had to make it happen.”
“Can you lead the conference call? Yes. Ok, let’s get a conference line. Can you fax me that? Yes. Right after I get a fax machine. Do you have a website? I do now. A client request would come in, and I would just make it happen in real time. That’s what we do, right? Make things happen. And then…I got more and more requests and at the same time, I couldn’t be in more than one place at a time. That’s the rate limiting factor in this business: you are only as good as the moderator, and that’s how the business grew. I had to grow a team to meet the work demand. And then we needed an office. And then we needed a bigger office. And next? We can size up one more office, and then we’ll just need two offices. So there’s that.”
It’s amazing how the days feel like they never end, yet the years fly by in decades as if ten years ago was just yesterday. Laura’s business was born, and in 12 years it’s grown to market research, business strategy, and branding amazingness with an insanely talented team of genuinely smart, beautiful and hard working people.
With an expanding team, Laura’s (not so) small, certified Women’s Business Enterprise needed some dedicated space outside of her home office for her and the team to come together and focus their shared energy.
Enter Pipeline Philadelphia. A shared work space, and just pure genius in design, efficiency, and community.
LBR Insight started with a small dedicated space, and it wasn’t long before they moved into a larger one. This is where I come/sneak in; I hang fun things on walls for girlfriends’ work homes too. Sometimes at their request, sometimes with their approval, sometimes while they are out at a meeting and their awesome team sneak-key-me-in, hammer-in-hand, with a wink and a nod. If you can keep real plants alive, you get them. If your true area of expertise is Market Research, not-at-all gardening…you get very special well-researched-market-plants (wink.) Just enough. An office needs just enough to feel alive and fun without distracting from the work.
And maybe a little something three-dimensional and fun that picks-up on your logo and your skyline view!
LBR Insight| What exactly is it you do?
We are a Market Research, Strategic Planning and Brand Consulting Agency-
“We research the What, make sense of the Why, and then present the How to our clients across multiple industries. We get it.”
Get it they do, for sure. And yes, they actually use the legos for real research; because why wouldn’t you?
Our kids all call one another ‘frousins’ (friends that are like cousins.) Abbie, one of the brilliant ten year olds recently (hand-on-hip) looked at Aunt Laura and said, “so you basically are a spy?” Yup. A ten year old –gets it– and just drilled down to the heart of professional market research in one concise statement and made Aunt Laura proud!
On a very real note, Laura’s business and her all-business approach to her career fascinate us all. The woman is ALL Business, in every way, all day, every day. And she kicks some serious market research ass.
Pipeline has some amazing artwork and fun fixtures in their multiple shared spaces. This inspirational silk grafitti piece by Aubrie Costello is one of our favorites! And the shared punching bag is another!
LBR Insight Dedicated Space:
In adding a few details to Laura’s office, we tried to keep it light, bright, and fun, while also keeping her spirit and that of LBR Insight true: Always on Time, Packs a Punch, and knows how to have Fun doing it ALL!
This whole team is just so amazing and fun and all these women have plenty of inspiration to share with all of us!
LBI Insight Work Space:
2 Drawer File Cabinets:
Fun Desk Accessories:
Stay tuned for more Insight to come:
In addition to being the BEST market researcher I know, Laura is also, by a long shot, also the BEST DRESSED professional woman I know. She’s totally mastered the collected cool professional look that goes from the office to date night and makes all the kid stops along the way. Girlfriend is always ALL together. Stylish, hair done, game face on. So stay tuned for Insights Part II: Work Wear Inspiration from LBR Insight, because her team follows suit too…pun absolutely intended. And Insights Part III: Get your Work Face On!, because these women also know how to put on their best faces, always. (Following on that, Laura and her team are beyond excited to have recently added a beauty retail powerhouse to their roster of clients! Yes for all of us!!!) And luckily for us, they are super excited to share their style and beauty secrets with us, and so what are we to do but to bring those insights to you?
Laura, you inspire us all, with your love, strength, determination, and your insight. And goodness knows we can always count on you to be on TIME and on POINT. Love you sister. xoxo A
Beautiful photo credit to the insanely talented Marisa of Redfield Photography. Thank you so much for always making everyone so comfortable in front of the camera and for keeping all of our work fun! You amaze us!