August 14, 2017

How to survive a hostile workplace

A friend works for a woman who has made her work life difficult. Rather than bringing any concerns directly to my friend, the woman goes above her and complains to their boss. The boss then scolds my friend. This has happened repeatedly and my friend now wants to leave her job, convinced the woman is a backstabber.

I suspect there are other people who have been in a similar scenario. People skills seem to be diminishing and more employees are complaining about toxic co-workers and bosses.

Let's say that you find yourself in an unpleasant workplace situation like my friend wondering...what's the best way to handle a workplace bully or office backstabber? A Fast Company article titled,  5 Common Workplace Bullies and How to Deal with Them, may help. As the article points out, sometimes, you have to keep detailed notes of someone's behavior. Other times the best way to survive is to find another supervisor or leader in the company who can intervene on your behalf.

I asked workplace culture expert Jerry Acuff, founder of Delta Point in Scottsdale, Arizona, for his thoughts on how to handle workplace conflicts, office backstabbers and toxic co-workers. He had some helpful suggestions.

1. Try to build a  better relationship with the backstabber or the co-workers causing you grief. It may be painful to do, but Acuff says you might say something like..."We don't  have the relationship I wish we did and I'd like to change that."

2. Have a courageous conversation. If you have made the decision that improving your relationship is not possible, have a courageous conversation. "Make it clear you will not be treated like that," Jerry says.

3. Build relationships with company leaders, people in positions of authority. "Sometimes that means taking on assignments that are important to senior level people, such as chairing the company United Way campaign," Jerry says. "You have to try to insulate yourself from the idiots and backstabbers. 

4. Address the issue head on. Jerry says confront the person causing the conflict and turn the tables. You could ask something such as... "Why did you put me in that situation? I can't imagine you would want someone to do that to you."

5. Consult a mentor. "You will always find people looking to get ahead, or people who got ahead and don't have training. "If someone is putting you in a bad light in your workplace, you may have to face it head on and figure out the best way to do that.  That's where a mentor is valuable," Jerry said.

I asked Jerry if he thinks you can tame an office backstabber. It's a question I have been pondering for years as workers in various professions complain about toxic people their workplaces.

"I think you can at times, but it depends on how evil the person is," Jerry said.  "Trust is rare. I  am not saying be skeptical, but rather be real."

If it is not one person who is toxic, but rather the workplace itself, you may feel comforted in knowing many others feel that way, too. A new study of 3,066 workers by the Rand Corp., Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Los Angeles, found many Americans feel their workplace is grueling, stressful and surprisingly hostile.

The Associated Press reported the findings earlier this week and summed up the study's bullet points:

Among the findings:

— Nearly one in five workers — a share the study calls "disturbingly high" — say they face a hostile or threatening environment at work, which can include sexual harassment and bullying. Workers who have to face customers endure a disproportionate share of abuse.

 — Nearly 55 percent say they face "unpleasant and potentially hazardous" conditions.

— Nearly three quarters say they spend at least a fourth of their time on the job in "intense or repetitive physical" labor. "I was surprised at how physically demanding jobs were," says lead author Nicole Maestas, a Harvard Medical School economist.

— Telecommuting is rare: 78 percent say they are required to be present in their workplace during working hours.

— Only 38 percent say their jobs offer good prospects for advancement. And the older they get, the less optimistic they become.

— About half say they work on their own time to meet the demands of their job.

I always enjoy hear from people who feel their co-workers are their second family. It makes going to work so much better. If you are someone who feels camaraderie with co-workers, consider yourself fortunate. If you aren't, it might be time to make a change.

 

 

 

August 05, 2017

Inside a food truck and the struggle for work life balance

One day, I was walking around the Wynwood Second Saturday Art Walk when I came across Michael Kritikos and his The Original Greek food truck. His gyros were yummy and his smile was big, so I decided to find out a little more about the highs and lows of operating a food truck in South Florida.

Is it fun? What are the challenges? Do the rewards outweigh the challenges? Most important, how does a food truck owner find work life balance when every minute you are cooking and serving is money in your pocket and time off is lost income?

Michael had just returned from his first vacation in many years and had a lot to say about the challenges of running a mobile food business and balancing a personal life.

DSC_3143

Here is Michael set up and ready to serve his yummy Greek food at Wynwood's Second Saturday Art Walk. You can tell from this photo that he loves what he does for a living.

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

August 01, 2017

How Good Office Design Can Help with Stress and Work Life Balance

If you are stressed out at work, it may be because your office is designed in a way that creates tension. You may not have even considered that, right? 

Today, my guest is Juliana Fernandez, founder and principal of AEI U.S. Studio, the North American office of AEI, a world-class commercial design firm that is among the largest in Latin America. She has a lot to say about how the way office design affects our stress levels and how the right design can help with our work life balance.

Juliana has led office design projects in Miami, Latin America and New York and has more than 22 years of experience. Her clients include Microsoft, Coca Cola and Holland & Knight. So, let's talk design....

Juliana Fernandez (1)

By Juliana Fernandez

As employees spend more time working and staying connected to their jobs 24-7 via
smartphones, tablets and desktops, the boundaries between work-life balance are
becoming blurred. This has sparked a need for employers to take responsibility to address how their office environment plays a critical role in employee health.


From my day-to-day experience as a design professional, I have found that establishing
an office space where employees desire to spend their time is important. I have repeatedly experienced that even the smallest office changes speak to the value of making employee wellbeing a priority.


Yet, design is often overlooked when considering the foundation of improving burnout
rates and promoting healthy retention. This is unfortunate, as I have seen how
innovative workspaces can improve wellness and alleviates stress, while ultimately
encouraging movement, getting employees out from behind their desks, and fostering
interaction among colleagues.


At our firm, we employ in-house psychologists and anthropologists to design office
spaces that combat the stressful environment of workplaces to encourage and support
employee health and well-being. Our team possesses extensive experience in
workplace strategies, organizational culture and worker behavior. In fact, these
psychological elements should ideally play an integral role in today’s office design
process.

To really make a positive impact in the workplace environment and reduce employees’
stress in the office, here are the fundamental design factors that I have found to be
tremendously effective:

Provide Natural Light. Give employees as much access to natural air and light as possible, which has proven to decrease headaches and respiratory diseases. Some ways this can be achieved include creating offices near the windows, opening closed office spaces up with the addition of glass, and moving closed rooms toward the core of
building.

Design for Egronomics. Take ergonomics into account by using the right office furniture to minimize muscular and bone diseases. Effective ergonomic design can contribute to reduction in muscle and nerve issues. For corporate design clients, I
typically implement adjustable computer screens in terms of height and distance
to make people feel comfortable and to improve their visual acuity.


Factor in space use.  Consider how to stay dynamic by balancing work and social spaces. This allows employees to choose where and how to work and empowers them – leading to increased job satisfaction and significant stress reduction. Also, where possible, incorporate game areas and intriguing breakrooms to give employees another reason to stay engaged and satisfied at work.


Consider worker needs. Determine team needs based on your specific profession and culture. Give periodic surveys to employees to understand their work space desires. If
possible, work with a crew of anthropologists to collect observations, interviews,
questionnaires and results from ‘Design Thinking’ workshops – led by design
firms such as ours – AEI U.S. Studio. I have found that this process ultimately
acknowledges the relationship between spaces, workers and organizational
culture, by analyzing if they complement each other or on the contrary they send
opposite messages.

Ultimately, my years as a design professional have taught me that creating
work spaces that reduce stress, increase healthy habits, support the physical welfare
of employees, and maximize productivity and lifestyle –  requires the buy in of a socially responsible employer. If created and executed properly, thoughtful office
design has proven to be a powerful tool to support employee performance, one that I
have found to be key for surviving the digital uprise.

 

Globant San Francisco (1)

Offices of Globant in San Francisco

July 31, 2017

Monday already? 5 work life tips to get you through the week

 

There’s always a strange feeling waking up on a Monday morning. The week ahead has so much promise —  and in a way that can be scary. Will this be the week I get to leave work in time to take an evening bike ride? Will this be the week I land that big customer or make progress on that project I am working on? 

It could be. Here are some ways you can make it happen. If, you get started today.

1. Get In the Right Mindset

The first way to have a better Monday is get in the right mindset.  Are you dreading the things that might stop this from becoming a great week? Envision yourself waking up Saturday morning happy, ready to enjoy the day because you had a great week. Start Monday off by saying, “I will be happy on Saturday if I…” Now, however you filled in the blank, think positive and focus on making that happen. 

2. Get clear on your purpose

Now, to wake up happy on Saturday means you did your usual multitude of tasks during the week, but you did them with a purpose in mind. As Eric Barker writes in Time Magazine: Ask yourself, “How does what I do benefit others?” 

Barker says even without getting a new job or working for a charity you can find purpose. He notes that Duke professor Dan Ariely suggests “reframing your experience.” You might not be able to change what you have to do but you can change how you see it. And when you look at it through the lens of how it can help others, you’ll often find more motivation.

3. Gain Control

It is so unbelievably easy to feel overwhelmed driving to work on Monday, or driving home. Maybe you begin making a mental checklist of all the things you want or need to get done. Maybe you make a digital or paper list. Regardless, your mind is racing and the list is growing long. Stop. Take a breath. Think bigger. Set goals for the week. Specific, realistic goals. Ask yourself, “What could I get done this week that would give me a sense of accomplishment? Focus on those few, specific goals.

4. Energize Yourself

On Monday mornings, I’m already thinking about ways I’m going to treat myself during the week. Even if I have a ton of work to get done, I need something to motivate me. It could be a mid-week coffee break with a friend. It could be Friday night happy hour with my husband. It could be a book I’m going to start reading together with my son. It’s amazing how Mondays are easier to get through knowing there is something to look forward to during the week.

5. Plan for Positive Interaction

We all have people who annoy us. It’s an inevitable part of life. On Monday, imagine the next conversation with that person during the week going well. Plan on taking a deep breath or pausing before you respond to anything he or she says, and then choosing what you are going to say rather than reacting from anger or showing signs of irritation. Reacting to a rude person is a waste of time, as is letting your concern over the interaction put you in a grumpy mood for the week. You have the power to change that — before it happens.

 

It's easier than you think to start the week of right. So, think positive and ask yourself, "Will I wake up on Saturday morning feeling like I have had a productive, awesome week?" I think your answer will be yes. To read more of my tips, visit my website: BalanceGal.com

 

July 20, 2017

Golin shares how it helps employees with work life balance

When you run a business that employs millennials, work life balance is critical. Without it, turnover is greater and loyalty is lower. So, I love to hear how businesses handle this challenge. Today, we're going to find out.

My guest blogger is Flavia Vigio, executive director for Miami and Latin America for Golin, a global PR firm. Flavia has worked in Latin America and Italy and has seen different cultures in action. In her position at Golin, she works with global clients and has many employees who look up to her. 

Golin has made some changes in the way it operates to encourage work life balance and today, Flavia will share them with us.

                    

 

 

Flávia Vigio (Golin)Going All In

At Golin, our motto is to “go all in” so in April 2016 we chose to launch a number of initiatives that aimed at promoting a good work life balance  as part of a program we call Life Time. Life Time is Golin’s official commitment to honor and revere life experiences – one’s “life time” – as a foundation of life at Golin. We go all in for our clients. But this was our moment to go all in for our employees, too.

It was an important perspective shift – away from the decades-old tenure-based benefits program to a trust-based, mutually beneficial relationship. Every suggestion from employees became fair game to be considered. The results led Golin to introduce unlimited time off, enhanced family care, extended health and wellness programs and work-from-anywhere flexibility.

Has the culture and engagement changed? The answer is yes.

In the past year, members of our Miami team have chosen to explore Machu Picchu, take historic tours of Savannah or lounge on Bahamian islands only accessible by boat. And just as important for balance, staff members have had "Life Time" days to deal with personal emergencies or losses within families without having to be constantly preoccupied about the number of vacation days remaining in a ledger.

Unlimited time off – which had never been offered globally by any other agency – can, of course, be perplexing. We found that the key to success is setting expectations correctly, sharing goals with teams, assuring everyone will do their best and building a mutually supportive culture around flexibility, respect and trust.

Our teams today have stronger and more beneficial communications protocols in place to support the work-from-anywhere flexibility offering --- something more and more of the workforce says makes a real difference. Now each employee, regardless tenure or title, can choose to work from anywhere one day a week.

Finally, our extended health and wellness benefit offers a monthly stipend for exercise, wellness or peace-of-mind activities. Those activities are determined by each employee so they can achieve their own personal balance.  They range from gym memberships to singing lessons, language courses to yoga retreats, photography classes to pet-sitting services.

The "Life Time" program not only helped us attract new employees at Golin, it has helped us retain talented people who might not have been able to fit their careers into their lives before. And it’s great to work with people who want to be here. Our founder, Al Golin, said it best, “Happy people make happy clients.” And we believe that we give our best when we are at our best. Today, this may mean having “me time.” Tomorrow, it might mean doubling down on our work in support of our clients.

In the pursuit of balance, there’s something to be said for those businesses that “go all in.”

 

GolinMIA Corp Run 2017

Golin team at Corporate Run!

July 19, 2017

How to look at work life balance from a big picture view

Bigger-picture-single-letters-pinned-cork-noticeboard-42704936
It's July and I know exactly what I want to accomplish this month. I have goals. I have a day-by-day to do list. I have lots of enthusiasm. 

Still, something doesn't feel right. If I accomplish everything on my list, I will be thrilled. But I also will be stressed out and I will have sacrificed the time in which I usually  exercise and spend time with my family and friends. I don't want to make that sacrifice on  a regular basis. However, for this month, I'm going to let myself be okay with that.

Let's talk about approaching work life balance from a high-level view.

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, 5 Things High-Powered Women Need to Know About Work-life Balance, one tip stood out for me among the others. It was tip #3. Think of work-life balance from a calendar-year perspective.  Consider balance in terms of not only the hour, day and week but also month and year. “It really is a teeter-totter, you’re constantly trying to balance it out,” said Aimee Cohen, Women on Point co-founder.

Some days, when we are handling client emergencies late at night, it's hard to remember that we are in the workplace for the long haul and need to have balance to make it to the finish line. The way I see it, most people need to know how many late nights they are okay with putting in, and for how long. They also need to recognize when they aren't putting enough time into work to reach their career goals.

We are more than half way through the calendar year, which makes it an ideal time to do some re-balancing to finish out the year.

Here is how to look at work life balance in a way you may not have considered.

1. Take a chance.  If you feel like you haven't put your full effort into getting ahead at work or landing a big customer, make it your time to float a new idea or give your job your all. Spend an evening on your patio letting your creative juices stir and getting your confidence high and then go for it. It's okay to give yourself a set time period to give your career or your business 100 percent of your time and energy.

2. Re-evaluate sacrifices. If your goal is to become a partner in your law firm, it is going to take hard work and long hours. How many years are you willing to dedicate to short term sacrifices to hit your long-term goals? You need to figure that out and be okay with your decision. If you have changed your mind about the sacrifices you are making to reach career goals, recognize that and make a new plan.

3. Make an appointment.  Because it's summer, most workplaces are a little more casual, flexibility is a little more available and people tend to be in better moods. Seize the opportunity and make an appointment to initiate an activity you feel will give you ongoing balance. Make a date with a personal trainer, or with a good friend to try a new fitness class, or with your partner to start walking together at night, or with a co-worker to take Friday lunches. Set the wheels in motion to re-balance.

4. Rethink urgency. One of the biggest threats to work life balance is a false sense of urgency. How has the first half of the year gone for you? Have you allowed  to take over every email and action? Remember, if you want to accomplish your goals for the week, month, year...you are going to need to figure out when to be accessible and when to let things slide.

5. Think differently. Some weeks, I am too busy writing articles on deadline to worry about social media or make fancy dinners for my family. I have to tell myself that one week is not going to make a difference in whether I lure new social media followers or whether my kids think I'm a good mother. The same is true for taking a week of vacation, or time off to do fertility treatment.  When you take a long-term view of work life balance, you often make different decision about taking short breaks from work.

Whatever stress you may be facing, remember finding fulfillment is always about the bigger picture. Our work life balance changes throughout our lifetime – it is constantly evolving – and it should as we make the big decisions and our personal and professional lives change accordingly.

 

 

June 27, 2017

When your co-worker takes vacation

In case you're keeping score, yes your co-worker just took two-weeks off and you're left to do his/her work. So what are you going to do about it?

You can easily become the person who stays late every night carrying a double workload. You can just as easily become the person who does only what's reasonable for your boss or clients to expect when you're a man down. 

Let's say you're the worker who wants to look like a team player and pick up the slack for your vacationing colleague. My advice is to proceed with caution. That's a dangerous road you're about to embark on. You want your clients to be understanding, your boss to think highly of you, your co-worker to cover for you when it's your turn to vacation. But, you don't want to be the go-to person who covers for everyone who takes a vacation. You certainly don't want to be the person who walks around the office resentful, snapping at anyone who dares to ask you a question because you're overwhelmed and overworked.

You may need to assess exactly what's expected. Is it just filling in for the person at a few meetings or handling all of their client calls. Is it short term, or could taking on someone else's responsibility for a few weeks lead to taking it on permanently. Yes, you definitely want to proceed with caution and have a conversation with your manager if necessary. Can that project wait for your co-worker to get back? Can you  

Now, there can be a positive for you. Summer can be a great time to put some energy in the work side of work life balance. Covering for a co-worker on vacation can help you get ahead by proving yourself.  Summer can also be ideal for pondering your desired future and trying out a role that interests you.

Most important, regardless of whether others take time off, don't be afraid to take your own vacation days. Even if you're the new guy or  have lots on your plate, you need time off to re-energize and the slower summer tend to be the perfect for it. Even if you don't go anywhere, or can't afford to travel, taking time off helps keep you positive.

According to Project Time Off, employees who take most or all of their vacation time each year perform better, are more productive and more satisfied in their jobs.

If you are the vacationing co-worker, think about how you can make life easier on others while you're gone. You might leave specific instructions about what you consider top priority and what can wait for your return. Taking vacation knowing you've done everything possible to help out co-workers left behind benefits everyone. Hopefully, your coworkers will show the same courtesy to you.

It's normal to worry what covering for a vacationing co-worker will do to your workload. Ask for notes, figure out what's reasonable and have a conversation with your manager ahead of time. With lots of people gearing up to take summer vacation, you don't want to be the sucker in the office stuck there until midnight.

 

June 13, 2017

Miami Lawyer Talks Work Life Balance and Pursuing Personal Passions

"If only I had time."

Often, people will talk to me about their passion or a hobby they want to pursue. They follow it by saying, "If I only had time." As I get older, I realize that we never FIND time for what we enjoy doing, we MAKE time.

Today, my guest blogger is Michael Reppas, a UM law school grad, practicing trial lawyer with Reppas Law , published author of 10 articles and book, antiquities expert on the theft of the Parthenon Scriptures, and a recording artist musician who just released an album, “Reppas” which can be heard on Spotify here. He is thoroughly involved in his Greek community in South Florida especially his church community. He also has published a book sold on Amazon and formed a music company with its own website, www.reppas.org. He does all of these things while practicing law.  

He clearly is someone who MAKES time for what he enjoys. 

I feel fortunate to have Michael Reppas share his insight for how he balances his job and his passions in life.

 

 

By Michael Reppas

RetouchedfinalcoverCROPED

 

Passion is not, necessarily, a blind and all consuming fervor that takes you over like a lunatic. It can be a motivating feeling that is slow and controlled and which leads you on a steady path forward. Never letting you forget what drives and compels you. Always there in the back of your mind. Always there while you are working every day from 8 to 6, or cutting grass on Saturday morning, or taking your kids to practice.  For me, I hear music in the written word and I am driven to tell my stories. I tell them through history lectures, through legal arguments, through historical fiction ---  and through lyrics and music. 

The question I invariably hear from my friends, colleagues, legal clients and (occasional) fans who read or listen to one of my works of music is this: “How do you find the time to do it?” My honest reply is the same: I don’t know, I just do it. And that answer is the absolute truth.

I am compelled to tell my stories. That is what fuels me and gives me balance. My chosen career as a trial lawyer is patently stressful. My home life is incredibly busy. There is very little “me” time, but I carve it out somehow. Every day I work on edits to my book or lyrics. I sing in the car (yes, I am the guy next to you playing air drums and singing his heart out).  I schedule a session with my producer at the studio once a month to get another song out.  Slowly and methodically I push forward to tell my stories. I never stop and I approach every day with the belief that, one way or another, I am going to make progress on my project du jour, and I do my very best to reach that goal every day. 

I have come to accept that, for now, I will simply not have a full and uninterrupted day to work on one of my passion projects and probably won’t until I retire. That being said, I am not willing or able to wait for a tomorrow that may never come, so I push myself every day. I let my soul breathe a little every day through writing and music.  It is how I meditate.  How I find balance.  It is how I survive in my busy and stressful life.  Without the creative element of storytelling in my life, I would not be whole. Without it, I would not be me.

Miami Lawyer Talks Work Life Balance and Pursuing Personal Passions

"If only I had time."

Often, people will talk to me about their passion or a hobby they want to pursue. They follow it by saying, "If I only had time." As I get older, I realize that we never FIND time for what we enjoy doing, we MAKE time.

Today, my guest blogger is Michael Reppas, a UM law school grad, practicing trial lawyer with Reppas Law , published author of 10 articles and book, antiquities expert on the theft of the Parthenon Scriptures, and a recording artist musician who just released an album, “Reppas” which can be heard on Spotify here. He is thoroughly involved in his Greek community in South Florida especially his church community. He also has published a book sold on Amazon and formed a music company with its own website, www.reppas.org. He does all of these things while practicing law.  

He clearly is someone who MAKES time for what he enjoys. 

I feel fortunate to have Michael Reppas share his insight for how he balances his job and his passions in life.

 

 

By Michael Reppas

RetouchedfinalcoverCROPED

 

Passion is not, necessarily, a blind and all consuming fervor that takes you over like a lunatic. It can be a motivating feeling that is slow and controlled and which leads you on a steady path forward. Never letting you forget what drives and compels you. Always there in the back of your mind. Always there while you are working every day from 8 to 6, or cutting grass on Saturday morning, or taking your kids to practice.  For me, I hear music in the written word and I am driven to tell my stories. I tell them through history lectures, through legal arguments, through historical fiction ---  and through lyrics and music. 

The question I invariably hear from my friends, colleagues, legal clients and (occasional) fans who read or listen to one of my works of music is this: “How do you find the time to do it?” My honest reply is the same: I don’t know, I just do it. And that answer is the absolute truth.

I am compelled to tell my stories. That is what fuels me and gives me balance. My chosen career as a trial lawyer is patently stressful. My home life is incredibly busy. There is very little “me” time, but I carve it out somehow. Every day I work on edits to my book or lyrics. I sing in the car (yes, I am the guy next to you playing air drums and singing his heart out).  I schedule a session with my producer at the studio once a month to get another song out.  Slowly and methodically I push forward to tell my stories. I never stop and I approach every day with the belief that, one way or another, I am going to make progress on my project du jour, and I do my very best to reach that goal every day. 

I have come to accept that, for now, I will simply not have a full and uninterrupted day to work on one of my passion projects and probably won’t until I retire. That being said, I am not willing or able to wait for a tomorrow that may never come, so I push myself every day. I let my soul breathe a little every day through writing and music.  It is how I meditate.  How I find balance.  It is how I survive in my busy and stressful life.  Without the creative element of storytelling in my life, I would not be whole. Without it, I would not be me.

June 09, 2017

The Latina Mother and Risk Taker Who is Disrupting the Entertainment Industry

I love to read about women who took risks in business. Bold risks. Risks that involved a work life sacrifice but eventually paid off. I figure you like to read those stories, too. Today, I am featuring Ana Benitez, President & Co-Founder of Storyrocket, a Miami company with a genius concept. Ana is a Cuban American mother of two who believes in dreaming big. She is disrupting the entertainment industry with her startup, an online marketplace that it allows writers to showcase their work to an audience of content-hungry producers. 

 

Meet Ana Benitez....

Ana

What is your Background?

I was born in Cuba and came to Miami as a two-year-old toddler.  We were not your typical Cuban family, I don’t remember much politics being discussed. At home it was all about education, it was ingrained that we would go to college and pursue a higher education. I don’t think we were ever given a choice. My father always said, “They can take away all you have (which Castro did, when he left Cuba) or lose a job, but no one will ever be able to take away your education.” My parents always reminded us that we could achieve anything we wanted with our hard work and determination. We were always encouraged to dream big and then road map it… in other words take steps every day to get there.

 

What is it like to be a Latina in the entertainment business?

It takes courage. But growing up in a family of immigrants you saw courage in action every day and it became part of my DNA. I think courage is vital to being an entrepreneur, whether or not you are a Latina. There are a million great ideas, but you have to have the courage to take action. I was taught that nothing is given to you for free. It is your responsibility to make it happen and live with no regrets. 

 

Your new company is Storyrocket...what is it?

Storyrocket is an online marketplace that connects great written works with the global production community that has a goal of producing for film, TV, theater or web. In the entertainment industry everything starts with a book or script.  So content is king, but content is all over the place. There is no one place that amalgamates and organizes content easily so that great written work is discovered, opted and produced.

How does it work?

Storyrocket is an open online marketplace with a free membership model where both writers and producers can enter their first project free of charge. Subsequent projects are fee-based ,with very accessible plans starting at $9.99 a month for up to 10 projects. Our site also has a social media component to it that allows you to promote your script outside of Storyrocket to as many people as possible. Storyrocket has the ability to create groups, that allow people to form collaboratives, which can add momentum to a project and also help to crowd source since some ideas will become indie projects that will need funding. It’s really the go-to place for both writers and producers.

How did the idea to launch Storyrocket come about?

It began three years ago with the realization by my partner, Ron Karasz that although he’s a great writer he has never been able to get his writing optioned because of the way “show business” works. It’s all about who you know and if you can attach a big name to your project. Getting representation by a reputable agent is like playing the chicken and the egg. Agents won’t represent you unless you have something already produced and the industry won’t look at your screenwriting without representation. Like Ron, we estimate there are hundreds of thousands of writers globally that are desperate to get their writings into the rights hands, but have nowhere to go.

On the flip side, I’m a two time Emmy-winning producer. In my field, we always say that there are not enough great written works out there. Big production companies spend thousands of hours vetting scripts sent to them by agents and many other sources. Nowadays, not only the traditional networks and studios are in competition for great content, but also companies like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon etc. who are producing great original movies, shows and series. This trend will continue to grow, again creating the need for more and more content.

How Is Storyrocket a game changer?

Storyrocket's robust search engine is a game changer. As a writer, you can get your work into the hands of content hungry producers. As a producer whether you're searching for a book, script or treatment, you can easily filter by genre, gender, location, era, etc. and can communicate directly with the content owner, or agent.  Production companies who used to spend a considerable amount of time and money vetting scripts from a multitude of sources, now have a one stop solution with Storyrocket.

What challenges are ahead?

Our goal is to have the largest collection of content in the world for the entertainment industry that is easily searchable from anywhere, 24/7.  We understand that great content transcends borders and is adaptable to multiple markets. This has prodded Storyrocket to begin the expansion of the site to multiple languages.  Having launched in English, it plans to be available in Spanish by the fall of 2017.  This will open the possibilities to huge production markets in Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and Spain, among many others.  The long-term goal is to have the site available "in-language" for the top 15 film and TV producing countries of the world.

Will you self-finance your expansion in Phase II, or be looking for funding?

We will definitely be looking for investment funding  our next phase.  Recently eMerge Americas, the technology conference of the Americas where many tech trends are launched, invited Storyrocket to be one of its select Startup Showcase companies on June 12 & 13 in Miami

What tips would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Having self-financed this startup, I can tell you it hasn’t been easy, but it sure has been an exciting ride. No two days are the same. Each comes with its own priorities and there is no road map. It’s up to you to steer the company in the right direction. Start-ups are not for the faint of heart. It takes guts and determination to see it through from idea to reality. On the personal side, lots of meditation, envisioning the end-result, keeping a never-give-up attitude and a positive outlook no matter what.

As a mother of two, how have you been able to balance family and launching a company?

It took a lot of hard work and many years of willing to do more than was expected of me to get ahead. It was when I was at the top of my career creating the highest rating specials as senior producer of special events for Univision Network that I had to take a hard look at my life. During this time, I gave birth to my two sons. The intense work schedule and travelling commitments left little time for family, and even less time for me. I had a serious lack of balance in my life and for the first time I felt I was losing the joy. This is when I knew, I had to reinvent myself in order to have more flexibility and be able to be happy in all areas of my life. This took deep thinking and great courage.

Was it scary to leave a job you loved?

I left the network at the top of my career…with multiple nominations and 2 Emmy Awards, an executive position with high visibility, great pay and benefits and opened a marketing and entertainment agency Benitez Karasz, with my husband and partner, Ron Karasz. I re-invented myself and I have zero regrets. Benitez Karasz not only has provided me the with the flexibility I was looking for but it also expanded my expertise in the areas of talent management, marketing and events. We worked with Fortune 500 companies leveraging talent for marketing campaigns. After many years of success at Benitez Karasz it was time to start our new challenge. Today the same partnership has decided to disrupt the entertainment Industry with a win-win formula that helps both writers and producers, Storyrocket.

 

How are you different now that you've run your own business? Did it influence your willingness to take risk?

I’m much wiser, stronger and my tool box is much bigger. I’ve learned I can do it all with the right attitude, being organized, prioritizing, planning ahead, and focusing on the things that I do want.  I’m able to spend quality time with my family, travel, volunteer at my church, take care of my health, support emerging filmmakers and launch a startup. And, yes I’m very happy!”

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