Life updates – New Blog + Moving to LA!

Dear friends, some exciting updates to share with you! It’s been too long!

#1 Since closing AB Co. in September and winding down all internal operations last year, I’ve been enjoying some time off! But of course I can’t sit still for very long. I did a lot of soul searching and discovered my passion for organizational culture and behavior. In July I began studies in this field and I’ve very proud to present to you my new online platform/blog – Fair Game (http://fairgame.biz). Fair Game features articles and advice for professionals and leaders in the workplace and builds off the concept Andy Warhol sums up so well in this quote, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.” Insights are drawn from my 8 years leading AB Co. and my recent formal studies. Please check out the website here: http://fairgame.biz and follow on social media/join the newsletter! Very excited about this new platform and I will be updating blogs weekly!

#2 I have made the tough decision to leave New York, and the exciting decision to relocate to Los Angeles! I have loved living in NYC for the past 1.5 years and thank all the amazing friends and people who made my time here just the best! We have been slowly been relocating this past month and will be based there permanently starting Jan. 16th. If you are on the west coast or have friends/family out there we would love to connect with them! Can’t wait to explore a new city!

I will be pursuing full time employment, while keeping up with this blog on the side, in LA. Thank you for your ongoing support! It truly means the world to me!

Much love,
Sari

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10 Common Mistakes Young Entrepreneurs or Professionals Make

sari-at-work

If you are young and reading this blog, you are probably grinding your teeth with rage at the sight of the headline alone. Don’t fret. I’m not some old crusty geezer here to teach you a lesson or put you in “your place”. I’m 25 and have been working in the music, marketing, and communications industry for 10 years. I started my company, AB Co., 6 years ago and have grown it into Canada’s leading music marketing and communications agency. I manage a team of 13 and started my company at the age of 18 with a whole lot of balls. 

Now I don’t mean to be tooting any horn. I just want to give you some context as to where this blog is coming from. I get it. You don’t want to be told what to do, and you are young and awesome. I am a full believer that your unique and intense drive is your secret weapon. Use it well and disregard most of the people who tell you ‘you are too young for this’ or ‘too inexperienced for that’. They are ridiculous. I will not tell you that. I think you are badass just the way you are. 

That being said, there are few things I wish I didn’t have to learn the hard way. I wouldn’t change a thing about the path that lead me to where I am now because I have learned many important lessons along the way… but if this can help you save some time, money, and frustration, you may just find yourself racing up that ladder faster than most.

#1 – Hating on Contracts 

When I started out I thought contracts were annoying and unnecessary. If you were honest and truthful with the people you work with, why would you need a paper filled with legal jargon to clutter your desk, right? Wrong. I soon learned that no matter how close and loving you are with clients, friends, or your team, at some point things may change. A contract helps to lay out expectations in advance and it shows that you are taking things seriously. You need to protect yourself, your team, and your company. A contract allows you to do that. The amount of times in the past I’ve hit my head against the wall only wishing I had done up a light agreement or pushed to get the executed version sent back is too high. It is not rude or bad to ask for things to be formalized. It is professional and responsible. It will save you money and nightmares in the future. 

As important as setting up a contract is, it’s just as important not to rush into signing something without thoroughly reading it or seeking legal consultation when you’re on the receiving end. You may not be able to afford it, and be way too busy to stop and ask a lawyer, but signing the wrong thing because you’re in a hurry will almost 100% of the time create issues for you down the road. There are great free legal clinics or law students who need practice that can help you out on the cheap. Barter with them and do whatever you need to to ensure you aren’t signing yourself up for a future disaster by rushing through a contract. 

#2 – Mis-managing Your Money 

Setting up strong systems to manage and organize your money will save you lots of time down the road. Nobody can get out of having to file their taxes or report to investors. Pushing all the receipts to the bottom of your desk drawer is only going to mean you have to sift through them in years to come or pay someone lots of money to do so. Also, knowing up to date financial information will allow you to make decisions about your business and plan better. It will allow you to have the foresight to lead your team to a profitable future. 

In addition, be careful about who you loan money to. It is easy to want to be overly generous when you can, but you would be surprised how people change for the worse when it comes to money. People can be selfish with their money and usually very twisted about it too. If you do give a loan or advance to someone, be sure you have a clear contract in writing, and terms set out to get it back. You never know what will happen in the future with that good friend or business partner. Protect your money as it allows you to do what you do. 

Be sure to manage your accounts receivable carefully. If someone hires you to do something they need to pay for it within a reasonable amount of time. Every client or company you work with has their own world to deal with and though they may have the best intentions, it is very common for payments to take a long time to be processed. This doesn’t leave you in a good position in the meantime as you carry their debt from month to month. Lay out clear payment terms and have penalties for deadlines being missed. 

One more thing I should add is that your credit score can be a very real pain in the ass and you will need to be careful with it. When I started AB I had 3 credit cards maxed out and banks calling me daily. I ignored them because I had no other choice to cover the start up costs. 6 years later and I still can’t get my own credit card with a very high limit and am battling the bad credit score I have despite my company doing well. 

#3 – Getting too Emotionally Invested to Think Realistically 

Of course you love what you do and are incredibly passionate. This makes you special and likely brilliant at what you do. But don’t let that blind you. Don’t be so wrapped up in the emotions of it that you can’t see the harsh realities that come along with the path you chose. It will hurt you in ways you don’t even know yet and don’t want to know. Find a balance between emotions and business, and understand that you can’t take things personally in business. Don’t cross lines unless you are sure you can handle the consequences were it to go south. When emotions get in the mix of business they can cause you to overreact or under-react depending on the situation. Whichever it is, it is unlikely you are acting rational and making the best decisions for your company. Decide which is more important – growing the company and seeing success, or getting wrapped up emotionally with every project. 

Getting too emotional can also lead to ultimately burning bridges, and that is never something you want to do. I’m not saying you can be everyone’s friend, but having a positive working relationship with those you may need in the future is wise. Do you find yourself emotionally yelling back on calls or in heated arguments all too often? Ask yourself in those moments – are you really getting closer to what you need out of this person by yelling at them? The chances are slim that the answer is ‘yes’ and a calm and controlled strategic conversation could likely get you closer. Emotions make you lose sight of the end game. 

#4 – Thinking You’re the Best at Everything 

Before I started my company I thought that I knew more and was better at everything than everyone I worked for in my various jobs. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. Since then, I have managed people like this and all I can really say is that until you are in my shoes and running your own company, you really have ZERO idea what it is like. Every business owner faces facts from all different angles to inform the decisions they make and how and why they do things. Many of these are none of your business as a junior on someone else’s team or an outsider looking in. 

You are young and ambitious. The feeling that you can take over the world and do it better than everyone is healthy. Use it, but don’t miss out on good opportunities to learn and take in feedback because you’re being too self important. Push yourself and make note of the things you would do differently, but be humble and keep your mouth shut until it’s your time to shine and do it yourself. 

#5 – Being Afraid of Asking Questions 

No one wants to sound like a newbie, or inexperienced, so us youngens may find ourselves bullshitting our way in and out of situations. This will only work so long, and you run the risk of getting caught in a lie. Even worse, you have to walk around with the stress and worry of being found out. Don’t get me wrong, a little BS can be refreshing at times and lead you to a good idea, BUT you know what no one tells you? It’s usually not how much you know that people are looking for – It’s your approach and work ethic that speaks louder. So ask questions and ask lots of them. Be comfortable with being out of the loop on something and confident about it. It won’t hurt you as much as you think and people will respond well to the honesty. 

#6 – Not Understanding Your Value

It’s common with young people I see to either overvalue themselves or undervalue themselves. It is hard to truly and honestly know your value when you walk in to every new room or meeting. Your value is something that is going to change constantly as well, so you have to always be watching the sliding scale as it tips and swerves. Be very aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Understand your abilities and how they apply to different situations. This will allow you to never undervalue your work, ensuring you get paid or receive what you are worth and you will avoid overvaluing your work as well. Overvaluing will push away good opportunities and leave you with nothing in the end. Ask those you trust about your value and how it all connects. 

#7 – Not Understanding the Importance of Patience 

If you’re anything like me you’ll find you’re working at a pace 5x as fast as those around you. Never change. That being said, sometimes great things need time to percolate. Looking back there are many times I rushed people to make decisions or moved on because I didn’t want to wait around. If I just waited it out a bit longer it could have been a really great opportunity. That is not always the case, and letting things drag on for too long can and will hurt you, but knowing when to be patient and when to speed along will help greatly. Don’t let your fear, or feeling like you aren’t doing enough, get in the way of a good thing that maybe just needs to simmer in time a wee bit longer. 

#8 – Forgetting to Journal

Dear Diary, I know you are not 13 years old anymore BUT trust me, you will want to flip back to these times in your life and remember how your brain was working. You’ll want to remember the details of your first client, your first win, your first setback. These will be valuable to you and you will cherish them for years to come. Write and write often or record your thoughts – whatever works best for you. Chronicle these times and one day, who knows, maybe they were useful for your book or biography! 

#9 – Getting Paralyzed by Setbacks 

When you start out and something bad or unsavoury happens in your career or to your company it’s hard to bounce back. It feels like someone punched you in the stomach and ripped out your heart. You may be afraid to take a risk or fight for something for weeks to come due to this paralyzing pain in your chest. In these moments its important to remember why you started doing what you do and how badass you are at it. Every business has shitty moments – you are not unique or specially horrible, you are human. Isolate setbacks and disappointments so they don’t get in the way of all the other awesome things you are working on. Try not to take them personally and move on quickly to the next project. Don’t let them harm your spirit, nothing should have the power to do that. 

#10 – Forgetting to Say Thank You 

We can get so excited and wrapped up in what’s right in front of us that it’s easy to forget who made the introduction that lead to a big opportunity, or who gave you the great advice that lead to a breakthrough idea. Always take a moment to circle back and show your appreciation to those who show you support along the way. They are invaluable and you will need them on your long road to the top. Share your successes with them and bring them in close. They are part of it and no one wants to help someone who takes all the credit without saying thanks. Be humble. 

Now I realize, reading this back to myself now, that these are all the things that made me uniquely crazy and/or brilliant (depending on who you ask) when I started out. That being said, they are also many of the things that caused me a lot of wasted time in the early days. I know I have a long way to go and lots to learn yet, but, 6 years in, I feel I’m starting fresh in many ways and now having a better understanding of these things. That’s the nice thing about running your own company – you can reinvent yourself at any time. 

Best of luck. You will, and can rule the world, my friends… It’s all in how you go about it! 

– Sari 

(photo: Young Sari at one of my first offices in 2010, taken by Turn the Record Over blog) 

Sari Delmar is the Founder and CEO of AB Co., a North American digital, lifestyle, and communications agency that specializes in music programs and events. Sari has spoken at international conferences (Big Sound, Canadian Music Week), sits on the Toronto Music Advisory Council and the Women in Music Canada board, and was profiled in the Globe and Mail Small business column (“from Music Fan to Music mogul”) in 2014. In 2015, Sari was awarded with an International Women Achievers’ Award in the Entertainment category and named as a Rising Star in ProfitGuide and Chatelaine’s Top 100 Canadian Female Entrepreneurs list. Read more from Sari at http://saridelmar.com and learn more about the work AB does at: http://WeAreAB.co 

5 Tips for Making Big Career-Defining Decisions

So here you are. Faced with what seems like it could be a good opportunity. You have a decision to make and this could change everything you thought you knew or maybe it won’t. There really is no way to know. So you jump back and forth – what lies behind Door A could lead to X,Y,Z! What lies behind Door B could change everything you know or ruin you! and Oh Door C, well Door C is the elusive ‘what-if-I-hold-out-for-something-bigger-and-better’ door. Door C is the door that is totally empty at the moment but is filled with so much promise. Damn that door!

You are not the first to sit at this crossroad and stew. You are looking for answers, for a sign, for someone to sweep in and help make this big heavy decision for you. Well sorry to break it to you, but it’s just not going to happen. There is no way around this but through. You quite simply have to suck it up and make your move.

Now this is very hard. Every decision you make in your career can make or break you. Every small strategic play sends ripples in to the universe and affects your value.  It’s a big weight and I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. But I can tell you that for as long as I have lived there is no way to see the future and fully understand the scope of how your decision will impact the future from where you sit. That’s frustrating and stressful, but it’s best we just cut ties with that notion right now. It’s life. You must lead even when it’s particularly hard to and leaders make decisions with a good amount of risk involved, like a boss.

What’s worse than the stress you’re feeling at this very moment? Decision paralysis. You know… when you stew for so long all the doors magically just disappear and sure you avoided having to step up to the plate but you also completely screwed yourself, so really who wins? Not you. Below are some tips to avoid decision paralysis and crush whatever decision you may have in front of you.

#1 – Get Centred

In order to make a strong-minded decision you need to get in-touch with your core values. What do you stand for? Why did you start doing what you do? What is your ideal vision for the future? Truly have a moment with yourself about this and frame the decision in this light. How does this opportunity fit in to these things above? Does it enhance your core values or does it take you off track? Ask yourself these questions and be honest with your answers.

Any decisions you make in life should help get you closer to where you want to be and what makes you happy and fulfilled. Go for a run, do some yoga or whatever puts things in to perspective for you, and just take a moment to get centred and then approach the decision at hand. The last thing you want is to make a big decision based off of some short-term stress or ego-driven moment. Strong decisions are born from strong places.

#2 – Disconnect from Past Disappointments

It is easy when approached with a new opportunity to transfer any remaining stress from past disappointments or setbacks from a similar opportunity on to the new one. For example – perhaps last time you signed to a label they went bankrupt 1 year later and still owe you money. So when a new indie label approaches you about a record deal you will of course be apprehensive and worried they too will go bankrupt. Now see, there is a positive and negative way to use this energy.

Shit happens and not everyone is a crook if you had a bad experience. Be open and allow the new situation to build trust with you on a clean slate. That being said, do let your past experiences inform you. Perhaps in this new record deal you would have a certain claus added to the contract that you didn’t have the first time around to protect yourself. Time and time again I see past hurts casting new opportunities in a bad light and it’s not fair to the other party involved but more importantly it’s not fair to you. You may be too hurt to see what could be a very good thing right in front of you. So disconnect and set aside your past to be able to look at something pragmatically.

#3 – Ask the Right Questions

Don’t chicken out, this is a big decision and you need to ask the hard hitting questions that allow you to think about it from all angles! Ideally, ask these questions in-person so you can really get in to it. If you aren’t sure what the right questions are, ask a trusted advisor what they would ask if they were in your shoes or someone who you know has been there before. And I’m not just speaking about asking the right questions to the other party involved, ask the right questions to your lawyer, accountant, shareholders, or anyone that may be affected and useful to you in making your decision.

Now be warned: don’t misuse this question asking period as a way to procrastinate in making the decision altogether. Do use it strategically and carefully. For the best results set a deadline for yourself to make the decision. For example: I am going to meet with these 3 people and by Friday I will make my decision with all the information I have in front of me.

#4 – Be Positive

Making a decision is complicated you see. Not only do you want it to lead you somewhere great, if it doesn’t your ass is on the line. It’s easy to find your mind filled with visions of your bandmates or partners’ future potential disappointment in you when things don’t go the way you had hoped. You know the types, the people who will alway say, “I told ya so”. Gah, I hate these types. But I gotta tell ya, thems the brakes.

When you make a big decision you are sticking your neck out and taking a risk. The very real fact is that it could go super well or blow up in your face. And if it does there will be some fall out. You have to make a decision either way so there is no use obsessing over the latter outcomes. You will get paralyzed and stuck worrying about all the negativity that could come. But what’s even worse, you won’t even be able to assess the decision properly or see the potential good of it if your view is so drenched in dark doom. So when envisioning the potential outcomes think of the best possible scenarios. Be real about the possibility that it could go south but do not obsess over it.

#5 – Just Do Something

At a certain point you just have to make your decision. With all these things above in mind and some magic that none of us can control, lets hope it brings you everything your heart desires. So just go and make it already! And when you do, stand behind it through thick and thin. Give it the chance to soar and make waves. And if it doesn’t work out? Try again. Every successful moment had a slew of failures come before it. Be a boss and move things forward.

Best of luck and I hope this helped! Thank you for reading,

Sari

Sari Delmar is the Founder and CEO of Audio Blood, a North American marketing and communications agency. Through aggressive creative artist and brand campaigns, Audio Blood continues to be on the cutting edge of music marketing and promotion. Sari has spoken at international conferences (Big Sound, Canadian Music Week), sits on the Toronto Music Advisory Council and the Toronto Austin Music Alliance, and was profiled in the Globe and Mail Small business column (“from Music Fan to Music mogul”) in 2014. In 2015, Sari was awarded with an International Women Achievers’ Award in the Entertainment category.

There’s No I in Team: 10 Leadership Tips to Help You Get the Best of Your Team

teamwork quote

If you’re good at what you do and want to see it grow further, there will likely be a time when you need to increase capacity and scale (if you haven’t hit that crossroad already). That means relying on others to handle aspects of your work and adhere to the same standards and quality that you are known for. Being good at what you do is one thing, but being a good leader is entirely different. The sooner you truly understand this, the stronger your team will be.

Becoming a strong leader can take a lot of navigating – I’ve made many mistakes, but little by little I started to develop my own rulebook in management. And now several years later, I found myself surrounded by the most lovely, hardworking, and positive team. The learning never ends, but here are some of the things that work for me that may save you some time as you build up your own leadership style.

#1 – Have Their Back

Truly. This means to support them not only when the team is killing it, but also when they make a mistake. To the outside world, you’ll always want to own up to the mistakes collectively – never say, “We have a new person on the team and I don’t know what happened” – it’s a surefire way to make your staffer feel they are unsupported and that will hold them back from taking risks in the future. Don’t throw them under the bus. Discuss concerns and issues internally and face to face but never in front of a client or outside partner. Their mistakes are yours, but so are the wins. After all, you are the manager and must take responsibility for everything that happens on your team. Showing your team you have their back will give them the space they need to crush it!

#2 – Be Transparent

Be honest about what you are up against and how you are making decisions. Don’t sugarcoat or cover up less than ideal situations. When you’re working closely the truth is bound to surface, so you might as well show your cards right off the bat. The same goes for sharing your wins and good news as it happens! This promotes honesty and open communication – and you’ll find that you will receive the same level of transparency in return.

#3 – Protect Them from the Dirty Details

There is a reason you are a boss, leader, or entrepreneur and they are not. They did not decide to start a company and do not need to know the exact financial details when you have a rough month. They don’t need to know the finer points of a dispute you are handling with your lawyer. Protect them from some of the harsh realities that you have to face in your role and keep them focused on their work. As per the point above, let them know something is up and you are handling it, but saving them from the gritty details will save them from burnout or low morale. They will move up the ladder at their own speed and with that will come more details when the time is right. Until then, that kind of stress will only hinder their work and infect the whole team.

#4 – Let Them Fight Their Own Battles

If a client has a concern or someone in their department makes a mistake, don’t sweep in to save the day. This undermines and harms their authority. It’s always important to regroup with them and discuss what the best way to manage the situation may be, but let them lead the conversation. This shows their clients, team, or partners that they have the authority to make amends and will save you time in the future from those types who always think they need to call the manager to get something handled a certain way. This also gets your team comfortable with conflict resolution and familiar with how to avoid and handle such issues in the future. Read: you won’t feel like you’re putting out fires all the time.

#5 – Lead Always, Even When It’s Hard

Being a manager is like being on a stage. The bar you set is a message to the whole team as to what is acceptable and what isn’t. You may be really hung-over, or you may have just gotten in from a redeye, but you are still the boss and your resilience and consistency will send a strong message. For me, this means speaking last, leading by example, and always out-working the team. Whatever makes a good leader in your mind you must aim to live that every day through thick and thin.

I always hate when I hear “Oh, they’re in a good mood today” when people speak about their bosses. That means that if you were to ask for their approval on something today you would have a higher chance of getting a ‘Yes’ than on a day when they aren’t. Managing and leading should not be subject to one person’s mood swings. Decisions should be consistent all days of the week and always based on what is best for the company, team, or the client in question.

An important part about this step is managing your stress. Yes, your job is demanding and difficult at times, but getting snappy and managing like a zombie only creates more stress within the team – and that doesn’t get you closer to where you need to be. Keep yourself in check. If you slip up, say sorry. They will forgive you if you are real about it. Being humble will go a long way in all circumstances. Don’t take credit for the accolades even if it was your idea to begin with. Share the spotlight and your team will keep the great work flowing.

#6 – Be The Negativity Police and The Positivity Master

Someone on my team created the concept of the “positivity cloak” a few years back. It is a quick way to make sure negativity is not seeping into the team. If you hear someone being a negative Nance, you can quickly remind them to wear their positivity cloak and re-approach the situation! Negativity is the death of any good team. And I’m going to repeat that again because it is very serious: NEGATIVITY WILL KILL YOUR TEAM. It will bleed it of any creativity, squash any passion, and just drain everyone. At the first sign of a negativity leak into the team, it is your job to nip it in the bud. Be direct and get to the bottom of it. Often the root of the issue is different than what meets the eye. Protect your team from the negativity infection. If a new person comes in and doesn’t uphold the same level of positivity, address it, and remove them if it’s not going to change. One negative personality has the power to infect and tip the positivity scale in your closely connected family.

The good thing is that just as negativity can spread, positivity is highly contagious. As you set the standard you will see the good vibes ripple through to the team. Positivity leads to productivity and people feeling good about their work. Nothing is more important in your work environment, I can promise you this.

#7 – Forgive and Forget

So someone on your team makes a mistake and causes you an extra headache and you feel like you could potentially rip your face off! Don’t. Take a breather. You can’t only love your team when they’re making you look good! They are human beings and human beings make mistakes. What I always ask myself when these things pop up is one of 2 things:

1 – “is this a one off mistake because they were working too hard and trying their best?”

If the answer to that question is yes than I suggest you voice your disappointment in a private face to face conversation and let them know it is not ok and can’t happen again. Chances are if they care about their work and are doing their best they are already giving themselves hell for the mistake! You don’t need to rip them a new one, when they’re down. If you manage that way when someone makes a mistake you will find yourself with a team that is scared to do anything.

Or 2 – “Is this an ongoing issue that has arisen more than once”.

If the answer to this question is yes, then you need to address and work through why this issue is coming up yet again. Is this person the right fit? Are they in the right role to succeed? Do they need to take a course to help strengthen their skill set in a certain area? Deal with the issue and address it head on. Be firm and direct when addressing these issues.

You may come across people who are not the right fit and it’s important to cut them loose as soon as you recognize this. Keeping someone around who isn’t working for too long will send the wrong message to the rest of the team and standards will slip.

#8 – Talk About Your Feelings

Regroup weekly or bi-weekly to chat about how the team is feeling with their work, in their life, and elsewhere. Spend time with them to really understand what they’re up against and how they think. What are the things that really stress them out or make them happy? Pick up on those things and be sensitive to them in the future. Also being approachable whenever they need to bring something up is a great environment to ensure they are always bringing their best ideas to the table. Encouraging the team to be ok with being vulnerable with each other will bring forward the best creative work. Invest in the team and help them grow professionally and personally. Be there for them when things are tough and remind them they are doing awesome when things are great!

It is important to bring up that getting too close and buddy-buddy might make it hard to be a boss later on so always be sure to keep the ‘just right’ amount of distance.

#9 Communicate Standards and Expectations Clearly & Create Good Systems

When communicating how you would like something done and by when, ensure it is always in writing somewhere along with an explanation of the task. This may mean it takes extra time to walk them through it the first few times. Take the time to do that so you aren’t bogged down in the future. Trust me, it will save you time in the long run. Set up great systems that help you follow up and manage quality and deadlines. There are great tools available to managers these days that will make your life easier. Some of the ones I am a devoted believer in are Asana, Action Method, Google Apps, Dropbox, and Evernote. If you don’t communicate your standards and deadlines clearly you don’t have a right to be disappointed later. Set them up to succeed.

#10 Use Your Spidey Sense & Ask for Feedback

Being a manager is like having a sixth sense. You need to see the future and how everything impacts everyone that you manage. Are you bringing someone new in? Will this send a message to someone else on the team that their work in this area wasn’t valued when you have someone new take it over? Do you need to shift workload? Will someone harbour resentment if they were previously leading the project? Everything you do and say can and will be used against you. Get ahead by making sure change is handled smoothly.

In order to do this – LISTEN to your team. Listen to their feedback and ask them for it often. If they give you something good, thank them and implement it quickly. Show them how you hear them even when it’s hard to and rely on them to help you become a better manager. This will ensure when you give them feedback they receive it with the same grace.

Those are just a few of the many management guidelines that govern my space and have helped to make my life a hell of a lot loss stressful and my business a hell of a lot more successful. Remember, this isn’t meant to be tedious. It is actually quite fun, enjoyable, and rewarding! I hope it helps you and your team along your path to success!

Happy managing,

Sari

The Great Brand Manager Manifesto

Brand-Management

Great brand managers are hard to find, but when you do see a great brand manager at work it’s a somewhat magical thing. I’ve had the opportunity to watch and learn from some amazing brand managers and compiled this manifesto great managers live by.

#1 Intensely Understand the Market in which Your Brand Lives

Good brand managers need to make extensive market assumptions. They need to be comfortable working 6 months to 1 year out on a trend they are betting on. They must know the market intensely and understand the power the brand has to make an impact and the connection it has with its consumers.

#2 Lead the Change

Great brands lead the change – not only react to it. Brands have the unique ability to make waves. How, where, and when you choose to use that power is the job of a good marketing and brand team.

#3 Fully Commit

Great brand managers truly believe their brands are the best and that loyalty spills in to great on-brand ideas and alignment. Their ideas are fuelled by real-life experiences with the brand which they bring in to the office. Basically what I’m saying is that they can put themselves in their consumers’ shoes. Money cannot buy great marketing, passion and dedication to a brand can and connecting with it on a personal level.

#4 Be At Peace With Failure

How can you ensure campaigns will work when you’re working so far in advance? How can you make financial and strategic decisions if you don’t have all the facts? You just can’t. No market changes are guaranteed, we know this. Great brand managers watch the market like a hawk. More often than not a campaign doesn’t blow up but performs steadily. Once in a while a campaign doesn’t have the impact the brand manager had hoped… but taking the risk and accepting failure once in a while, sets the stage for that magical campaign that out performs epically and sky rockets your brand to great new heights much faster than you would have climbed to on your own. A strong brand manager has thick skin and doesn’t get discouraged easily.

#5 Stay Incredibly Focused

Great brand managers are not be swayed by shiny new promises and opportunities. Great brand managers live and die by the brands’ core values. After making a sound and solid strategy to compliment those core values brand managers must stick to their plan come hell or high-water. When it comes to marketing, straying from the path means confusing your team and consumers and that is incredibly detrimental to a business. Your brand is your identity and you only have one first impression.

What qualities do you see in great brand managers that inspire you? Thank you for reading!

Sari Delmar is the Founder and CEO of Audio Blood, Canada’s leading creative artist and brand marketing company. Through unique PR and promotional packages, Audio Blood continues to be on the cutting edge of music marketing and promotion. Their client roster includes the likes of Pistonhead Lager, PledgeMusic, Iceland Airwaves, Canadian Music Week, Riot Fest, Beau’s All Natural Brewing, The Balconies, Ben Caplan, and more. At the age of 24, Sari leads a team of 10 out of the company HQ in Toronto, Ontario, has spoken at a number of music conferences and colleges, and sits on the Toronto Music Advisory Council. Read more from Sari at SariDelmar.com

5 Reasons Why Taking Extra Time to Plan Each Day Will Make You a Happier Person

We all know how hard it is to keep up with tasks. The sheer quantity of things itching for completion each day is a point of contention for everyone I know.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by how much work there is to be done and just dive in, rather than to take a second to step back and organize all the work before doing so. I would argue that taking 5 to 30 minutes each day (depending on your quantity of tasks) to organize and lay out your tasks will allow you to be more productive while you tackle them. Because of the 5 reasons below, I suggest you take a second to revamp your daily routine if it doesn’t already include planning time!

1 – You can be realistic with yourself at the onset 

Sometimes it is just downright impossible to complete and execute on all the items on your to do list on one day. If you start your day (or prep the night before) by putting together a realistic list of what you can complete you can quickly delegate or communicate with others about what will just not be possible to tackle for the day ahead. You can set yourself up for success rather than feeling like you never made a dent when 2am rolls around. Being real with yourself will put your mind at ease. It will remove some of the stress and you’ll have a chance to feel like you completed everything you set out to in a certain day.

2 – Others can rely on you

We all know those people who constantly say, “it’s coming by end of day” but it almost never does. Sure all their reasons why it couldn’t get done are completely legit BUT you just learned that you can’t rely on them to stick to their word AND when you loose that ability to trust someone’s word you’ll be quick to look for help elsewhere next time, unconsciously. If you take time to plan your day, communicate your realistic timeline to people who rely on you then you are giving them the best gift of all – a reliable and communicative co-worker, direct report, contractor etc. If you can’t get to something for 6 days and a client is waiting for it, you need to let them know it will take 6 days not “2 days”. Taking time to plan each day will help ensure you are accountable to those who matter most! This will do more for you then you know! Happy clients = happy bosses = happy you!

3 – Nothing will slip

You are in control of your work, not the other way around. With an organized system and time to plan there should be no out-of-left-field surprises, other than the good ones! Every day it should feel like you are doing an inventory recap of your pending tasks. I recommend using some great tools that can help you manage a huge number of tasks at once and break it down into daily lists. Asana and Action Method are two that I love!

4 – You can react more comfortably and confidently if something does come up

You have a better grasp on your workload and the details so if someone asks you something you don’t have to dig through files and emails to find the info; you have it fresh on your mind and can respond with ease. If something crazy comes up and a client all of sudden needs you to rush down to meet them, you can quickly assess what this change in plans means for your day and communicate with those affected about the tasks you won’t be able to complete. No panic, just calm and controlled chaos allowing everyone to get the best of you!

5 – You can be more creative with your energy 

By taking time to plan each day you can displace negative worry stress with progressive and creative energy about future projects! It should feel like a weight has been lifted and all of a sudden your best ideas can be realized. Oh and now you have the structure and ability to actually turn them in to action! It’s a great feeling that will bring great joy to your day to day.

And there you have it. By taking this extra time out of your day I truly believe you can make a great impact on your happiness and productivity.

However…WARNING: over planning can also be a form of procrastination, which I believe could be an issue of neuroticism. You can avoid falling in to this trap by capping the time you set aside for planning – for example: Every day from 7am to 730am I plan out my day. When 7:30am strikes I get down  to executing the tasks for the day. Don’t use the excuse that you have to plan your tasks out to actually avoid the work that needs to be done.

What works for you? How do you plan your day?

Thank you for reading!

– Sari

Sari Delmar is the Founder and CEO of Audio Blood, Canada’s leading creative artist and brand marketing company. Through unique media and promotional packages, Audio Blood continues to be on the cutting edge of music marketing and promotion. Their client roster includes the likes of Pistonhead Lager, PledgeMusic, Iceland Airwaves, Canadian Music Week, Riot Fest, Beau’s All Natural Brewing, The Balconies, and more. At the age of 23, Sari leads a team of 10 out of the company HQ in Toronto, Ontario, has spoken at a number of music conferences and colleges, and sits on the Toronto Music Advisory Council. . Read more from Sari at SariDelmar.com

 

Don’t be a Victim of Your Work – 5 Tips to Help You Stay Ahead of Your To-Do List

So many of us live our day to day lives on a constant goose chase, always trying to catch up with our to-do list. The feeling of being perpetually behind on your work is draining. Living in that space doesn’t allow you to do your best work or be creative. It’s easy to get discouraged and find yourself distracted when trying to hang  out with your friends after work, preoccupied with all the little stresses waiting for you at your desk.

This is no new phenomenon, as we push ourselves harder and harder it’s only normal to want to take on the world. And those aspirations are totally admirable. You have hopefully found what you love and want to do for the rest of your life… but why is it so damn hard to keep up? What we don’t actually learn in school is that sometimes in order to get ahead you need to take a step back, check yourself, and find some good coping mechanisms that will allow you to handle the capacity of work you’d like to. You don’t have to live in that stressful and frustrated space, never feeling like you’ve made a dent. I can promise you, it’s more about a mental attitude than reality after all. And the good news about that is we can change our mental attitudes if we just fight through our old habits!

I hope these tips help in increasing your capacity and productivity!

#1 Find a Routine and Don’t Resent it

You’ve started using this day planner and that app and nothing ever sticks… you’ve probably heard yourself say that before. Throw it out the window. Take a moment with yourself and truly ask, “what works for me?” Don’t let any outside mumbo jumbo marketing get in your ear. Ask yourself: Do you like having handwritten notes? Do you like keeping sticky notes on your computer screen? Do you find you are emailing yourself a bunch? Think about how all these tools could integrate together to make a master system for you to manage your day to day. Think about different types of tasks – large ones with various parts that happen over years or months, small quickies that happen in 2 minutes, and everything in between – how do you want to manage those? How can it integrate to a larger strategy? Make a system and try it out. Force yourself to stick to it and tweak it as you go. I’ve been using the same daily system for the last 3 years but it took me a good 6 years of evolution in my daily systems to find and refine it. Be invested in the long game and don’t resent the process. When it finally clicks you’ll sorta love it and wonder why you ever made it so difficult for yourself to get in to in the first place.

#2 Take Time to Plan. Every Day. 

Seriously. I know you’re busy and you can’t even make time to call your mom back. CHILL for a second and take a minute to review the day. Is  what you’re hoping to accomplish today realistic? Is it, though? Shave stuff off right at the start if it’s not. Send out the notes you need to asking for deadline extensions -it’s not the end of the world. Call back your mom and move on with your day. Making a window of time to plan every day or every night (for the day ahead) will allow you to be ready to flow through it with ease. React and focus on the work that is most pressing.

#3 Focus Your Energy in the Best Places 

Be intensely self aware of your strengths and weaknesses and manage around them as needed. There are only so many hours in a day and you suck at math so why are you the one spending 8 hours on a spread sheet when one of your interns would do it in 2? As much as you need to avoid the work you are not strong at at, you also need to know that when you put your attention towards the work you’re best at (or wanting to develop in to being the best at) you will see the best results. Example: You might be best in partnership meetings, being creative and locking down deals. Do everything you can to focus 90% of your day on doing that for the best results. Delegate and get creative. Sure, we all have the supporting work that goes along with what we love and sometimes it’s not always favourable or in line with our best strengths. Trudge through it with the goal of being able to delegate it once you’re able to, and when you are, delegate the shit out of it!

#4 Don’t Bite Off More than You Can Chew 

Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Be realistic in every sense of the word, and we mean it. People will appreciate you for it and learn to know they can rely on you. If you can’t deliver something by today then don’t say that you can. Even more importantly, don’t tell yourself that you can. When you do this, you set yourself up to be behind on the to-do list which creates frustration and anxiety! Break down large tasks in to smaller parts and assign each part to you for each day. Know your workload well and communicate realistically with partners, clients, and friends. When I find someone who gets it, it is so refreshing. Something about this trait is incredibly respectable and makes you want to work with these people again and again!

#5 Stay Positive 

Ok hippy dippy do da day… but really. If you don’t believe in yourself it’s likely no one else will. Believe that you CAN and WILL make an impact, do your best work every day, and come up with the systems to stay ahead. Fight through the crappy parts of your work with a smile and don’t let the positivity cloak slip from your shoulders. Even the slightest off handed negative remark can give those around you the wrong idea and detract from your bigger picture plans. Even if you’re not fully happy about something you’d be surprised what faking it until you make it can do!

Et voila! There you go! Happy to-do listing!

Thanks for reading,

s.

 

Sign up for my mailing list here!

“Am I Being Too Strict?” – Managing Your Tone as a Manager – New Blog via FairGame.biz

Hey friends,
Last week I launched by new blog/website devoted to organizational culture and leadership: http://fairgame.biz!
This week we posted a new blog – here is a snippet below! Read the full article HERE!

 

As a manager, it is very challenging to find a balance between being too strict or not strict enough. There are many situations where ‘laying down the law’ is called for, while in other situations, it is inappropriate and counterproductive. But when is the right time? Below I have addressed some tactics and questions that you, as a manager, can explore in understanding this very common workplace dilemma.  

 REFRAME THE QUESTION

Next time you feel those words floating through your head (either am I being too strict? or am I being too lenient?) replace them with these questions, in this order:

1. Am I being a consistent leader?

2. Does my team have the instructions and tools needed to succeed?

3. Has my expectations been properly and clearly explained?

4. Is this a reoccurring issue or a one time mistake?

The tone you use in handling matters should 100% rest on the outcomes of these questions above.

 READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE 🙂 

Thanks for stopping by!
xo Sari

Upcoming Panel in NYC!

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hey friends!

I’ll be speaking at a Women in Music event on October 20th in NYC with some stellar ladies!

We’ll be diving deep in to social media best practices and giving on-the-spot feedback! Free for WIM members!

Details here:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/social-media-panel-live-audit-tickets-27953795555

Hope to see you there!

xo Sari

Essential Reading Suggestions!

Hey friends!
I will be getting back on top of updating this blog here!
If you know me well, you know I’m a sucker for reading. A lot of great advice, insights, and useful tools for growing my business, finding balance, and becoming a strong leader has been found within the humble pages of these books below. Some of them are no brainers and you may have already read them, if so, nice work! If not, get on it!
Tweet to me @saridelmar if you’d like a more personal recommendation – but here are some of my all time favourites!
I hope you can enjoy them as much as I do on a regular basis!

BUSINESS/LEADERSHIP READS 
Making Ideas Happen – Scott Belsky 
The creatives definitive guide to structuring and organizing your business – whether you are a musician, graphic designer, or any kind of creative, this book speaks your language and will help you face some of the daily frustrations that could be standing in your way and holding you back from great success.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
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Simular to the above but from the other side of the same coin, this book is about channelling your creative genius and finding a way to work with it constructively. Being patient and understanding with yourself is key. Gilbert’s writing is light and beautiful as she shares her stories and frustrations being an independent writer herself. Lots of great insights to glean here if you are someone who wants to have a level of creative output and for a long time.

One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard, Spencer Johnson 
Though a bit outdated and the writing style can be a bit irritating, the principles of this book really founded a lot of my management style. If you are the type of leader/entrepreneur that gets really stressed and finds managing a team tricky, this book’s sage advice will simplify things for you.

The Way You Do Anything is the Way You Do Everything – Suzanne Evans 
A raw and visceral kick in the ass to start living to your fuller potential, being a leader, and not letting your life be dictated by circumstance. Evans is ballsy and fierce. This book found its way in to my life right when I needed it, and I’m very grateful for that!

LINK
First Break All the Rules – Marcus Buckingham
An oldie but goodie as well. Some of the advice may be a bit straight laced, but if you can see through that there is some really solid lessons to be learned about being a strong and consistent manager.

Built to Last  and Good to Great – James Collins 
2 books, but 1 great concept expounded upon. These books examine the differences between large companies who grow and outlast for years, compared to ones who just surf along and eventually fizzle out. They stress the importance of core values, among other things, and sum up ever so cohesively how to be a company that stands out from the pack.
MUSIC INDUSTRY READS 
Bumping in to Geniuses – Danny Goldberg 
An important read for any music industry type looking to understand the history of this game. Goldberg is a legendary music manager and walks us through his career and the ups and downs the industry has seen. This is an exciting and crucial read!
I’m With the Band – Pamela Des Barres 
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Another crucial music industry read if you want to understand what the industry looked like in the 70s and 80s. The sunset strip was home to many crucial moments and Miss P and her dolls dazzled, while witnessing many crucial moments. This beautiful piece of writing captures the essence of the era perfectly.
LIFE READS
Another Bullshit Night in Suck City – Nick Flynn 
One of my favourite books ever, that was later turned in to a movie starring Robert Di Nero in 2012 called ‘About Flynn’. This is a memoir and has nothing to do with running a business or the music industry. Nick’s writing is beautiful and perfect, and most importantly real. A highly recommended read. While you’re at it, read some of his poetry as well!
The Signature of All Things – Elizabeth Gilbert 
I have recently fallen in love with fiction (though most of the books on this list are non-fiction) and that is mainly because of this brilliant read. The Signature of all Things touches on life and death and botanics and the development of America in the 1920’s, and somehow wraps it all up eloquently. As the book’s diverse characters grew, matured, and arrived at life changing realizations, you as a reader will find yourself doing the same alongside.
Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari 
Aziz is really funny but that’s not why this book is great. This book gave me a much better understanding of the current climate of socialization. The history of dating and relationships, leading up to why we’re so weird about it today. It helped me come to terms with a lot about myself and be a lot more realistic.

LINK
Committed – Elizabeth Gilbert 

Ok last Elizabeth Gilbert book for the list! In this magical book, Elizabeth evaluates her relationship with marriage while going back through the ages to understand it as well as travelling to different parts of the world, where they seem to have a very different understanding of what marriage is. Her always witty banter and instantly likeable voice demystifies a lot of the qualms one may have with the outdated idea of the marriage union. Like most books, this one found its way in to my hands right when I needed it. Now recently engaged, I feel this book has prepped me for what’s to come 😃
David & Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell 
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All of these books are important to me, but this one is extra extra important! Gladwell has an amazing way of simplifying and explaining the ways why things are the way they are. This book focuses in on how some people have used their setbacks/downfalls or negative dispositions to actually strengthen/grow/outlast their components. It’s a concept I carry closely with me and some of the important learnings found within this book have helped me understand how to get the best out of myself and those around me.
Thank you for reading!
Sari

AB Co. to Wind Down Operations

1_720Dear friends and family,

I have some big changes to announce today. I have made the VERY hard decision to wind down operations of my company, AB Co. (Audio Blood Media Inc.). The decision has been a personal and professional one, and not one that I have taken lightly.

I am so incredibly proud of the amazing work we were able to do together over the last 8 years. Myself and a lot of the team have grown up with this company and as we grow in to the next chapter of our lives, it only makes sense that some things must shift. We have accomplished way more than I ever expected when I started out at 18 years old and I owe a huge amount of our success and growth to all of YOU.

This has truly been a life changing and unforgettable experience. I am so honoured and humbled to have gotten this opportunity, and while I’m sad for this chapter to end and will forever be nostalgic (being the emo kid that I am), I am truly excited by what’s to come for us all individually and together. From starting out in my bedroom on Salem Ave. in Toronto calling media about some of my very first clients (Sneaky Dee’s, Dinosaur Bones, Canadian Music Week, Black Hat Brigade, Amos the Transparent, Make Your Exit, Clothes Make the Man to name a few), to getting to lead a team of 15+ staff, travelling the world for various conferences, moving in to our amazing office at Queen and Dufferin, and then eventually to NYC last year, the heart and soul of this company has been about community and supporting great talent. I am so indebted and appreciative to all the amazing clients gave us the opportunity to stay true to that intention and honoured by the many staff who spent hours invested in this dream of mine.

It is truly amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it and you are supported by an amazing community, and a relentlessly hardworking team. Truly. Somewhere between the unforgettable rooftop ragers, the all-night holiday parties, and the madness of Canadian Music Week x5 years, we built a living and breathing company that was equal parts fun and equal parts hustle. I don’t even know how it happened in retrospect, but I’m so glad that it did.

Thank you to every journalist who responded to one of our emails and wrote about our clients.

Thank you to every artist, brand, or event that brought us in to the fold and allowed us to collaborate.

Thank you to every sponsor who supported our parties and every venue who hosted them.

Thank you everyone who came out to see our artists and clapped and danced along (especially super supporters who have been at every party since day one).

Thank you to The Matches for inspiring a young-Sari and writing the song “Audio Blood” that helped establish our founding principles.

Thank you to the talented souls that contributed to Audio Blood Zine, the first incarnation of AB Co.

Thank you to our industry colleagues who helped us grow along the way.

Thank you to my dear friends and family who pitched in when they could and were understanding of my haphazard work hours and lack of communication.

Thank you to our amazing interns, volunteers, freelancers, and street teamers who went the extra mile to kill a campaign for our clients.

Thank you to our tireless advisors, lawyers, accountants, and investors who provided more support than I can ever even begin to thank them for.

Thank you to funding bodies like FACTOR, and more, who got behind us or our clients to take projects to the next level.

And most importantly, thank you to my team of staff. You have each taught me so much about myself, pushed me to exceed my personal limitations, and to become the best leader I could be. These lessons will prove valuable and crucial as I forge ahead in life. Whether you worked here for 5 months or 5 years, you were a very important piece of this puzzle.

So THANK YOU all. Thank you so damn much.

I am so lucky to have gotten to lead this pack. I look forward to what the future brings and I have no doubt we will get to work together in new and exciting ways!

To quickly address some of the nitty gritty details:

We will be slowly winding down operations over the next 2 months with all of our active campaigns wrapping up by September 15, 2016. We won’t be taking on any new projects at this time. Each of the team members will be taking a chance to refresh and pursue their various callings and we are so excited for their future endeavours. My contact info will remain the same. I will continue to manage HIGHS and be involved with Women in Music as personal projects. We will move out of out NY and TO offices around August 15th and post updated mailing addresses on our website.

To close things off, I find this TS Eliot quote quite fitting:

TO MAKE AN END IS TO MAKE A BEGINNING. 

It is the end of an era, my friends. But what a great era it was!

Love you forever,

xo Sari

As an add on – thank you Billboard for this piece on AB Co. Read here 🙂

HIGHS’ new Album is Finally Here!

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Sorry for the lack of updates, things have been insane, this is one of the many (good) reasons why I haven’t been writing as many blogs as I’d like to…!

If you are a fellow artist manager you can probably attest to that very rare serendipitous feeling you get when an album your artist has worked on for years, after gallons of blood, sweat, tears and everything has been shed… FINALLY is released out in to the world!

Well if you know that feeling than you know how I am feeling now and to sum that feeling up – it’s pretty excited, relieved, and hopeful all rolled in to one. I manage this really special alt pop band from Toronto, called HIGHS and last week their debut full length album Dazzle Camouflage (ie. the album I haven’t been able to stop spinning for the last year, ie. the catchiest indie pop hooks you will hear in a long time) was finally unleashed upon the world! Apple Music called one of the tracks the “Best New Song of the Week” and apparently a lot of people in Holland are really digging it and putting in on their Spotify playlists! So all that is pretty cool!

The band worked with producer Luke Smith (Foals, Depeche Mode) on 10 tracks of vibrant and blissful songwriting that make my heart skip with joy! That being said, there is some darkness on the album and hearing the band really develop that side of their sound on songs like “Easy”, has been an enthralling part of the process as well.

The band is on tour now all around Ontario and the Toronto album release is on April 30th @ Lee’s Palace. I can’t wait! (http://highsmusic.com for more details).

So please, join me in a good listen why don’t ya? Play it loud and in good speakers! Play it on Spotify, Apple, whatever your heart desires just go ahead and PLAY IT ALREADY!

And then tell me what ya think! @saridelmar.
xo

Watch the video for lead single “I Do, Do You?”:

LISTEN ON SPOTIFY!!! 

Introducing CoWatch: My New Favourite Wearable and Partner-in-Productivity!

Cowatch

As many of you know, I moved a sliver of AB Co. to the big apple this past year, and while the decision has proved itself worthy, it has also required hours upon hours of grinding behind my desk while juggling an email account whose inbox has never been empty.  So as you may guess, I find myself leaning pretty heavily upon tools that maximize my efforts and time, hence why I’m stoked to be working with CoWatch. Of course there are loads of werarbles in the market and all with exciting and compelling promises. The reason we zoned in on the CoWatch and why I chose it as the one to throw our time (no pun intended!) and energy behind is easy…

As the first smartwatch to integrate with Amazon Alexa, CoWatch offers me an intuitive virtual assistant who can answer my questions, set my alarm, play my music, provide traffic and weather reports, etc etc. Seriously – she’s the second brain/set of hands that I often wish I had. Furthermore this watch has a circular watch face and doesn’t stand out in my daytime or night outfits. I can also wear my CoWatch while hitting the gym (and track my heart rate etc.) or to a formal meeting with clients. The modern design is fitting in both scenarios.

Now, let me just address the ever-popular question that is circulating about smartwatches – that being, “Why do I need a smartwatch when I’ve got a smartphone”? For me, the answer is two-fold: portability and notifications.

We can all agree that smartphones are highly portable, but there are certain scenarios in which their portability is limited or downright irrelevant– namely, when you’re on-site working a festival and event. If you work in this industry you know how annoying it can be to try to have a conversation with a potential client while your phone is blowing up and you just HAVE to text back etc. Glances over to my watch keep me updated and I can filter what I do or do not need to reply to right away in real time. This also means I get more time in watching artists at festivals like SXSW and less time staring at my phone. Hallelujah!

Ultimately, we’re all busy bees who can benefit from having a little more time to ourselves. That’s why I want to connect you with an opportunity to win a CoWatch of your own. To do this, simply swing by the CoWatch website and enter your email address by April 17th. Winners will be announced April 18th, which is the same day pre-orders on this affordable gadget begins. This watch is truly affordable and allows me to be an even more productive human. Anyways, don’t trust me – get your own on launch day and we can be matchy matchy!

 

Xo
Sari