I picked up #GIRLBOSS before our trip to Costa Rica earlier this spring. I always take a new book with me on beachy vacations, but I don't usually finish them. This book was very different. Not only did I finish it, but I became so obsessed with it that Emma downloaded it on her Kindle and finished it too. We tried to keep our business conversations to a minimum, since we were on vacation, after all, but as soon as we started traveling home we were in an all-out business planning frenzy.
If you've read #GIRLBOSS you may have had a similar reaction. The most common comment I have been hearing about it is that people finished it in one day.
This is an easy read. It's very story heavy, funny, and full of personality. What I loved most about reading #GIRLBOSS was that in a chapter or two I felt like I was friends with Sophia. I related with so much of what she had to tell, and what I didn't relate with was fascinating in a weird way.
For anyone who hasn't read the book (by the way, you should probably read it and bookmark this discussion for later), Sophia Amoruso is the founder and CEO of NastyGal.com. In eight years she built it from a vintage store on eBay to a 100 million dollar company with 350 employees. This is what sold me on the book in the first place. I was like, "Huh? … How??" Her story is insane.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this month's book. You can use these discussion points (by number) or just leave your thoughts in the comments on this post. I'll be checking back all day to read your thoughts!
I didn't pick up the book assuming to have a lot in common with Sophia. I mean, she named her company "Nasty Gal" and I named mine "A Beautiful Mess." Ha! I guess I assumed she would be a scary cool girl. With that said, I related with her on so much throughout the book. I actually started to feel like we were friends by the end.
I loved that she was so open about quitting college and building her company with hard work first and a business plan second. My story is so similar to that. I have always shied away from talking much about quitting college because I am paranoid that teenagers will use me as an example and make the wrong choices for them. So I loved how she really went there. She really let you see how she took the long walk to get where she is. So much self-education. Lessons learned the hard way. Good choices made based on experience. I loved that she told her stories about getting fired from teenage jobs in the same candid, funny tone as her stories about taking on investors and hiring and firing employees. There was a level of formality that was just absent in her writing style, and I loved that.
I loved that her success story didn't have one single tipping point. I related with that. I thought it was cool that the business lessons Sophia learned while running an eBay store by herself seemed equally important as those she learned later on from her millionaire mentors and investors. She started off smart and hard-working, and she ended up smart and hard-working. There is no magic formula for success in Sophia's story, and I believe the same is true for most successful people. There's no secret back door to success. There's no one opportunity that builds a strong company. If you look closely, there are usually lots of little stories and tons of hard work spanning years and years.
I guess the last thing that I really loved and related with was how hands-on Sophia was in her company. In the beginning it was just her, so she did everything from photography, to shipping, to marketing and taxes. I loved that now in her 100 million dollar company she holds the role of creative director. It's super rare to see a CEO who is also a creative director. I liked how focused she was. 100%.
2. What was something you felt challenged by?
Throughout the book I was so impressed and challenged by Sophia's level of focus. From the beginning, she was laser focused on building her brand. Even though the story started out without a business plan, it didn't matter because she was constantly evaluating how to improve her small business. I have often struggled with staying focused on one thing and throughout my career have tried and failed at many side projects. I liked that she stayed focused on her retail business throughout the entire story. This is something I felt very challenged by.
Sophia's connection with her customers was inspiring to me as well. As our audience has grown to millions of readers, I have often struggled with feeling connected and being able to hear the larger voice of what our readers like, don't like, and want above the much smaller, but very loud voices of negative people who aren't really fans at all. There was a time where I didn't read any blog comments because I was scared to read something painful. I didn't realize how much I was missing, though. Sophia's story inspired me to push harder to really know our readers and to listen and learn. Since reading this book earlier this spring I've felt more in touch, more open to feedback, and more aware of our readers' (your) responses. I was very challenged and inspired by how in-touch she is with her customers.
3. What was something you learned and put into action?
Most of what I got out of #GIRLBOSS was more along the lines of listening to a pump-up-jam. I got excited, and that was more than enough. Sometimes it just feels good to get excited, you know.
There were a few actions that Emma and I took away from the book. On our way home from Costa Rica we spent a layover or two writing a mission statement for our company. It was for internal use and super simple. It has since helped us stay focused on what we believe is the mission behind everything we do. We shared it in a team meeting. It was fun and hilarious to us that we had never done this simple task before.
Dream bigger. Our biggest personal takeaway was that A Beautiful Mess has so much more potential. We started making plans and goals immediately. It's funny how sometimes seeing someone else doing it better is the best way to get inspired to up your game. We loved learning about Nasty Gal's success and felt challenged to work harder and smarter on ABM in the coming year.