Technology

Organizing for Network Marketing Success

Network, or multilevel, marketing has a mixed reputation these days.

In the 20th century, joining a network marketing company like Avon or Tupperware gave women a chance to earn their own money, make their own purchasing decisions, and gain a little more independence than they otherwise might have had. Sounds great, right?

Fast forward to today, and there are more multilevel marketing companies than I could possibly name. You’ve probably seen a few of them on your Facebook feed: Beachbody, Beautycounter, Scentsy. Some of the products are great… and some aren’t. And unfortunately, the networks are structured so that most reps don’t actually make much, if any, money.

I’ve worked with a few representatives from some of the most popular multilevel marketing companies around to help their organize how they incorporate their business into their home. This is a huge challenge, and solving it can be the difference between a rep who makes a tidy sum, and one who breaks even or loses money. As I see it, there are three main organizational struggles, all of which an be solved by sticking to basic organizing principles.

1) All. That. Inventory.

This is my client’s current inventory after culling products that were not the current version (therefore not sellable).

This is my client’s current inventory after culling products that were not the current version (therefore not sellable).

Multilevel marketing reps aren’t just sellers - they’re required to purchase the physical product themselves before they sell to the end user. This is a serious space challenge… if you live in a relatively small apartment or house in San Francisco, what exactly are you going to do with all that inventory?

We have to get real. The company will be pushing you to buy, buy, buy! They make their money when YOU buy, not when your CUSTOMERS buy - that’s when you make your money. So, as with any kind of purchasing, you need to buy according to your own individual needs and priorities. If the lip balm is flying off the shelves but nobody wants the body butter… don’t buy the body butter, even if the company gives you a huge incentive to do so.

And in terms of storage, just like any other collection, designate a specific storage area and pledge Do Not outgrow said area. This means you’ll have to make tough purchasing decisions, but it will also mean that your partner or roommate won’t want to stab you with that cool new earring they just stepped on!

2) Fun marketing ideas, oh my oh my!

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The companies know that they can’t just shove out product and hope it sells - they have to help their sellers market the stuff! Although social media is definitely a major part of any multilevel marketing strategy, most of the companies still push the traditional party setup where women get together to socialize and see the products firsthand. So, a lot of the marketing materials come in the form of stuff: paper, banners, trinkets, etc. that all need to be stored.

Again, you need to consider your own needs and priorities. You literally couldn’t implement every marketing idea the company sends you - you’d never sleep, or eat, or spend time with your family. So instead of keeping all the marketing materials that come your way, instead only store the ones you like to use and see great results from.

3) Tracking your (ideally) bumper crop of customers, orders, and shipments.

So you’ve purchased your inventory, received your marketing materials, and started making sales. Now, how do you keep track of all these folks? Many of the companies still use paper order forms for in person parties, and the online ordering systems can cumbersome.

My advice, as with most things, is to go as paperless as possible. Paper not only takes up storage space, but also is harder to search through, compile, and use for marketing purposes. I highly recommend using some kind of customer relationship management (CRM) tool. 

Here’s the key: a CRM has one major thing in common with any paper filing system you can think of: you have to actively use it. Whether digital or physical, an information management system is a dynamic product and not a set it and forget it type of thing. So, there will be a learning curve - but I promise, if you start when you have so few customers it seems a little ridiculous, and stick with it, you will see major impact on your marketing efforts and sales.

Need help setting up organizing systems for your network marketing venture? Get in touch, and we can schedule a complimentary in-home consultation for you!

LMW

Little Adjustments, Big Impact

I am not a fan of productivity hack culture. I find most of the ideas hawked by self help authors, podcasters, and vagabonding entrepreneurs to be less impactful than they seem and more work than they’re worth. I’m especially skeptical when it becomes obvious that the productivity hacker in question doesn’t have a clear vision of why they’re saving all that time. They just seem to be wedging more work and more hacks into the day, rather than taking that extra time and using it on something meaningful to them.

However, there are three tweaks to routine that my husband and I have made together that have moved us forward on three important shared goals: to read more of higher quality stuff, to get more, better sleep, and to spend more, better time together. If you share any of these goals, I’d recommend considering the following small changes to your routine.

1) No phones in the bedroom.

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I resisted this one HARD, you guys. And I made all the excuses you’re probably thinking of. My phone is my alarm clock! We don’t have a landline! I like to check email and social media in bed as a transition into my day each morning!

But the fact of the matter is that having access to our phones in bed meant that we were accidentally staying up too late and spending lots of time technically in the same space but ignoring each other. Plus, I was more likely to run late in the mornings because I got distracted scrolling through somethingorother before I even got out of bed.

We used the occasion of moving into our new master bedroom to start with a clean slate - and light assisted plug in alarm clocks. I have read more books in the last year than I probably did in the three preceding it, but I have to confess… if it’s a REALLY good book, I WILL stay up!

2) No drinking during the week.

I have never been particularly concerned about my relationship with alcohol. So when I read an article about the idea of only drinking on weekends, I resisted this idea too - what fun would it be to give up the pleasure of sharing a glass of wine to unwind at the end of a rough day? 

A little moderate abstention makes The Best Martini In The World all the more delicious!

A little moderate abstention makes The Best Martini In The World all the more delicious!

But the fact is that two things are true. The ritual of drinking causes me to check out mentally with the first sip - which means that any time after that is a wash in terms of any meaningful activity, including reading. And even one drink makes me more sluggish in the morning.

So, I brought up the idea to my husband and he agreed to give it a go. We have used the same rules from the article - abstain on school nights except for social events and vacations - and the better evening and mornings are totally worth it. I even dropped about five pounds without thinking about it!

3) Close the office door on evenings and weekends.

I have a nasty habit of retreating to my home office whenever I’m bored to check email, scroll through social media, and basically doodle around and waste time. I hate that I do this, but I couldn’t find a way to stop myself. Until that is, I was having coffee with Alexis Haselberger, a time management and productivity expert, and she told me that she physically closes her home office door to be able to focus on her family and personal life.

We’re still testing this one out, but early signs are good. We’ve been spending at least a couple evenings a week curled up on the couch with the dog between us and either noses in books or both looking over a laptop to do some planning. A far cry over retreating to our separate spaces to consume separate sources of media!

What seemingly small adjustment have you made that had a big impact on your life?

LMW

Tips on Minimizing Paper - From a Digital Organizing Guru

Today’s post comes from digital organizing wizard Corey Padnos, founder and CEO of Organizing Division. He helps people transition from paper to digital organizing systems, and manage their tasks along the way. I’m a big fan of Corey and his work, and I know you will be too!

Paper.  

The internet gurus tell us we should have less of it and go digital.

But that's easier said that done.

What about those pesky receipts that are in your cupholder? Or that card that you got from your Aunt that you feel guilty about tossing? Or that business card of that guy who you met at the networking event that you going to call sometime soon when you get a chance but you left the card in your other pocket?O r your kid's artwork?

Let's be honest:  Scanning everything if you don't know what to do takes time.  

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That's why we have this blog post.  My company specializes in digital organization--the art of organizing your digital life--and we have virtual assistants to help keep you and your digital life organized.  Being digitally disorganized is a time consuming and expensive problem.  (Really, on average, the problems I solve are anywhere between $5,000 to $17,000 per month.)   BUT that doesn't mean you have to be disorganized.  
Using these apps are going to get you two things:

  1. You'll decrease your paper by at least 50%.  I promise.  If I'm wrong, email me.

  2. You'll make Lucy's job easier next time she organizes you.  She will love you for it.  

So, here are some apps to make your life easier.

Apps:

Your random papers and receipts...

Scannable (free): A scanner on your phone that can save the images as a PDF or a JPEG.  It also links directly to Evernote (which you can read more about below).  

Where to store your random papers...
Evernote (free): Evernote is a cloud-based note taking app configured like your private notebook.  You don't have to scan your papers into separate files but instead you save them into searchable notes.  This makes it easier to find the papers you've scanned while saving precious hard drive space.(Here's a great course on maximizing your notes.)

Your business cards...

APPBY (free): This app searches for the contact information on the business card and imports it directly to your smartphone's phonebook.  Scan.  Save.  Toss.  Done!

Your kid's artwork...

ArtKive (Free and paid version): ArtKive has the edge for saving your kid's artwork because you can put it into a coverbound album after you've taken pictures of it.  This way, you can safely throw out the artwork and keep it all condensed as memorabilia.

I hope these help.  Please drop me a line if you’re curious about how to use these apps or you're looking for some remote support to offload pesky tasks that hamper your creative energy.  

Shift Your Productivity

When I’m working, I have a lot of tabs open. There’s personal email and calendar, work email and calendar, all my work resources like accounting, blogging, CRM, and social media, and then whatever else I’m clicking around on doing research or finding product links. It gets really overwhelming and cumbersome to manage all that within one browser!

In a stroke of perfect timing, a blogger I follow wrote a post recommending an innovative solution to the multi-tab disaster: Shift. He raved about the ease of use and how it streamlined his workflows.

However, I was hesitant, because the tier of service you really need to run a business costs $99 per year, and as a small business owner I’m trying to make sure that every nickel and dime I spend makes an impact.

Finally, after another day spent clicking back and forth between tabs, I’d had enough. I looked over the options one more time and downloaded Shift, the Advanced version.

Not my inbox - image courtesy of tryshift.com

Not my inbox - image courtesy of tryshift.com

You guys, I totally love it. I have three Gmail accounts, and Shift makes toggling between the mail, calendar, and drive windows a total breeze. My personal favorite touch is that when you open a document in your Google Drive account, Shift pops it out into another window automatically. So helpful to be able to tile Google Docs and Sheets across a computer screen - it really makes the Google Drive experience feel a lot more like traditional word processing.

Image courtesy of tryshift.com

Image courtesy of tryshift.com

I’m really glad I chose the Advanced version, too, because I’m using the crap out of those features. Shift accommodates super helpful Chrome extensions including Boomerang (which is actually changing my life, scheduling emails ahead of time is my new favorite thing) and Lastpass (which I’ve raved about before and makes life so much easier). It also tiles some of my favorite services right inside the app, like Xero, my accounting software; Hootsuite, where I manage social media posting when I’m really feeling on top of my life; and even iCloud which makes grabbing all my iPhone photos for blogging a breeze.

Shift is a new product, so there are certainly some downsides that come with the growing pains of any new technology. For starters, it's definitely a Google and Cloud driven software solution. They do offer support for a limited group of other email account types like Outlook, but my lame old Yahoo email address that I use for junk mail is still out in the cold. Actually… maybe that’s not such a bad thing…

The other thing is that there are still plenty of really useful apps that don't work with Shift. I would be over the moon if they could provide seamless integration with blogging software and my CRM program, for example. However, the good news is that they’re adding linked apps and services all the time, so the functionality is only going to get better over time.

Bottom line: Shift is well worth the investment if you live your digital life in the Cloud, appreciate high quality design, and want to level up your productivity.

What other great digital productivity solutions have you found?

LMW

***This post contains referral links, which may earn me cash back or service credit on the linked sites.  All opinions are my own.**

Declutter Your Digital Life

In my work and here on the blog, I focus primarily on organizing tangible stuff.  However, even though it’s less obvious, it’s just as important to organize your digital life as your physical space.  For insight into the reasons you might want to overhaul your digital storage strategies, I particularly loved Daniel Cooper’s take on the topic: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Your Computer).  The dirty little secret his experience reveals is that while the stuff is different, the issues involved in both digital and physical organizing are pretty much the same!

Photo courtesy of engadget.com

Photo courtesy of engadget.com

As Cooper discovers when he sets out to tidy his own computer, it’s never really about the stuff.  If organizing really boiled down to a simple game of Stuff Tetris, it wouldn’t be so difficult or overwhelming!  Instead, it’s about what the stuff means, why it means that, and how to extract that meaning in a way that’s productive instead of letting it hold you back.

To organize your digital life, just like in the physical world, setting up systems in advance is just as important as doing the work of organizing after the fact.  What do I mean by that?

For one thing, I don’t organize my email in the traditional sense of filing messages once they come in.  There’s a good reason for this: I’ve been using Gmail since 2005 and the search function is so good I’ve literally never found myself unable to find something I needed.  And anything I want to do with my email is so easily automated on the front end that there would be literally no time saved or functionality gained by trying to file my email in folders after reading it.  So, I’ve set up the rules that make my inbox work effectively (for example: send all email addressed to an old address I never use to one folder and mark it as unread), and carry on!

A peek at my actual hard drive/iCloud backup

A peek at my actual hard drive/iCloud backup

Still, when it comes to organizing digital storage, I do have a system. To keep it easy, I utilize a common naming convention when I create files and drop them in the appropriate folder the first time I save them.  It’s a virtually automatic process for me, because my folder architecture has been pretty much the same since I started using my 1996 Powerbook my freshman year in high school!

Lately, there’s one more step I’ve added: cloud backup.  I used to back everything up periodically to an external hard drive, but recently transitioned to a dual backup to both Google Drive and iCloud.  Frankly, iCloud is a bit easier to use because I can just save things to it directly from my MacBook, but Google Drive’s ability to upload whole folders at once and auto-replace any duplicates is pretty sweet too!

If your desktop is covered with icons or your browser is stuffed with bookmarks and it’s stressing you out, consider taking the time to organize your digital life.  And if you need support through the process, contact me - I can help!

LMW

What I'm Reading

Photo courtesy of thoughtcatalog.com

Photo courtesy of thoughtcatalog.com

The Definition of Hell for Each Meyers-Briggs Personality Type

Having gone to business school, Meyers-Briggs is A Thing. Every MBA can to rattle off their combo of letters.  I don't think this particular paradigm is the be-all, end-all - there's not a lot of room for gray area, for example.  But when this article made the rounds of my friends, I laughed and was shamed but just how true the prediction was for me!  (For the record: I'm an ESFJ.)  Don't know your Meyers-Briggs type?  There's a relatively quick test here.

Photo courtesy of manrepeller.com

Photo courtesy of manrepeller.com

Is Wellness a Fad, and Is It Over?

You may have already picked this up if you've been a reader for awhile: I am an extremely practical person.  I do not go in for much in the department of woo.  I do my very best not to judge those who do, because different people find comfort in all kinds of different things, but I am at heart something of a skeptic.  So, I have noticed, and been somewhat exhausted by, the wellness trend and am hopeful it might be moderating in the near future.

A Very Confusing Makeup Guide for Scientists

I'm not a scientist, but I can definitely identify with the women described in this story.  I'm pretty feminine, and I embrace that about myself - but I get frustrated with the still pervasive ideas that as a woman who cares about my appearance I'm too girly to be taken seriously or too shallow to be a feminist.  

This Startup May Have Just Solved The Biggest Problem In Plus Size Fashion

The biggest surprise to me about the plus size fashion industry to me continues to be: why does it barely exist?  The money is there!  I know the people who are willing to spend it!  The image the fashion industry continues to have of plus size women as poor, sad, and dumpy has to end.  Here's hoping Universal Standard is a runaway success!  I'm out of their range, but would love to hear from anyone who's tried them.

What I'm Organizing - Staying Connected (or not!) While Traveling

Why hello there!  It’s been rather quiet chez LMW Edits this summer, and I’m quite proud and grateful to say that it’s because I’ve both been busier than ever before with clients and lucky enough to have been able to take a couple of amazing trips.  As a result, I’ve been trying to balance staying connected enough to nurture my business and care for my clients while at the same time remaining present in the moments I get to experience out in the world. 

My first trip made the choice for me: it was to a very remote location with only satellite communications, which did not work at all.  Fortunately, the trip operator had communicated clearly that we should not expect internet access during our stay and had advised those with pressing needs to bring a satellite phone, so I was mentally prepared for this possibility!

I cannot emphasize enough how powerful and important I found the experience of being disconnected to be.  The initial few hours were a little bit rough – I felt weirdly adrift (even though I had books on my Kindle and a needlepoint project to work on) and realized with no small amount of shame how many minutes I usually kill throughout the day.  I also fretted because I couldn’t tell my husband we’d arrived safely, something I always do whenever I travel (to relax, I fell back on the mantra of “no news is good news”)!  But, I didn’t have a choice, and I quickly realized that having the cord cut for me gave me an incredible amount of mental freedom.  All those minutes I would have been mindlessly scrolling through something became minutes of thinking, looking, and experiencing.  I spent a lot more time in my own head than I’m used to, and worked out quite a few things.  I came back refreshed in a much more different way than I feel after, say, a beach vacation – but a way I hope to be able to replicate in the future!

On my second trip, I struck a different balance.  This time we were headed for Europe, so I knew that I’d have all the access I wanted. My business phone has an unlimited plan from T-Mobile, which includes unlimited texting and 2G internet access around the world.  I find this perfect for traveling: it’s enough to be able to stay in contact with your group, use maps, and check email, but man, that 2G speed makes it really difficult to want to peruse social media or the web in general!

The real debate for me is always whether or not to bring my laptop.  I hate doing anything more than quick emails on my phone or ipad, so if I’m going to try to be productive at all I need to bring it.  In the end, I did use it on both trips, mostly while sitting in airport lounges, but I question if I would have felt less pressure if I had just decided ahead of time that anything requiring a laptop just wasn’t going to get done.

I hope you’re enjoying your summer and any travel opportunities you have! 

LMW

What I'm Organizing

When I started my Instagram account, I committed to authenticity.  The social media world is saturated with picture perfect influencers, and I don't need to compete with them.  Why? Organizing for real lives isn't about a Pinterest-perfect set of chalk labeled baskets, it's about streamlining daily tasks and storage so that you can spend your time and energy on the things that really matter to you.  

So I prefer to show my real life on social media - while of course maintaining some semblance of personal privacy! To that end, I have not and will not retouch my photos, create events only for Insta, or force other people to take my pictures for me.  No #instagramhusband here!

So, as you'll have seen if you follow me on Instagram, my first few months of activity are filled with pretty terrible selfies.  There's only one full length mirror in my house right now, on the inside door of my husband's closet, so that was the only place I could grab pics.  I quickly got fed up with that and decided to get a cell phone tripod with remote so that I could at least move my selfie game to a more well lighted location!

I decided on the iKlip Grip smart phone stand.  While you can get tripods for half the price, I always go for something of higher quality that will last longer without falling apart.  This one was the only tripod listed on the Apple Store, which I took as a good sign!  It was incredibly easy to set up and works perfectly.  The parts screwed together easily and tightly and the remote was a breeze to pair with my phone via Bluetooth.  I probably went from closed box to taking pictures in about five minutes.

I'm still getting used to posing in front of a camera rather than being able to see myself on screen as I take the picture, and I'm still figuring out where to take pictures for better lighting.  However, it's much easier to just grab the tripod and start clicking than it is to open up my husband's closet and move various things out of the way before attempting selfies!  

Check out my Instagram account and let me know what you think.  I'd love to share the kind of content you want to see, and of course follow you back!

LMW

 

Wearable Tech That's Truly Wearable

In a city that’s constantly on the hunt for the next great technological breakthrough, I’m not an especially tech-y person.  I do like to stay current, but I’m not an early adopter, and aesthetic considerations are higher on my priority list than for many techies.  So, when wearable tech started to become A Thing a couple of years ago, I was skeptical.  Everything was clunky, intrusive, and clearly designed only to look cool on the arm of a twentysomething tech guy.

Then the Apple Watch came out, and I was intrigued.  There were stylish options (hello, Hermes leather strap!) and serious functionality.  However, once I saw Apple Watches in action, I was immediately turned off.  Instead of reducing the interaction between person and phone, the watch just creates another way to disconnect from immediate surroundings.  If you find it off putting for someone to trail off mid-conversation when their phone vibrates, it’s even weirder when they violently glance down at their watch and start tapping it!

For me, the entire point of a wearable device is to enable myself to stay present wherever I am without missing anything important.  So, I was excited to discover Ringly’s first product, the smart ring.  It seemed to have everything I wanted and nothing I didn’t.  The only thing stopping me from placing an order was the fact that I knew I wouldn’t wear a large cocktail ring daily. 

Ringly’s next product launch, on the other hand, made perfect sense for me. I already wear bangle bracelets and/or a watch almost daily, so I got on the waiting list for the smart bracelet immediately.  After a couple of setbacks – original delivery was scheduled for September 2016, but hey, even Space X has to push back new products – my bracelet arrived last month.

The package opened...

...and unboxed.

Setup was quick and easy.  You download the Ringly app, charge the bracelet in its little charging box, connect via Bluetooth, and off you go.  The organizer in me was a little annoyed that the product comes packaged with a logo reusable bag – don’t we all have a million of those at this point?  But from a branding perspective, I can see why they included this particular piece of marketing collateral!

This cute box is also the charger, with a cord that plugs into any USB port.

The bracelet works exactly as advertised: it tracks steps (one click link to your iOS Health app if you are so inclined) and buzzes and/or flashes light to notify you of something that needs your attention.  The best part is that something is entirely up to you.  I have mine set up to alert me for just three things: phone calls, texts, and calendar appointments (with a special additional light flash if it’s my husband!).  I might have been tempted to add other apps, but read online reviews that after about four different kinds of taps on your wrist it becomes difficult to keep everything straight.

Bangle bracelet and breton stripes, can't go wrong.

And seriously, don’t discount how pretty and well made this thing is.  I’ve gotten several compliments on my Ringly bracelet as a piece of jewelry, and people are stunned to discover that it’s actually a piece of wearable tech.

As you can see if you scroll through my archives, I rarely recommend products – I try to practice what I preach in terms of thoughtful consumption!  But if you’re looking for a piece of wearable tech that will give you a little extra help with style, you should check out Ringly’s line of rings and bracelets.  I’m a fan, and this is not a sponsored post!

LMW

 

Harsh Criticism?

Marie Kondo is still hitting the news and one article in particular that came out last summer really galvanized a lot of chatter within the organizing community.  Taffy Brodesser-Akner took a much more critical view than we usually see of the entire professional organizing industry in her piece for the New York Times: Marie Kondo and the Ruthless War on Stuff.

Many National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) members reacted strongly to the central paragraphs of the story, where Ms. Brodesser-Akner describes attending the annual NAPO Conference.  They feel misunderstood, attacked, and mocked.  I can see why.  There are some biting cheap shots in there.

But – and I’m going to say this as delicately as I possibly can, so as not to diminish the effort, talent, and good intentions of many wonderful people – I rather agree with some of Ms. Brodesser-Akner’s assessment of the organizing industry and the people who claim to speak for it. 

I’ve been a member of NAPO, both at the national level and the local San Francisco Bay Area chapter, for a couple of years.  There’s a lot of good there: continuing education, mentorship opportunities, a strong referral network, advocacy on behalf of the industry, and support and good humor in the face of what can be a strange and intimate business.  The members of NAPO, as a rule, are kind, welcoming, generous with their time and expertise, and dedicated to helping their clients.

However, professional organizing in the United States was an industry waiting to be disrupted when Marie Kondo came along.  There are a few core reasons for this. First, apart from a few franchising companies (Neat Method is perhaps the most well known), most professional organizing businesses are single proprietors working out of their homes.

Second, professional organizing is quite literally an aging industry.  This is both because it’s a learn-on-the-job type of career that rewards longevity in business, and because it’s often a second, later in life career that accommodates a person’s interest in working in a way that fulfills them while allowing them to maintain a flexible work/life balance.  I feel the demographic quite acutely in my involvement with NAPO: I’m 34 and sometimes feel like everybody’s kid sister. 

Finally, to address the elephant in the room: professional organizing is dominated by women, and shares both the strengths and weaknesses of other female-dominated spheres.  The spirit of cooperation within the industry is truly legendary.  But as Ms. Brodesser-Akner noted about the NAPO Conference, majority female organizations can trend away from professionalism and towards the crafty, folksy, and touchy-feely. 

What does this mean for a potential customer?  This means that, more than in many other service industries, the experience of interacting with an organizer will vary wildly.  Some have a comprehensive online presence and others have websites out of 1995; some use online payment processing and others only accept checks; some keep abreast of the latest innovations and some are quite distrustful of new organizing trends in pop culture. 

What does this mean for the industry?  It means a long history of stagnation and late adaptation to changing cultural trends and technologies.  For all the cooperative spirit between individual organizers, the industry as a whole lacks cohesion, standards of service, and most importantly, capacity and support for innovation.

Professional organizing is an incredibly valuable industry, especially in our fast paced modern world where not everyone learns to organize and doesn’t have the time or energy to start from scratch alone.  But it will not stay relevant if it can’t grow and adapt to our changing cultural, technological, and financial landscape.   

And that’s where I find myself: trying to start a larger conversation about organizing our lives, what motivates us to acquire and de-accession, how we consume, the ways in which we can use technology to help and in which it can hold us back.  With appreciation and respect for the capable organizers who have gone before me, I’m trying to kick the professional organizing industry into the twenty first century where it belongs.

Change is good.  Come along!

LMW