Strategy Slumber Party / by Julie Schumacher

A few weeks back Kelly, Lisa and I had a slumber party. A strategy slumber party.

And, oh man..oh geeze...it was awesome.

We all run our own businesses and have between us seven kids (I like to say that because I have one and these incredible gals up my averages!). Planning the salons and in-between happy hours, gatherings, panels and book clubs is both insanely rewarding and just plain insane. With the help of our kickass interns and awesome community we get it all done but there isn't much time for more, even if we really, really want it.

We talked mid-year last year about taking a full day to sit down for reflection, planning and strategy. Truth be told, we haven't done it since we met at Design Cloud before the first salon. Nine salons ago. In 2013. So mid-year became start of '15 which became April. But we got it on the books and I'm calling that a major victory!

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We committed to a full day of collaboration and realized that it would be most effective to turn it into a slumber party. We could meet around lunchtime and work till bedtime, then get up and do it again. It would allow for non-stop planning (and snacking and sipping) followed by breakfast and coffee and affirmations and hugs.

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Initially I looked into hotels. A night away with maid service? Yes please. But we needed room to spread out and work and the idea of snuggling up in a double bed together was less inspiring.

I'm not sure why AirBnB didn't dawn on me immediately. I got to meet some of their folks at Alt, I love the storytelling they do and they couldn't make it easier to find and book. Plus, we wanted someplace close to our happy hour member gathering in Logan Square. Logan Square is many things but dripping in hotels it is not.

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A quick search later and I sent this place with a slew of exclamation points. So for the price of a small hotel room we got a fantastic, highly styled 3-bedroom spread with eye candy, fab finishes and bitching water pressure owned and operated by a gal sweet as peaches and cool as heck. Huge, huge, epic cheers to Liz for creating a down-the-street retreat that was just perfection.

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Why a night away?

One of the things that resonated for us was a need to step away from work and family (mad props to our lovely spouses for supporting this) and dedicate time and space to this organization we've built around creating time and space. To give to ourselves the same inspired surroundings (without so much baking) that we give to the salons. Trying to do it at one of our houses felt impossible and dedicating a full weekend to it a not-yet.

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With dedicated time and a beautiful space, we could dig into how we grow Forth, what success looks like to each of us, how we can better hold ourselves and each other accountable.

For a triad of very different women, we run a pretty smooth operation and handle challenges and any conflicts that pop up well, like having to reschedule a salon last minute like we faced just this month. And all the same, unless we take the time to ensure the goals are at least complimentary, the approaches aligned and relationships nurtured we risk what so many good relationships and great ideas risk-atrophy from inattention.

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And despite the temptation to gossip and giggle, which we fit in just fine, we had an agenda (thanks Lisa!) and talking points and a very structure approach to discuss.

We started by each sharing a state of our business. Learning a bit about the pleasure and pain points we are facing as solopreneurs and goals we each had for the near and long terms helped set the stage.

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Then we dove into talking about better articulating what it is Forth is and does (something we've duct taped together as we grow and opporunities come)  and what we expect that to look like in coming years, what membership means, what we hope to do for and ask from our members, responsibilities we each enjoy and want.

We broke out the various aspects of the things we do and who has been doing them (and sometime not) and got down to brass tacks about what we each needed to do to make Forth ever-more fabulous. We talked about how to better track our finances so that we can continue to make Forth sustainable.

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A large part of the evening was spent discussing what Forth's success looked like to each of us. We are asked what we want Forth to be often and each have a wide range of answers depending on the moment. Expanding into new cities? More frequent salons? Our own nation-state? We left with a much better, much more cohesive vision and...oh man....oh geeze...if that isn't exciting I don't know what is!

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Among continuing to master our members salons, we're hoping to offer ever-more-meaningful events and opportunities for members and translate that to a rich roster of public events (see that sidebar? sign up for news!) and consulting on private events.

It's a lot to wrap our brains around. We're upping our blog content, upping our event calendar, upping our expectations. One of the most challenging pieces of a passion project is that to have it grow you have to nurture it. When there are jobs and families and friends and totally reasonable asks and expectations on the 24 hours we all get every day, it can be so damn daunting. But after our evening together, I'll say that I completely believe it can be done.

So, we've got big plans for this incredible community and for ourselves.

One thing we've got brewing is a more formal, shareable Strategy Slumber Party that you can use with your friends. For real. A night of daydreaming, nitty gritty planning and big time conquest mapping was just what we needed to kick ourselves in the collective pants. We think making a night of it made it possible and want to share that with everyone else out there trying to figure out how to fit a dream in.

Here's a lil' sneak peek. Stay tuned. It's going to be awesome.