Who Is Dori McDonald?

Many of you know me as the primary face of RedBliss Design. However, there are actually two of us at the helm. And if there is one thing I know for sure, anything worth doing is even better when you do it with someone you trust and admire. Today, you will get to know a bit more about my sister, my business partner and my sanity check, Dori McDonald. -CT

Q: Tell us about yourself.

This is tough for me! I’m typically a quiet person who doesn’t like to be the center of attention, which is why I prefer to stay behind the scenes. However, I am a Gemini and sometimes the spotlight begs me to come in!

As with most quiet people, it only stands to reason that I’m a thinker. My brain is constantly devising and deconstructing, both design and business strategies. I love developing a game plan, whether it’s how to produce an elaborate invitation, or as an entrepreneur, where to invest our time and marketing resources. Prior to RedBliss, I spent eight years in marketing and advertising and learned to appreciate the importance of creative and strategic roles working together to develop a successful business.

As for my personal life, I married my biggest champion who immediately won me over with his charming ways and quick wit. And by immediately, I mean he informally proposed (and I said yes) after two weeks and we bought a house after two months! 16 years later, we have an 8-year-old son, Ronan, who has a passion for hockey, a love of books and gives the biggest bear hugs ever. Yes, I’m a lucky girl. And five months ago, we brought home not one, but TWO puppies. When your son falls in love with one and your husband another, how do you choose?

Q: Why do you love being in business with your sister?

I love that every day feels like I’m hanging out with my best friend. We completely understand each other, from each brainstorming discussion to every raised eyebrow. We can be open and honest in a way that allows us to candidly share new ideas, accept criticism and make decisions quickly. We have a healthy respect for each other’s core strengths and weaknesses, which has permitted us to divide the business responsibilities effectively.

Q:  What is your role at RedBliss?

I’m the one who figures out how to turn a sketch into reality, decides if a new product is client-worthy and ensures each invitation is of the best quality. I’m the one with not only a game plan, but also a back-up plan and sometimes even an emergency plan! And I’m also the one who ensures every deadline is met.

Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As a boutique business, I’m also involved in design critique, website direction, and marketing tacticsMaybe that’s why it took so long to finally author this blog post!

Q: How do you find balance as a working mom?

I think it’s hard for everyone, but you have to do what works for you. Sure I’m guilty of checking and responding to email at home, just as I’m guilty of taking phone calls and texting with my husband and son at work. What works for me/us is that my husband is home after school to do homework and after-school activities, while I’m there in the mornings to get the day started, pack a healthy lunch and ensure everyone is on board with the plan for the day. Sure, I wish I could attend all of those hockey practices (not really), but as long as we can support and provide Ronan with a solid foundation, I’m happy. It also helps that I’m only 10 minutes away if something comes up.

Q: What is the biggest surprise of being in business for 14 years?

The biggest surprise is how unpredictable each day can be. Even after 14 years we haven’t seen or heard it all yet! There’s still fresh excitement every time the phone rings, a deep breath when every package is opened, and a sense of pride with every invitation that goes out the door.

Q: What is your desire for the future of RedBliss?

My desire is that we continue to be avant-garde, take risks, fail, succeed, teach and appreciate the journey every day. We have an incredible team and that is essential. I want to look back and be proud of our work and our team while sipping cocktails and sharing the many funny, hair-raising stories of what it took to build this business.

Q: And finally, tell us about your own wedding invitation?

Um, I didn’t have one…we eloped!

#beinlovewithyourlife

About nine months ago, I found myself caring about all the wrong things. And much of it stemmed from thinking I should have more, be more, do more. Improving yourself is paramount to growth and open-mindedness. And in no way am I suggesting we shouldn’t strive to do and be better. But if you’re looking through the wrong lens, it can preclude you from the happiness and fulfillment that is in your life right now. Right this moment.

It was the simple words of Jack Kerouac “Be in love with your life, every minute of it” that jolted me out of this unproductive funk. And it is these words I share often when a simple moment or thing or person makes me smile and feel grateful. And they remind me that I have a life worth loving.

Our Valentine was inspired by Jack’s words this year. It is a sentiment I hold dear.  -CT

xo5.jpg

Make The Short List

In November I spoke at Engage, a luxury wedding business summit, in Grand Cayman. There have been thirteen sold-out Engage events that have taken place with stunning success since June 2008. I was honored to speak and wanted to share some top-level insights from my presentation - Managing the Client Experience: Making the Short List vs. the Shit List.

The Three Stages of Client Connection 

The first is EXPERTISE. You need to know your stuff, period. But, just because RedBliss has been in business for 13 years and we have created designs for Prince Harry, the SuperBowl and Oprah doesn’t automatically put us on somebody’s short list.

The second stage is EXECUTION. This is where the vast majority of businesses compete the most - to produce the best art and the most innovative designs. And outstanding execution will get you a gorgeous portfolio, published in magazines, winning awards and likely on a few short lists.  

However, are you competing on the client EXPERIENCE, the third stage of client connection? Are you delivering a great experience as well as great execution of a product or service? How do you make a client feel when they work with you?

Jake Barton, the head of media design for the 9/11 Memorial in NYC, recounted how he came into chance contact with a psychologist who told him we’re more apt to remember experiences when they’re attached to an emotion.

Kindness is Magic 

There is a growing detachment with one another due to less human interaction. Email, texts and social media messaging have replaced phone calls and lunches. And this detachment is magnified when there is a lackluster experience.

Identify your “touchy-feely” opportunities. For example, it’s so easy to get buried in email and text messages that pretty soon all formalities fly out the window. Step back and look at how you are communicating with clients. Do your emails have a greeting…every time? We have an event planner that we have worked with for over seven years and to this day, they still start every email with Dear Christine. How are you communicating with clients during every single interaction?

Perpetual Optimism Is A Force Multiplier

Energy matters. Are you positive or cynical, excited or annoyed when interacting with your clients?

Colin Powell authored a Leadership Primer presentation back in the 90s and one of his key lessons is Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” He describes perpetual optimism as a belief in yourself, in your purpose, and in success. Demonstrating perpetual optimism with passion, kindness and confidence is a force multiplier, because it will drive your followers to share your optimistic beliefs.

For example, how do you handle a new lead? When that initial phone call comes in do you simply go through a checklist (size, location, timing, budget) or do you engage and share enthusiasm and optimism and really connect with a potential client? This translates to your website too…do I have to fill out a form before you will give me your phone number? If you have made someone’s short list and they want to call you, why are you making it so hard?

Put yourself in the movie. That is to say, are you doing the right thing? Or are you doing the right thing for you? 

Don’t Accept The Work If You Can’t Deliver A Great Experience

There is a heightened immediacy today for products and services, and it will likely never change. We call this “Warped Speed”, crazy short turnaround times.

What I’m going to tell you now, changed our lives…we stopped taking on projects with deadlines of two weeks or less.

The client experience is very different if we have to hound you for copy, approvals and guest lists every single day. Even if you CAN execute, is it at the cost of a good experience? Understand and define your time limits.

The Experience Determines If They Will Refer You Or Forget You

The client experience should be delivered with grace and gratitude. For those that embrace its value and actively work to provide a positive experience at every turn, will find a big competitive advantage in an increasingly detached society. Don’t compete on execution alone.  

Maya Angelou said it best: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

The next Engage conference will be held June 8-11, 2015 in Nizuc Resort & Spa, Punta Nizuc, Mexico.

Your Objet d'Art Is In The Mail

If there is one thing we strive to do with each custom design we create is to understand its lifespan and significance. An invitation has traditionally been treated as a way of expressing sentiment and event details but often with the thinking that it will “just get thrown away.” And with this mindset comes an aversion to investing in invitations as art.

We know that creating couture invitations is a significant way of not only commencing but also commemorating a special occasion. And with this investment comes a responsibility as a designer to create a piece that is appreciated and preserved. And not just for weddings, but for every type of celebration.

One way we do this is to approach each design as a multi-faceted art form. In doing so, we create a personalized invitation that is both a communication tool and an objet d'art to be saved, shared and even displayed. Here are several examples:

  • To help CLIO celebrate 55 years, we created a laser cut save the date that not only provided the event details but put the brand “on display” on advertising desks nationwide.
  • For a couple hosting a destination wedding in San Francisco we designed an invitation that when reversed, doubled as a big city art piece.
  • For an event planner that hosted a special event to showcase her work, we opted for an invitation that expressed a memorable message of joy and celebration that many guests kept on display.

As you think about an invitation design, consider how it can extend beyond a vehicle for communicating a few facts about your party and become a treasured art form of creative self-expression. Something that becomes impossible to throw away. -CT

Custom laser cut chrome save the date for the CLIO 55th Anniversary celebration.

Custom laser cut chrome save the date for the CLIO 55th Anniversary celebration.

Custom perforated copper wedding invitation for a couple marrying in San Francisco.

Custom perforated copper wedding invitation for a couple marrying in San Francisco.

Inspirational custom laser cut gold chrome invitation for an event planner showcase.

Inspirational custom laser cut gold chrome invitation for an event planner showcase.

When Life Gets In The Way

Let’s be honest, we’re not that good at blogging yet. Especially if consistency is a measure of success. Life gets in the way – urgent projects, vacations, illness, kids, more urgent projects and, well, beautiful weather! And we’re not ashamed to admit that we need to rejuvenate every now and again. It keeps us healthy, creative and happy, in turn, keeping our clients happy.

Blogging is not for the faint of heart. It means being okay with opening up your life and business to the outside. Teaching and sharing what you know and sometimes maybe even giving up secrets! Taking criticism, but also basking in compliments. But one thing is for sure, we are always true to ourselves on this blog, which is why we’re admitting it's been way too long since we sat down to share our stories. So please bear with us during the quiet times and understand that sometimes life gets in the way. More to come soon!  -DM

Jack Knows Best

What motivates someone is so personal. And it may vary by the month, the day or the minute. The important part is to identify it and USE it. Earlier this week I found myself highly motivated by the words of passionate beat writer Jack Kerouac. His writing is rich with advice, musings, and pithy observations about the world. I have seen his words before but, for whatever reason, they are currently resonating deep. If you have been in business for one month or three decades, motivation needs fuel. It needs a healthy dose of words, goals and people that keep you driven and inspired. Sometimes I forget I'm running low and when I find the right thing to feed it, magic happens. Thanks Jack.  -CT

Trust Me (And Them)

When you start something from nothing, you have to put a lot of trust in yourself. You have to learn to trust your gut, your intuition and your inner voice. You have to trust that your art will be valued, that your choices will lead to acceptance and that your fears are normal. 

As you grow, you discover who you can trust to produce your art to the standards you demand, in the time needed and with a fierce loyalty to quality. Pretty soon, you trust them implicitly and you expand, extend and accelerate.

Once your work is acknowledged, accepted and valued (a benchmark that you have earned the trust of others), you need to place trust in your clients. You need to trust they have a respect for your art, a desire for creativity and an appreciation for excellence.

All in all, the strength of your business is built upon the trust that is invested, earned and reciprocated.  -CT

"Circle of Trust" by Tom Roderick

"Circle of Trust" by Tom Roderick

Know Your Number

How do you measure your success?

Is it the number in your checkbook, the number of followers on social media, the number of hours you spend with your family each day, the number of trees you can see out of your office window, the number of clients you have, the number of hours you volunteer, the number of likes you receive, the number of designer shoes you own, the number in your retirement account, the number of minutes you don’t spend commuting, the number of vacation days you take…

Figure out the numbers that are most important to YOU. Success isn’t a cookie cutter proposition and shouldn’t be defined by social convention or a single metric. As long as your numbers align with YOUR definition of success, you’re doing something right (and likely happy as a result).  -CT

P.S.  One of my numbers is 90. I spend 90 minutes with my husband every night for dinner, no matter what. The fact that I can achieve this number every day is part of my success story.

Bella typeface.

Bella typeface.

Four Ways to Keep It Real

Sisters. Business partners. Best friends. To have the good fortune of all three is not lost on us. Whether working closely with a family member, business colleague or creative partner, here are several ways we keep it real and harmonious.

1.  BAN STEAMROLLING. We’re an opinionated duo. So it’s important that we hear each other, elicit feedback and play devil’s advocate.  We consult each other on every important business decision to ensure we’re aligned. Without agreement, harmony is lost and the focus shifts to feuding over business vs. fueling our business.

2.  CONSCIOUSLY UNCOUPLE (a.k.a. divide and conquer). We each have very different and distinct responsibilities. Our roles within the company are tailored to our individual strengths. This division of leadership has allowed each of us to have clear ownership and has resulted in better scalability.

3. PINKY SWEAR. Swear to be honest with each other and yourself. Be candid about the good, the bad and especially the ugly. An inability to examine and solve issues breeds resentment versus resilience.

4.  LAUGH HARD AND OFTEN. There can be so many challenges from day to day that it’s important to keep it all in perspective and have a laugh. Sometimes this is the hardest and most important advice to follow.

How do you manage your partnerships successfully?  -DM

Sisters. Business partners. Best friends.

Sisters. Business partners. Best friends.

My Double Life

Did you know that a single custom invitation design can involve up to 15 or more separate creative partners? The paper, the envelopes, the liner, the acrylic or the chrome or the metal, the printing, the printer plates, the dies, the beveling, the ink, the laser cutting, the embellishments, the calligraphy, the stamps...all coming from separate people and places.  Each a specialty, each located across the US (and around the world), each taking from 1-4 weeks to provide or produce. And honestly, this is a short list. 

What about the special adhesive? What about the quadruple mounting? What about the custom made-to-order never-been-done-before item? What about the Swarovski crystals? What about the fabric? What about the custom illustration? What about all the "extras"... 

We have sourced sea shells, coffee beans, faux grass, bow ties, miniature guitars, elephants, felt, masks, tequila, vodka, tiny cable knit sweaters, miniature foam fingers, terry cloth diapers, lanyards, rebozos, wine, jewelry, wallpaper, glass beads, brass keys, pillows, tassels and so much more.

So, in a given week, about 100 things can go haywire. They sent the wrong paper, the silk from Thailand is hung up in customs, the crystals are on backorder, the weather delayed delivery, someone's invitation got lost in the mail, the ink doesn't stick to the cool new substrate you sourced, the client spelled the guest of honor's name wrong (and didn't catch it) and so it goes.

This is why we only focus on solutions, not problems. When so many points of failure are possible for a single custom design, there is no time to panic or lose your cool. Just fix it. Put out the fire and keep calm. When you have a solution-centric mindset, you create an environment where mistakes are okay, you are ready for anything and innovation rules the day. Most days I double as a designer and a firefighter.  -CT

Eighteen creative partners were involved in the production of this custom invitation. We had to put out two fires.

Eighteen creative partners were involved in the production of this custom invitation. We had to put out two fires.