Monthly Archives: June 2013

True Life: Kathy Lupo

In the Office: 

Kathy Lupo is the Ambassador of Vanguard.  She is the first face clients see and first voice they hear.  It is also her job to fix any logistical office problems.  Her duties include: managing reception, arranging client lunches and meetings, booking hotel reservations and organizing travel plans.  Kathy also keeps up with phone maintenance and handles the AC and office cleaning.  Her presence is very valued here at Vanguard Direct.

Outside the Office:

Kathy Lupo, originally from Grand Rapids, MI, made her way to the Big Apple with intentions to stay. She laid down roots in the Bronx, where she has lived for 25 years with her husband and two sons, Charlie (20) and Stephen (19). “It couldn’t have been planned any better!” Kathy explains, referring to her sons’ strong relationship because of their close ages.

One thing many people don’t know about Kathy is that she has a green thumb. Kathy grows cucumbers, oregano, green beans, garlic, peppers, spinach, basil, and tomatoes right in her backyard. She is very passionate about her garden and loves cooking with the fresh ingredients she has at her fingertips. Kathy’s favorite dish to make––and, fittingly, to eat––is Chicken Parmesan. She also makes pizza from scratch on Saturdays for her family. Not surprisingly, one of her dream vacations would be to go to Italy (as well as Sweden, because she’s Swedish!).

Kathy’s Favorite Vanguard Direct Memory:

Kathy began working at Vanguard Direct in 2005. Prior to Vanguard, Kathy had worked in customer service for Time Warner Cable and then for Goldman Sachs. After jumping around a bit, she wanted to find a place that she could call home––during her interview at Vanguard Direct, she made this known.

On her third day of work in NYC, the air-conditioning broke, which literally put her in the hot seat. Employees were quickly beginning to feel the heat. She was asked to provide everyone with ice, water, and anything else that would keep them cool. Going about her day, she did whatever she could to help her new coworkers, who quickly became her friends. (Who doesn’t love the lady bringing cold water on a hot day?) She had been a bit frazzled during the day, also experiencing the sweltering heat, but felt the reward of helping everyone else out. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t even been there a week, because in the first seventy-two hours, she learned that everyone believed in the work they were doing––how else do you explain persevering through 100-degree weather in Manhattan? She saw that every person in the company mattered, just like in a family. As if reading her thoughts, when Vanguard Direct President Bob O’Connell was leaving the office on that eventful day, he saw Kathy sitting behind her desk, smiled, and said, “Looks like you found your home.”

Authors:  Liz Baron, Lindsey Clark and MinJi Kim


True Life: Vanguard Direct

For eight weeks, I will be interning at Vanguard Direct in its New York City office. I overlap six weeks with two other interns who are also here for an eight-week period this summer, Lindsey Clark and Minji Kim. While I will be working in the marketing department, Lindsey is working for production, and Minji is in the digital department.

We have been pleased to get to know many of the NYC employees of Vanguard Direct during our time in the office, at lunch, and at after-work activities, like rock climbing, that Vanguard Direct employees have organized.

In the six short weeks we are together, we thought it would be fun to create a blog series to spotlight a few employees from each department of Vanguard Direct. It’s a unique way for us to learn more about the people we are working side-by-side with as well as gain some blogging experience. We’ll be asking these employees about what they do for Vanguard Direct but also what they enjoy doing in their free time and a little bit about their backgrounds. Utterly Orange is an expression of Vanguard Direct’s personality. With this series, we hope you’ll get a glimpse of who makes up that personality.

On the first day of my internship, I briefly met Peter McCann, a fellow Gettysburgian (I am a rising senior at Gettysburg College) who works in sales here at Vanguard Direct. I was quite nervous at first, but I found a particular comfort knowing that I had a connection to Peter through Gettysburg. Once the email blast went out that I attend Gettysburg, he proceeded to show me his old school ID (he still carries it around with him!) and share stories of his college experience.

It’s a small world, and I bet in the weeks to come that you will find some connections to these employees comparable to my experience of first meeting Peter.

I’m eager to begin working on True Life: Vanguard Direct … Are you ready to meet the employees?

Author: Liz Baron

Never Give Up

Working in sales, I often am in competition with providers to deliver to my clients’ needs. Sometimes I come out on top, and sometimes I have to pull a rabbit out of a hat!

My client wanted a certain product that my competitor had. After researching it, I finally found it at an amazing price! But it was too late! My competitor was awarded the order. I knew the product was amazing and my price was very competitive. I offered it to my other clients, and even sold it to another department within the same facility as the original client.

There are always curveballs in business, and it’s important to never give up!

Some of the most famous people we know had to overcome hardship and failure before achieving success. Some examples of people who never gave up:

  • J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter

“You might never fail on the scale I did,” Rowling said, speaking to a graduating class about her failures, not her successes. “But it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all––in which case, you fail by default.”

Twelve publishers rejected her manuscript! What if she had stopped at the first rejection, the fifth or the tenth? The possibility of success increases each time one keeps going despite hearing no.

  • Walt Disney, visionary and creator of Disney World and Mickey Mouse

I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young. I learned a lot from that. It makes you aware of what can happen to you. Because of it, I’ve never had any fear in my entire life when we’ve been near collapse. I have never been afraid. I’ve never had the feeling I couldn’t walk out and get a job doing something.”

His first animation company went bankrupt. A news editor fired him because he lacked imagination. But he never gave up!

I didn’t give up. I knew my product was a good product––it was priced right, and it was a product my clients could use. Finally, the client that had awarded the order to my competitor came back to me the following year (after the competitor pulled a bait and switch), and I recaptured the business.

To date, I have sold approximately 3,000 of this product to various clients. So remember: Everyone encounters failure––it’s what you do with it that counts!

Author: Rita Orphanos

You Get to Keep the Tools!

Founded after World War I, the Cipher Bureau, aka the “Black Chamber” (after King Henry IV of France’s sixteenth-century letter-opening/resealing cabinet noir), was America’s first peacetime cryptanalysis (code-breaking) unit. In 1929, the government withdrew funding and the Bureau closed, in retrospect possibly assisting the Japanese in carrying out their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Then-Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson’s now-celebrated explanation for shutting down the unit was: “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”

Well, Mr. Stimson was certainly permitted his own definition of “gentlemen,” complete with behavioral parameters. But today’s online services, including Facebook, Google, Amazon, Yahoo, and Twitter, are all about reading our personal messages—and a lot more. Though privacy wonks and certain European countries bristle at the very notion of such intrusive behavior and point shaky fingers at endpoints such as totalitarian police states and black helicopters circling above FEMA-operated forced-labor camps, we do, after all, live in a capitalist society, and the goal these companies share is a long way down the shock spectrum from jackbooted thought police. According to revelations both recent and not-so-recent, government agencies do indeed want to stockpile everything there is to know about everyone there is. But the arguably un-gentlemanly corporations to whom we trade personal information in exchange for services want to profile our interests and shopping habits and market this information to advertisers—period. Oh, and possibly make our lives easier by blurring the boundary between conversation and access.

Here’s an illustration of the latter. This happened yesterday, and I’d like to know whether others find it creepy and intrusive, or the leading edge of something new and wonderful. Let me set the stage: I play free-form jazz once or twice a month with a somewhat changeable cast of characters. During my lunch break, I was doing a postmortem on the most recent jam with the group’s founder and bassist via Gmail. The drummer had been vehemently unimpressed with the latest guitar player we invited to join us, and the bassist and I were comparing notes. As a (fairly lame) joke, I sent a photo of Mike Keneally, a monster musician who was Frank Zappa’s last in a long line of discovered/nurtured prodigies, along with the note: “Maybe this guy would satisfy X’s requirements.”

Note: Mike is an even better guitar player than Michael J. Fox was in Back to the Future. Here he is:

The bassist replied, “Yeah, sure—I’ll ask him to play with us next time he’s in town. By the way, I just ordered Keneally’s Wing Beat Elastic; it’s a remix album of Wing Beat Fantastic that includes some demos (Andy Partridge sings on one) and a bunch of more guitar-oriented instrumental versions of stuff from the album.”

All well and good. Walking home later, I pulled out my Android phone and punched up the confusingly named “Google Play Music All Access”—which, like the other players in the crowded field it recently joined, including Spotify, Rdio, and Pandora, costs about eight dollars a month and provides access to “millions” of tracks in all styles of music. The slight differentiating wrinkle here is that people like me have been uploading our personal CDs and, yes, downloads, to Google Play, at no charge, for something like a year now. The pay service uses that personal collection to help curate listening suggestions. Nice idea—no paradigm shift yet.

But the artwork that appeared when I opened the app was the cover of aforementioned Wing Beat Elastic! My ingrained old-hippie sensibility went immediately for “synchronicity,” or “kismet”—some sort of cosmic coincidence, by whatever name. Then I realized that this was a secondary release by a fairly obscure indie-label artist, unlikely to be widely promoted, and that my previous uploads to Google Play had included nothing by Mike Keneally, Frank Zappa, or even album collaborator Andy Partridge or his longtime band, XTC.

The only explanation was that the hive mind that is Google read my mail and cued up the album, just in case I’d want to listen to it later. In my book, this nearly passes the classic Turing test for artificial intelligence. Again: creepy or cool? Let’s extrapolate: Maybe someday Google (or Apple, or someone else) will see me approaching home, turn on the AC, and mix a margarita, just the way I like it; questions will be answered before I think to ask them; needs met before I realize anything’s lacking. So, do we welcome our new cybernetic overlords, or shed all electronics and run for the hills?

In the words of that bald, mustachioed TV spokesman urging couch potatoes to action in the old Apex Tech ads, “You have to make the call.” And, depending on your answer, I suppose you get to keep the tools as well.

Author: John Wehmeyer

Marketing on the Move

The average commuter in the United States spends about 25 minutes getting to work. But that’s just the average…

The new census reports that this average might downplay the brutal commutes that many individuals endure every day. Whether commuting by train or bus, driving, biking, or walking, we are constantly surrounded by advertisements in our daily travels.

Companies target big, populated cities in order to market their products and services using the mass transportation that commuters and tourists endlessly use. But hey, it’s a smart marketing move!

Those who have been to London likely traveled on or at least know about the incredible underground system that commuters, residents, and visitors benefit from daily. After spending a full semester in London taking the subway (known across the pond as the “tube”), I realized the New York City subway system could not quite compare. While the NYC subway zips around the city effectively, avoiding the tourist congestion and constant traffic on the streets, the clean, attractive, and simple tube system makes the underground experience a little more pleasant.

As a study-abroad student, the tube was part of my daily commute. It became an exceptional way to observe British people, learn the underground landscape of the city, and get a unique glimpse of what’s going on in London by looking at the wide array of advertisements displayed. There are abundant print ads displayed all over the tube stations, however the digital ads for London shows, upcoming movies and traveling opportunities along the escalators are what really caught my eye.

I was urged to see Wicked, Jersey Boys, Spamalot, and more by the digital advertisements singing at me on the wall every day. It was hilarious! Here is an amazing example of the recent advertising in the Oxford Circus tube station for The Great Gatsby––it’s incredible!

Commuting to school on the tube became a huge part of my experience in London. While most commutes can be slow and boring, the advertisements displayed on the tube made my 25-minute ride entertaining. I became such a regular that I even got my own tube stop!

Just kidding––that tube stop existed before me––but here are some pictures from my experience. Enjoy!

Big Ben with the London Eye peeking out in the background

Big Ben with the London Eye peeking out in the background

Classic red phone booth outside St Pancras International

Author: Liz Baron

Learn to Accept “No”

Everyone will be told “No” in his or her life, and work is no exception. We all have put a lot of thought into a change we would like to see, a project we would like to pursue, or a new way to make the workday more efficient. Weeks were spent forming proposals, setting up meetings, and mustering the courage to ask for the opportunity to pitch the idea. Finally, we’re up against upper management with our proposal and … the response is underwhelming. We leave, defeated and wondering what happened. What do we do now? How do we handle the word everyone has feared since he or she first heard it as a child?

1) Don’t take it personally. “No” might feel like a rejection of you as a person, but “No” is often just a rejection of the proposal and has little to do with you. There are often other powers at work––the proposal may not be in line with the company’s interests or plan for the future, or it might just be unfortunate timing.

2) Expect it to come. Someone will always say “No.” You can never appeal to everyone. The expectation of receiving a “No” shouldn’t ever deter you from trying––in fact, quite the opposite. It should fuel you to consistently strive to build the best-constructed proposal you can. You should always try your hardest, but brace yourself for disappointment.

3) Adjust if needed. Oftentimes a proposal is in need of revision and will be considered again at a later date. This might make you think the idea was not good enough, that it should end at the initial rejection. And you would be partly correct. The idea, as it stands, was not good enough. But if suggestions were given, adjust your current proposal. If no suggestions were given, ask for some, along with a chance to present again. Suggestions offer an opportunity to improve as well as validation that your idea may have merit and could be useful in the future.

4) Learn from it. With every “No” comes a piece of knowledge. Is there more to the company than you knew? Do your presentation skills need work? Does public speaking frighten you? Or was your idea really as good as you thought it was? Ask yourself, or one of the people you presented to, what you could do to improve. Each “No” can turn into a learning experience.

Hearing “No” repeatedly can be disheartening and infuriating, but remember that you can’t get angry. Always thank your audience and make sure you don’t throw away a future opportunity by being upset. Don’t give up. You are no worse off than when you started out, and a positive impression can be made without your proposal making it through.

Author: Zack Smith