Monthly Archives: March 2009

What’s Your Red Shirt

I came across an interesting article today through the Treehugger newsletter, The Five Least Green Ways to Break a Sweat.  Much to my dismay, training for a distant marathon was #2 on the list.  For me, it is exciting to run races in other cities and, I hope, other countries, in the near future.  What better way to take in the sites and sounds of a location than by covering 26.2 miles on foot?  Unfortunately, being a globe-trotting marathoner is a major eco-sin.

It can be a huge challenge to balance your love of an active lifestyle with strongly held values of environmental sustainability.  Think of the impact of all the travel to far-off locations for hiking, running, biking, paddling, or climbing.    Add in all the waste generated by race events, most of which does not get recycled (something we are addressing).  Finally, top that off with the environmental consequences of the resource- and energy-intensive gear and equipment required to enjoy your active pursuits.  When you add it all up, even the most eco-conscious athlete treads pretty heavily on our planet.

When we launched Atayne, our goal was to address the gear issue.  My own bad experience with a new red performance top led me to research the safety (people and planet) of performance apparel; I learned  how destructive the current industry model is.  I felt like I had to compromise my environmental and social values, to attain my athletic goals.  I asked myself a simple question, “Do I continue to compromise my values, or do I be the change I want to see?”  Atayne (pronounced attain) was the answer to that question.

What started out as a bad experience with a red performance top has transformed into a company dedicated to inspiring positive social and environmental change through the power of active lifestyles.  One way we are fulfilling this mission is by creating high performing athletic gear that is sensitive on the planet and safe for the people who make and use it.  But to realize our vision we need to be more.  I think we need to continually create tools for the eco-active set to reduce their impact on the environment, as well as help them inspire others to do the same.

I want to end this post with a few questions in the hopes of facilitating a conversation and generating some new ideas.

  • What is your “red shirt”?  What are the environmental and social compromises you feel that you are making in your active lifestyle?
  • What part of your active lifestyle do you feel has the biggest impact on the environment?
  • What can people do to reduce their impact on the environment by engaging in the activities they love i.e. running, hiking, cycling, paddling, climbing and generally leading an active lifestyle?

If you have other thoughts, ideas, or questions outside of this list, I would love to hear them.  The more information we get from our friends, the better we can meet the needs of the Atayne community and our planet.

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Top 10 Benefits to Being a Poor Entrepreneur (Especially in a Down Economy)

If I have learned anything from my time as an entrepreneur, it is how to integrate Atayne into nearly any conversation.  Just as it is guaranteed that I will bring the conversation around to Atayne, it is equally assured that someone will eventually say, “Tough time to be starting a company.”

No doubt it is a tough time to be starting a company.  Although, is it ever really easy for the majority of us who are not children of millionaires?

But I don’t like to focus on the negative.  There are many benefits to being a poor entrepreneur, especially in a down economy.  Here is my top 10 list.

10.  Free Beer.  When people find out you recently launched a start-up, they insist on paying when you are out for beers.

9.  Most basement living is rent-free.  Since I started Atayne, I have lived in the basement of three different friends totaling almost 12 months of free rent. (Thank you all!)

8.  There is such a thing as a free lunch.  See number 10 for explanation, substitute lunch for beers.

7.  People send you random gifts.  One of my favorites is banana bread from an Atayne fan in Chicago.

6.  No need to fret on a daily basis about the 50% decline in your retirement portfolio.  Wait, what’s a retirement portfolio?

5.  Working in your pajamas.  No explanation required.

4.  You no longer have to report to that jackass who knows nothing.  You now are the jackass who knows nothing.

3.  It is hard to beat the commute from bedroom to home office, especially on rainy or snowy days.

2.  Free Beer.  It’s a good one and deserves to be mentioned twice.

1.  Zero concern of getting laid off due to corporate “right-sizing.”

For anyone who is inclined to start your own thing, it is never going to be the right time.  The economy may be the excuse now, but fear will always help you find another reason in the future.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

So, consider taking that jump; you might find happiness in some unlikely places. After all:

“Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Treat Your Customers Like Human Beings

“Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings, and they will always come back for more.”
-Leon Leonwood Bean

I grew up in an L.L. Bean family.  Of the immediate members of my family, I am the only one who has never worked for the company.  My grandmother, aunt, and father all eclipsed the 30 years of “service” mark.  I use the word service for a reason.  Dating back to its beginning, the company has been a leader in providing top-notch customer service.  Last year, L.L. Bean was rated the #2 company for customer service by Business Week.

When I started Atayne, it was in my blood to ensure we provided the best customer experience possible. It is something I think about everyday, especially, when I am on the other end of the deal – as a consumer.  I analyze how other companies handle my business and think about how I can apply any learnings to Atayne.  I get some great ideas from this, but at the same time I often discover what not to do.

Last week (2/26/09) I had another encounter with my favorite (sarcasm) airline.  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will remember that I wrote about another experience with them a few months ago.  I had pledged never to fly that airline again.

Needing to book a flight for a meeting, I decided I would use my remaining miles and save the money.  This would be my farewell flight.  I booked the flight using 50,000 miles.  When I went to check out, I realized they were going to charge me $80 to book this flight, a $25 processing fee (somewhat understandable) plus $55 for wanting to use my miles within 14 days of my trip (not so understandable).  I decided to go ahead and book anyway.  I would save close to $200 and would be able to sever my ties with the airline having used almost all my miles.

The next day I got a request to reschedule the meeting.  I knew this would lead to a nice battle with the airline.  A new date was set and I called to find out about changing my flight to 3 days later.  As the “customer service” rep prepared her response, I mouthed exactly what I knew she would say, “I can help you with that, but it will cost $150 to make the change.”

I responded, “It costs you $150 to make that change?”

As expected, she returned with, “No, that is what it will cost you.”

Not wanting to let this go, I quickly responded, “But will it cost you that much money?”

She was obviously getting irritated and said, “No, it is just our policy.”

In my mind, their policy is to try to make everyone not want to fly their airline so they can finally go out of business.  Regardless, I made the change making it clear to her that what I am paying in “processing fees” could have paid for the same flight I am taking (and earned myself a few more miles instead of using them) .  Adding insult to injury, I asked if she could email the updated itinerary to me.  Four days later, I have still not received it.  Apparently, they are waiting for me to pay another $25 to process the sending of the email.

I do have a point to this story.  How often do you think executives for this airline make a call to customer service to see how the call is handled?  I would venture to say never.  If they were treated the way they treat their customers, I guarantee they would take their business elsewhere.  So how can they even question why their revenues and stock price continue to fall?  They are losing customers.

Atayne is just a small little company trying to make it in a tough environment.  But we know one thing, treat our customers like human beings and they will come back for more.

If you have ideas on how Atayne can always deliver a world-class experience, please share.  Without happy members of the Atayne community, we are nothing more than a…well, airline going out of business.