Laurel Touby on Leadership
Laurel Touby: I have to say I’m not known for my leadership. I would say I’m- I want to be a team player and I want to be able to lead a team but I’ve had a hard time with that and I’ve been told that by former employees who say, “Laurel, you have to lead in order to be a leader,” and I’m still learning that every day so I don’t know if I’m the best person. I do know that I just try to create a positive atmosphere and I try to make people feel wanted and loved at the company as well as outside of the company, and if I have any motto it’s that we love our customers, we feel that they’re our friends, so I try to tell people on staff that they have to treat the customer as they would friends. And what I’ve done is I’ve banned the word “crazy” on our staff. I don’t like anybody calling our customers crazy. I don’t care if they’re complaining and if they’re upset about something; they’re never crazy. And so that goes for everybody on staff. We try to treat each other with kindness and I feel like that’s a good way to lead but I don’t know if that’s the answer.
Question: What are the challenges of being a female CEO?
Laurel Touby: Being a female CEO has been challenging. It’s very subtle though. The sexism is subtle and you can’t always catch people at it. That’s the funny thing. You can think you are and you can hint at it and they’re hinting at other things but you’re never sure if it’s really what’s motivating them. I think that’s what’s so cruel about sexism, racism, any “isms” are everyone’s so PC today that they just kind of sublimate it and it comes out in really weird ways. It oozes out in strange ways and one of those ways is my staff members calling a customer crazy. A lot of our customers are older females and I find that sometimes one of these people will complain and they’ll be vociferous about it and one of my employees will send an e-mail out to the staff saying, “Oh, yeah. I’ve had to deal with this crazy customer.” And so that’s why I banned the word “crazy” actually was I felt it was being too inappropriately used against older females, and I am particularly sensitive to that as I age and as I’m a female and I went to Smith College.
Question: When did you know it was time to sell the company?
Laurel Touby: I knew the day that I got investors in March of 2000 that I was going to have to sell one day. The question was what day was that? And it really became a-- It became a numbers game. As soon as the company got to a certain level and it started to explode, that’s when you start to realize maybe this is worth a lot of money and we should think about selling, and so I didn’t think about that until someone approached me and said, “Hey, have you thought maybe you should sell to us? And here’s the kind of numbers we’re talking.” And that kind of got me excited so I had this number off in my mind of what I would sell for. I didn’t get that number but I came close enough that I thought it’s time to do it.
Question: How did you negotiate the sale?
Laurel Touby: Negotiating is a skill like anything else. You should read up on it. There are books all about negotiating but really it’s all about being on the spot and feeling the other person and sensing them and feeling- and going with the moment. I had my lawyer with me for the negotiation and really you just have to react quickly to the situation on the ground. It’s sort of like war. You have to be prepared to walk away at all times. You can’t get attached to the potential end result. You can’t believe that it’s really going to happen until it does and that was something my lawyer told me. He said, “Don’t think that this is going to end up where you want it to. At any moment they could walk away or you can walk away and you have to really believe that. Otherwise you’ll get attached to the outcome when it’s not even there.” It’s like counting your chickens before they’re hatched I guess.
Question: How did you choose a buyer?
Laurel Touby: I knew that I would stay with the company when it was sold but that wasn’t-- I knew that whoever bought the company had to be really smart because it’s a weird little company when you think about it. It’s a community and it’s making money and it’s doing some really phenomenal things that nobody’s ever done before so I knew if someone was smart enough to value the company they’d have to be smart enough to let us continue to do it the way we’re doing it. And so it wasn’t a big concern whether or not they would screw it up. I don’t know why but I just thought you know what. The kind of buyer who wants us isn’t going to screw it up; they can’t. And they haven’t so I’m happy with the outcome.
Recorded on: 06/26/2008
Laurel Touby discusses her role as a female CEO and the challenges of executive decisions.
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
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Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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