I am a CEO. Of my House.


It wasn’t my dream to be an executive. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a doctor. When I was a teenager I wanted to be a sports journalist. I also knew that I wanted to be a Mom. Little did I know that one day I would be a CEO – not of a retail company or a non-profit organization, but of my house. That’s right, my house. I am a CEO, the Chief Executive Officer, of my house.

I attained my first executive position at a very young age, on June 25, 1998. It was the day I married David. We moved to France, where David was fortunate to get his first engineering job working with his brother-in-law. We lived in a sweet little house in a small village. I would say that was my first foray into executive leadership. I didn’t have a traditional job, but I worked. I ran my first household. It was a small business, with few needs and demands. But it kept me busy, as I learned how to live away from my parents, how to cook and how to live life with another person.

I was promoted through the executive ranks over the next 8 years, as we moved our home from France to Israel to New York and back to Toronto. I had achieved the title of Senior Vice-President by 2006. In June of that year I learned that I was pregnant with our first child and accepted the role to be CEO of our household. In March of 2007 I was formally installed into my position of CEO – Chief Executive Officer – of my house.

Our family of four, the day we moved out of our old house
Our excited kids three years ago, on the day we moved into our current house

I will admit the first three paragraphs of today’s post are a bit tongue and cheek. But I am trying to make a point. I really am the CEO of my house. I run a very busy household that includes five members, ranging in age from 1 to 44. Each person has a unique schedule, a unique role and unique responsibilities. And I’m in charge of making sure it all runs smoothly. I strategically consider everything each member of the family needs, and I carefully make plans to achieve success. I am not just a wife and mother – I am the leader of the family. I am the CEO.

Since Matthew was born 10 ½ years ago, I have held this position on a full-time basis, on and off, for just under three years. For the other seven plus years, I have also had a job in the general workforce. But why isn’t CEO of my house on my resume? Am I ashamed of the 9 months I was a full-time CEO of my home when Matthew was a baby, the 11 months when Julia was a baby and year that Nessa was an infant?

I have been a CEO for over ten years and have gained valuable skills during that time. Here is a list of some of them:

  • I have experience managing people – I currently lead four people
  • Multi-tasking – I can make dinner, help the kids with homework and tidy the living room at the same time
  • Budgeting – running a household can be an expensive endeavor, and it is important that funds are available to pay the bills, buy groceries and save for the future
  • Passion – okay this is not a skill, but it’s something I have. I love my family and am deeply committed to helping them be successful in life
  • Strategic communication – this skill is key in the successful leadership of a household. Language and tone must be carefully considered every day. Whether it is calming down a 2-year-old throwing a tantrum in a grocery store to a 10-year-old who refuses to go to bed at night, a strategic approach to how one communications can be the difference between success and failure.

Right now, my resume includes many skills and leadership roles of which I am very proud, including my years as a student, as a journalist and a communications professional. Maybe I shouldl add one more section to my “professional experience” – CEO, of my house.

Are we too Tech Savvy?

tech savvy

We live in the Technology Age. If you look back through history, there was the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Middle Ages, even the Machine Age and Space Age, to name a few. For me, what defines the Age we live in today is our reliance on information and computerization of everything we do. To succeed, do we need to be tech savvy?

When I was a child, you knew a tech savvy household if your friend owned an Atari or a Commodore 64 computer. I remember my amazement, back in 1987 when my brother got his first computer. I think it was a DOS-based operating system. A short time later my father brought home our family’s first laptop. All I remember is that it was a 286. I couldn’t tell you any more than that.

tech savvy

My brother also had a Sega video game system and a Gameboy. We were one of the first homes on the block to get a VCR and later a flat-screen TV. I will never forget the first time my mother used our car phone – a behemoth that she shook in the air on the highway sometimes to let some rude driver know that SHE had a direct line to the police in her car because she had a car phone.

tech savvy

But these devices did not define us. No doubt we enjoyed those early computers, video game systems and technology toys, but we did not rely on them. Life was, in some ways, manually operated. But not today.

For example, my son is working with a partner from his class on a presentation for school. They need to prepare a 3-5-minute presentation on a particular topic. Their teacher told them that how they present is up to them When I was ten years-old and wanted to be creative, I put on a skit in front of my class or I used a combination of construction paper, scissors and glue.

But these two, tech savvy fifth graders, would have none of that. I watched and listened in amazement as they planned out a power point presentation, which will include a short video (that they will shoot and edit with an iPad) followed by a quiz for the class. In less than two hours they put together said power point presentation (video is coming soon), and I almost deleted it when I tried to press save. My son clearly knows more about power point than I do!

Julia, at maybe two years old, showed her grandmother the basics how to swipe through an iPad and how to get into her favourite app of the time, Angry Birds. Nessa, at 16-months old, deftly touches the FaceTime app on the iPad so she can enjoy late-night chats with my mother. When I was that age all I had was a plastic Fisher Price telephone. And if I wanted to get in touch with my grandparents when I was ten years old, it was an expensive long-distance call or a personally written letter – using that same construction paper.

Okay, so children are tech savvy and from a young age know their way around computers, tablets and smartphones. Millennials could teach me a thing or two about how to properly leverage social media. But what about my generation – known as Generation X? Are we tech savvy now? Have we gone from construction paper and Fisher Price phones to email and texts?

I would say, yes, we have. I don’t know if most of us are tech savvy, but we are definitely tech reliant. And I think we are too tech reliant.

In my last job, and in my current consulting work in communications, I receive too many emails. I also send too many emails. If the person is sitting 30 feet away from me, wouldn’t it be easier to stand up to ask him or her my question? Or I could  pick up a phone and call versus sending a lengthy email? If I have a great idea and want to share it with a group, do I have another option than a multi visual power point presentation?

When people applied for jobs decades ago, they didn’t have LinkedIn. Human resources professionals did not have databases where they could type in key words that would be pulled from a pile of 100 resumes that had been uploaded to a website. Job searching and employee hiring was definitely more manual, and maybe it was also more time consuming. But it was more personal. A human resource professional or a hiring manager often read through all the resumes. The only option to follow up on a job application was to pick up the phone and have a conversation. Was that better, or maybe it was worse? It was definitely different.

When I send an email today – to my mother, to my friend, to my work colleague or to a potential employer – will that person see that email, in the hundreds that person may receive on any given day? Will the person read the email? Will that person reply to me? Do I rely too much on that email to determine my fate? Maybe I should pick up the telephone more often, or knock on my friend’s door.

Am I too tech savvy? No. Maybe I should be, or at least I should be with respect to some parts of my life. The Technology Age is here, and it’s not going away anytime soon. I love this blog, and I love that technology has given me an avenue to express my musings. I love that social media has given me a tool to amplify my blog and to share moments and photos instantaneously. But I also want to be careful and not rely too much on technology. I want to retain some of my manually operated nature and the personal interactions that go with it.

My Greatest Asset is Passion Capital

passion capital

Have you ever walked into a party, a meeting, an event or a conference by yourself and felt nervous, almost afraid, to walk through the door? It’s almost like the feeling that a child has on his or her first day of school. That first step in the door is so hard, but once you are inside and have met a few people you realize there is no reason to worry. You are welcomed, you feel comfortable and you know you are in the right place. This happened to me this week when I attended a conference and came home at the end of the day after learning that my greatest asset is Passion Capital.

I sat in a room all day with like-minded individuals, who are leaders in both Corporate Canada and the non-profit sector. We listened, learned and discussed purpose-led business strategies. The speakers discussed the importance of corporate citizenship and making meaningful connections with customers, employees and the community.

All morning I listened intently, as I nodded my head in agreement. I shook people’s hands and introduced myself as a professional who believes in purposeful communication. Then I heard Paul Alofs give a keynote address after lunch. His topic: passion capital.

Paul described passion capital as the combination of “energy + intensity + sustainability to succeed.” He explained the seven building blocks to achieving passion capital, and #3 affected me deeply: courage.

In order to affect change, any kind of change, we must have courage. It’s not a word I have ever heard before at a meeting, at a conference or any part of my professional life. If I want to dedicate myself to find ways for profit and purpose to meet, I need the courage to bring about change. But I learned that I can’t do that on my own.

If I am to be part of a movement to change Corporate Canada I need to align myself with courageous leaders. These leaders need to step up and speak out in support of purpose. These leaders, as I learned from another speaker, need to be in the business of doing good and not just in business and doing good.

The people I met, the workshops I attended and the speakers I listened to opened my mind to passion capital, and they showed me that it’s my greatest asset. Success in business does not only come from intellectual, financial or human capital. They need passion capital too.

I now know that my greatest asset is passion capital. I think that most people, while they do not know it yet, also possess it. We strive for purpose where we work, where we shop, what we buy and how we raise our children. But if we want to affect change, and I mean real change, we need the courage to take the first step.

Do High Heeled Shoes Define a Woman?

high heeled

I still watch the TV show Grey’s Anatomy (can you believe it’s already the 14th season?). In this season’s opening episode, the Chief of Surgery, Dr. Miranda Bailey, struggled with high heeled shoes. More specifically, she didn’t just struggle with actually wearing them but also with what they mean to women. It was a well-written storyline, produced in good-humour, and it had an impact on me, as a woman, who is exploring the next steps I take in my career.

During my 15 plus year career I have never been a high heeled woman.  What is a high heeled woman you ask? She is a professional woman who is put together, dressed elegantly every day at work, and every piece of her outfit is carefully considered and matched, down to her high heeled shoes.

My first job was at an all-sports radio station, where I was the lone female among a few dozen men. Jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of running shoes was considered dressed up for work. I fit in with the guys, earned their respect and was more than happy to look like a hobo like the rest of them (especially when I produced the morning show and arrived at work at 4:00 am).

As I moved along my career path, into television then communications I made myself over and dressed accordingly based on my workplace. But I left the high heeled shoes at home.

Do many women feel the pressure to dress up, from head to toe, every day? Do they need to brush their hair just right, put on the right amount of make-up and slide on those high-heeled shoes? Have men put the pressure on us, or have we created this ourselves? Would a man ever consider putting on a pair of shoes in the morning that he knows are uncomfortable, that he knows he must squish his feet into?

Why do women feel compelled to wear high heeled shoes? I realize that for some people the answer is simple. You are an intelligent and successful woman, and you choose to look feminine and sophisticated, and that’s it.  Many women feel that the high heeled shoe is part of the required uniform for a female in the professional world. Her feet hurt and sometimes her toes and ankles will blister, but damn, she looks good.  No man would ever stand for that.

I did an experiment Thursday morning and wore a pair of sleek, black high-heeled shoes to work (I do own a couple of pairs). I put myself together nicely (I wouldn’t say I looked elegant or sophisticated but I looked okay!), with a light amount of make-up, casual yet professional outfit and my high heeled shoes.

My feet were already hurting as I walked from my car to the elevator. I had to take my shoes off at my desk, as I slowly began to feel my swelling feet doing all they could to escape their prison. By the time I walked back to my car hours later each of my baby toes had a red blister on them and my feet were really sore.

I did get a few compliments on my shoes and how shiny and nice they were. Sleek, high heeled shoes are often noticed and complimented at various offices I have visited. No matter how much agony they are in as they stand there, knowing their feet are enclosed in a space that really only has room for the big toe, these compliments reinforce the idea to other women that high heeled shoes are okay.

For me, they are not okay. I prefer to follow the lead of Dr. Miranda Bailey, a successful, intelligent woman at the top of her game. I am putting my high heeled shoes back in the drawer and pulling out the clogs (or flats) instead.

What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

While on a walk in our neighbourhood earlier this week, my daughter, Julia, suddenly announced to me that she has decided what she wants to be when she grows up. She said, “Mommy, I am going to be an inventor, and also a police woman.” She smiled at me and skipped along the sidewalk and didn’t say anything more about it.

The following day, in the car, Julia brought up the subject again. She told me she definitely wants to be an inventor. She said she already has a whole bunch of things she wants to invent, like a special kind of stroller and a time machine. Julia is very sure of herself and possesses a special kind of confidence and charisma that I lack. She is a little girl, who loves to play with her dolls and swing in the park. But she is also sophisticated and shows me hints of the woman she will be one day.

Julia made me think about what I wanted to be when I grew up and how my ambitions changed over the years. There are many children who know early on what they want to be when they grow up and actually do follow through. There are many children who don’t think about this at a young age but eventually find their way to success. Then there’s people like me.

When I was Julia’s age, I decided I wanted to be a doctor. I had no idea what it meant to study at medical school or be an actual physician, but through most of my childhood and teenage years I was sure of my future. As I have written in previous posts, I eventually realized that a career in medicine was not for me and switched to a career path centred on writing and communications. I have jumped around that path for many years, but at age 41, I now know I made the right choice.

It must be very hard for children and youth today to make a decision about what they want to be when they grow up. There is no job security and people are retiring at a later age and holding on to those precious few jobs. Many young people are seeing their dreams crushed when they can’t find a job or make any money with the career of their choice.

But that doesn’t mean we should not encourage our children to dream and to dream big. I remember many years ago, when my parents asked me, my brother and sister what we wanted to be when we grew up. My brother was into Lego at the time (okay he still is but that’s for another day) and answered he wanted to be an architect. I stated that I wanted to be a doctor. Then my sister, who was quite young at the time, announced that her dream was to be a cocktail waitress.

This became a family joke for a long time, but I give my parents credit. At the time, they didn’t laugh at my little sister or put her down. They simply told her, in a very sweet way, to follow her dream. My sister did not become a cocktail waitress, but she did grow up to be a successful and much admired entrepreneur who runs her own business, helps other people grow their businesses, is a busy mother to three young boys and an incredible athlete.

When Julia told me she wanted to be an inventor and a police woman I smiled at her and simply told her to follow her dream. Sure, it sounds a bit silly, but I want my daughter to be whatever she wants to be when she grows up. I want all three of my kids to be whatever they want to be when they grow up.

Little Nessa is only 15 months old, and her dream, at this point in her life, is to grow up and be just like her big brother and sister. Her pediatrician, by coincidence, shares her name. The staff are always amused when Nessa’s name is called, when Dr. Nessa treats Baby Nessa. When at the doctor this week, Dr. Nessa joked with me that she paused for a moment when Baby Nessa’s name was called. I laughed and looked at my baby and said to her, “You are not Dr. Nessa, you are just Baby Nessa.” Then it was my turn to pause, and I looked at my little baby and said to her, “But one day, you can be Dr. Nessa if that’s what you wish.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? My advice, whatever you wish.

Do you have Time Management Skills?

time management

It has been a very busy week, and I got the inspiration to write today’s blog post when I realized very late last night that I am not managing or balancing my time effectively at all (hence no blog post on Wednesday). With a husband, three children, a revolving door of houseguests and a freelance career I do not have enough hours in the day right now. Last week I asked, “Where did the Evening Go,” and this week I am asking another question about time management.

I remember when I got my first “real” job, when I was 24 years old and fresh out of graduate school. I was hired as a radio producer at an all-sports radio station. David and I had recently moved to Toronto from New York, secured a great condo in the heart of the city and by luck my job was a 2-minute walk from my front door.

I worked odd hours, with shifts often in the evenings and weekends or I filled in for the morning show or afternoon show. When I wasn’t at work, my free time was mine. Our apartment was easy to maintain and clean, grocery shopping and cooking were quick and easy and we had quite a bit of disposable income. I sometimes wondered what I would do with all my free time.

In the coming years, I secured increasingly senior jobs, bought a house and had children.  As my free time vanished and the extra cash in my bank account was depleted by my growing family I realized I had to learn some time management skills and find a way to balance my life.

Of course, life balance and time management are two different things, and today I will just focus on time. Oh time, something I just don’t have.

Who decided to put 24 hours in a day? And why only 7 days in a week? Would I manage my time better if I had, say, 26 hours every day and one extra day each week? Okay, I know I’m being silly and I am sure some rather intelligent and sophisticated people did scientific calculations to determine seconds, hours, minutes, days and weeks. Okay, so I can’t change that.

Should I sleep more? Or should I sleep less? Should I actually schedule every minute of my day so that I don’t spend too much time on any given task? Maybe I am spending too much time on some things, like grocery shopping and cooking, and not enough time doing other things, like playing with my children or (gasp!) exercising.

Because I am a freelancer now, or to make it more professional sounding, I am the sole proprietor of a business, I need to have a lot of self-discipline to ensure I secure work and then actually complete the work in a timely fashion. My hours are my own and my office is my house. And those work hours have to fit in and around my long list of other responsibilities. Some of those include caring for my children, chauffeuring my children to school, camp and activities, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. And sometimes, if I can manage it, I allow some time for myself. It all comes back to time management.

I am overwhelmed, as I believe are many other women who have a young family and a career. We represent a large percentage of the population, and no matter how proud we are of our children and how successful we are in our careers we have tremendous challenges when it comes to time management.

I welcome your comments your thoughts here, on Facebook or on Twitter. How do you manage your time? Let’s get the conversation started.

I’ve Never had Job Security. Can I Find a Job that is the Perfect Fit?

job security


Does job security exist anymore? Am I kidding myself by even asking this question? Did I ever have job security or did anyone in my generation ever really feel secure in a job? I know this is a question posed and discussed almost at infinitum, but I just can’t get it out of my head.

When my parents graduated from university a few decades ago not only did they – and their contemporaries – feel confident in getting a job, but they knew, for the most part, that the job was secure. They could grow in that job and stay there long-term if they wished.

The same is not true for me or my generation. I graduated with a Master’s degree in Journalism in 2001, with limited experience but great training in my field. It took me a few months to get an entry level job as a producer in radio, with bad pay, shift work and some long days. And I loved every minute of it. I got on the job training from some of the best in the business (sports and radio), experience as a radio producer and even some on-air reporting. When I started to gain a foothold after 16 months there, the station’s ownership changed formats and laid everyone off.

I was fortunate to have built strong professional relationships in that first job and was quickly scooped up and hired by a TV network, but losing my first real job like that has always affected me. I was the odd man (or rather woman) out in another job after returning from maternity leave with my second child, when the non-profit organization that employed me merged with other organizations and rebranded itself. Again, I jumped back on my feet, changed career paths slightly and joined the communications department of a large corporation. I gained new skills there and discovered, through that job, my passion for corporate social responsibility and my talent for raising a brand’s profile through community investment. When on maternity leave with my third child, last year, my position was eliminated and I lost my job once again.

I often ask myself, is it me? Have I done something wrong that I have had no job security in my fifteen plus years as a professional? Or is it just bad luck? Maybe I just haven’t found that perfect fit yet.

I will say it here and now – I am looking for that perfect fit. I know what I like and I know what I’m good at. I feel confident that I’m a good writer and editor. I have a knack for tackling strategic communications. I am committed to community investment and raising the profile of both for-profit and non-profit organizations. I also know that I can bring all these skills and interests together.

Can I do that through the firm I created, Kinetic Motions? Can I do that for a small, medium or large corporation? Can I do that for a community organization? Definitely. I don’t know what path I will take, but I’m excited (and yes terrified too!) to see where it goes.

Please, my loyal readers, send me your comments, questions and suggestions. Post a comment here, Tweet me @AliciaRichler, share this blog post on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or whatever format you prefer) and forward it to your friends.

Thank you for being part of my journey I look forward to see where life takes me next.