Here’s what’s happening at AllWrite Ink:
January 2015 – How to Create a Social Media Strategy – New Workbook Now Available
December 2014 – Attend a Professional Pop-Up – Deborah Chaddock Brown presents 2015 Social Media Strategy
January 2013 – Deborah Chaddock Brown Presents “What is Your Social Media Plan for 2013?” Twinsburg Ohio Chamber luncheon.
Deborah Chaddock Brown presents “Social Media What Parents Need to Know” at the Valley Christian Academy in Aurora. November 2012
Deborah Chaddock Brown presents “Levitate Your Social Media Off the Grounds” workshop presentation at the 7th annual Kent State Entrepreneur Extravaganza Event, October 2012
Deborah Chaddock Brown Presents at Lake Communicators Luncheon, March 14, 2012
Social Media Strategy Building at Akron SMEI, October 2011
Virtual Assistants Help Entrepreneurs Grow Sales March 2011, article in the Virtual Assistants newsletter
AllWrite Ink hosts online weekly radio show, February 2011
Connect with Customers Through Social Media, February 2010
AllWrite Ink Opens Phoenix Location, September 2009
Special Report, Plain Dealer 4-18-05 (below)
PLAIN DEALER ARTICLE
Post-merger, worker finds she can enjoy life after Cole
Monday, April 18, 2005
Deborah Chaddock Brown
Special to The Plain DealerI arrived at work early last Oct. 5, dressed in a suit and ready for anything. The dress code at Cole National Corp.’s Twinsburg headquarters had been reduced to jeans over the past several months during merger talks with Luxottica Group S.p.A.
This day we were all in suits, as if expecting a communal interview.
The conference room was set for at least 100 participants, and the seats were nearly filled. This morning, Larry Pollock, chief executive and president of Cole National, stood before the directors and vice presidents to introduce the new owners.
Speculation was rampant. Would they close our building immediately? Would our office remain open forever? Would they move some of us to Cincinnati, the location of Luxottica’s North American headquarters?
Would they want me? Forget the 850 other employees. I wanted to know what was going to happen to me.
Speaking in Italian-accented English, Luxottica Executive Vice President Valerio Giocobbi welcomed us to the Luxottica family.
Family. What a coincidence he had used that word. I had been part of the Cole family for nearly 18 years, starting in 1987 as manager of the Colerain Avenue Pearle Vision store in Cincinnati.
Over the years, I worked my way up from the store level to field manager for franchise locations. I was promoted to director of corporate stores and moved my family to Twinsburg in 1999. A little over a year ago, I became the leader of the communications team for all of the optical brands of Cole Vision.
One of my treasures is the tape from my home answering machine with a recorded message from Pearle Vision’s founder, Dr. Stanley Pearle, congratulating me on the birth of my daughter.
Kerry Bradley, Luxottica’s chief operating officer, joked about our formal attire. Evidently, they had researched our dress code and, learning that we had an informal policy, Bradley had arrived in business casual.
Bradley went right into the short-term plans: The optical stores and field operations would go on as usual. Things Remembered, the gift-store division based in Highland Heights, would also remain the same. But the Twinsburg headquarters would close and operations would move to Cincinnati beginning in four months.
I had seen this coming.
Ten months earlier, on Jan. 25, 2004, I sat in the same chair when Pollock identified Luxottica as the company behind the unsolicited takeover offer made a few months earlier. I knew our days were numbered. Lenscrafters, the No. 1 optical retailer in the world, is Luxottica’s top brand and was Pearle’s biggest competition.
I went home and talked with my husband. David has moved for me five times with Pearle. This time he said, “No moving.”
Our kids are in Hudson schools. Ben enters high school next year. Emily is in second grade. David is the assistant director of the Twinsburg Public Library, which had just been ranked the No. 1 library in the country for the second year in a row. He was happy with the status quo.
I’m 47 years old, and Pearle Vision was my identity. Every year I attend the National Franchise Convention and see franchise owners from around the country. I’ve known most of them since I was single and skinny.
I had looked forward to working at the company until retiring in eight more years. So I had some issues to work out.
I started to weigh my options and talk about my situation with friends. Jeff Bissell, a friend and our accountant, is also active with the Hudson Job Search organization, which offers free counseling, networking and speakers. On my third visit, Bissell had us write down the skills we might offer on a consulting basis.
I started to see a pattern. Over the years, I had offered many talents to our franchise owners: sales training, financial analysis, merchandise management and quality assessment.
But I was the only field manager who provided my stores with a weekly newsletter. As director of new franchise stores and franchise communication, I co-wrote and facilitated a seminar series for new owners and longtime owners. I became excited – I could start my own corporate writing business, writing newsletters, speeches, brochure copy and training materials. The possibilities were endless.
Another friend, Chris Brown, a former Little Tykes executive, owns Marketing Resources and Results. It was time to pick her brain.
Her advice: Establish a company name that tells what you do. Identify your customer. Create a mission statement. Have an address separate from your home – a post office box will do. Get a separate phone line and fax number. Establish a business plan and budget. Work closely with an accountant.
She recommended that I read “Small Business Savvy,” by Norma J. Rist and Katrina Z. Jones. Taking Brown’s lead, I participated in a “How to Find the Right Customers” seminar that Rist taught, and I signed up for one of her smaller networking and support groups, called Boardrooms.
Back at Cole National, time marched on slowly. As summer approached, we still didn’t know when the sale would take place. Then a second bidder, Moulin Enterprises, offered more money for Cole. The volley between Moulin and Luxottica Retail only served to drag out the inevitable. On July 22, the Cole National board voted for Luxottica.
The same month, I formed a limited liability corporation, AllWrite Publishing, which does business as AllWrite Ink. I wanted more financial protection than a sole proprietorship could provide but didn’t want to take on partners.
I took over the den in my home, purchased a new computer system and set about creating and designing a brand image, marketing materials and a Web site, www.allwriteink.com.
I started attending meetings of the Tree City Toastmasters Club in Kent to sharpen my networking skills to achieve the Competent Toastmaster designation.
There are very few costs associated with starting a writing business, and several financial institutions offer low-interest loans and free checking for new business owners.
It was time to look for customers! I didn’t need to look any further than Chris Brown, who hired me to write a series of direct-mail letters for one of her customers.
I contacted prior business associates – could they use my services? Yes!
By the time we gathered on that fateful October day at Cole headquarters, I had a plan in place. Giacobbi’s and Bradley’s clear, honest message left us without any doubt about what our future held.
We all had jobs through Feb. 4, although many would be asked to stay longer. Luxottica honored Cole National’s severance agreement and offered additional weeks as well as health benefits. Over 25 percent of Twinsburg associates were offered the chance to relocate to Cincinnati.
Feb. 4 was the last day for the first wave of Cole headquarters associates being let go, including me. About 100 of us turned in our company ID badges and office keys. The office will remain open through July.
We walked out of the building together. The human-resources staff had hung “Good luck” signs in the second-floor window, where about 15 people stood waving farewell.
Leaving the friends you establish when working for any given company for a long time is heart-wrenching. You say that you’ll keep in touch, but it is never the same.
But I believe there is life after Pearle. I’m excited about my new business. I have the opportunity to be the master of my destiny.
In the weeks since I left, I’ve networked and met new people and gained new customers. I’ve written Web pages, press releases and even a business awards script like the Grammys.
Working on my own is certainly different from the corporate environment, but it is satisfying and fulfilling. I have faith in the future.
Chaddock Brown is president of AllWrite Ink in Hudson.