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Party City | Julie Roehm: How to Know it's the Right Fit

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

This is the Authentic Avenue podcast episode featuring Dana Marineau, Chief Marketing Officer of Rakuten, with host Adam Conner.

This is a link you can use to find Authentic Avenue, a marketing podcast hosted by Adam Conner, on Apple Podcasts. Remember to subscribe, rate, and review!

Break out the balloons for today's episode of Authentic Avenue.

My guest is Julie Roehm, the Chief Marketing and Experience Officer of Party City. I was particularly interested in talking with Julie not just because of her rich background across brands (including within auto, which is a current interest of mine), but because of her dual role. While I've interviewed plenty of CMOs, Julie didn't start out as that -- but rather, as CXO.

(She was also Chief Storyteller at SAP. Another role I'd never heard before.)

Today we talk about a number of things, like how Julie joining the team amidst a number of new leadership arrivals impacted her seat at the table, the importance of experience, and how to look for good culture.

It was that last point where most of my interest as the interviewer resided. We talk about what makes a good fit, and how to tell early on that fit simply isn't there.

Enjoy! Full transcript below.



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FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW: (powered by AI; 100% accuracy not guaranteed; provided by Descript)

Adam Conner: [00:00:00] You're going to want to break out the balloons for today's podcast. And that's all I'll say about it. I'm not going to make any party puns, nothing like that. So if you thought I was going to do it, I'm not okay. Sorry to ruin the party. Nope said I wouldn't do it. Let's just move on. This is today's Authentic Avenue.

Party City: pretty self-explanatory, your one-stop shop for everything celebration. My guest today is Julie Roehm. She's their chief marketing and experience officer, which made me particularly interested in talking with her. Not because I talk to CMOs all the time, but because this is one of the few I've chatted with, she's also had a rich history across different brands, including within auto, which is a current.

Industry of interest for me and other roles she's had, including chief storyteller just made me curious to hear her story today. We talk about a number of things like how Julie joined the Party City team amidst a number of new leadership arrivals and how that affected her relative seat at the table.

The importance of experience that being her job and how to look for good culture and particularly how to walk away from a company. When you see that there isn't. A good fit. That was something that was particularly of interest to me and might be to you as well. A great conversation today in which I just think Julie lays it on the table.

She says what she thinks. And I like that. I think you will too. So without further ado, let's let her do some more talking. I'll get out of the way and let you listen in. As I get real with Party City and Julie Roehm. Hey, Julie, how you doing?

Julie Roehm: [00:01:36] Hi, I'm doing great. Thank you. How are you?

Adam Conner: [00:01:39] Doing very well. I'm glad that you are here.

It's an interesting role that you've got and state of the current business, not only because of the times, but because of what's going on at Party City. I want to talk about all of that. And of course get around to that final, a word that I pursue so heavily on this show, but let's start at the very top, which is your interaction with Party City.

You came into the fold at the very end of 2019. What brought you there?

Julie Roehm: [00:02:09] Yeah, well, you know, as all, I think it's all good stories go, not by the direct path. So

Adam Conner: [00:02:17] Very good. Let let's navigate the curves here.

Julie Roehm: [00:02:19] So, um, so it started off, I was an undergrad. I went to engineering school at Purdue. I became a civil engineer, but I really didn't enjoy it.

I actually worked for Bristol-Myers Squibb for two years as part of a co-op program. And I could do it. I just didn't really like it, but I loved the business meetings. So I thought, well, maybe I'll just. I'll try my hand at business schools. So I applied to business schools and I got into the university of Chicago and I immediately started,

Adam Conner: [00:02:44] Well that's a pretty great school.

Did you just say, oh, I think I'll do business school. I mean, that's a top top school.

Julie Roehm: [00:02:49] Well, thank you. It's one that is challenging for sure. But I always had this bent that like, you know, go big or go home kind of thing where I was like, let's just go the best. And if you can't get in the best you work your way until you can get in there.

And of course, then I was like, well, I'll just apply to the top business schools and. You know, luckily the university of Chicago accepted me and I got there thinking, well, I'm going to be a finance major because of course I'm super quantitative and math and science. And it just took one finance course for me to decide I absolutely was not going to do that.

You know? So I started to take strategy classes and negotiations classes and marketing classes. And while I was there, they had a class that was called new products lab, where you had to commit to being. In the class for two quarters for six months and you would be grouped in a team and then assigned to a company.

And so the company that we were assigned to my team was American airlines. So we were charged with trying to come up with a new product for their frequent business flyer. And, um, I actually really enjoyed that and ended up, um, was one of two people that they asked to come back and be an intern that summer.

And. So I interned there and I, you know, was, was really, really fun. I knew that I was onto something and kind of the strategy and, um, marketing angle. There was enough quantitative science in me to not want to go to a marketing or strategy role that was, was super traditional marketing. I E like CPG, and it's never felt right to me, what felt right.

Was sort of that marketing in a more manufacturing or operational type of company. And so that led me to Ford motor company. And loved it. I was the brand manager for the Ford focus, launched that in the United States for the first time. And then, you know, it was, was more common. So I did a lot of really fun things, but when the, my seventh year came around, it was really my sixth year.

Probably it was the year, 2000. That was the year. That year 2000 was the year that Daimler. So Daimler Benz, Mercedes bought Chrysler, um, and it became Daimler Chrysler. And so the Daimler team, uh, kind of poached a guy who is been a longtime friend and mentor his name's, Jim Shreyer from Ford to be their EVP of marketing sales and service.

And then he in turn, about six months later, brought over two of us. And I was obviously one of those two and I started in June of oh one. And my job was, was the, uh, director of. Marketing communications for the Dodge brand. Now, when I got to Chrysler, the Dodge brand is not what you guys know of it today.

Back in 2001, the Dodge brand was the logo or the tagline was dodged different. The spokesperson was the actor, ed Herman. And if you've seen at Herman you'll you'll know him, he was funny. Have you seen the 1980s movie, the lost boys? Like he was the,

Adam Conner: [00:05:38] I've been a NASCAR fan for a long time. So Dodge, the 2002 Dodge in 2001 was very interesting to me, uh, as, as it might not be to a lot of others.

Julie Roehm: [00:05:44] Yes. So I manage that part of the sports marketing. Yeah, I got a lot of time in the pits and with those, yeah, that was a, that was a different school. I got a lot of experience.

Adam Conner: [00:05:56] Wow, so you got to meet Bill Elliott and Evernham and all those guys.

Julie Roehm: [00:05:58] Yes. Well, Ray, because he had the Dodge team. So now I have no idea what your audience is, but they could get, they could be tuning up.

It was super fun. Ray was a great guy. I love. And the drivers, I was, it was really, really fun actually. Um, So we, yeah, that was, that was sort of what we did. We changed the logo. We changed the brand tagline to grab life by the horns. I always say it's not as though, you know, me or the team that I was working with or the agency, which, who was great, that we created something brand new.

I always say that what we did is we just took a look at the historical fact about what Dodge was built for back in the sixties and we just dusted off. And so part of what we did in the rebranding of the Dodge brand was not just the tagline. And kind of trying to change it from being book-smart to more street smart, which is really much more core to its heritage.

But we, we also brought back the Hemi engine and we put it in the Ram truck and we just redesigned the front end of the grand Chuck. And I could go on and on about the auto days, I have a lot of passion and love for, for my years there, but I left there and early oh six and went to Walmart as their SVP of marcomm marketing communications.

And. After having been in the auto fur industry for over a dozen years, um, to go and take a brand at the time, it was still doing like the smiley face. And, you know, they didn't have as much of the personality in the brand. I think that they have today. Um, and I just felt like there was no place to go, but up, and it was super exciting.

Um, even though the company obviously was super successful even then. And, um, it just ended up that despite. Maybe all of those factors. And there were interested in me doing things differently and taking risks and trying to grow, you know, in oh six was just especially towards the end of oh six. That was the tip of the, you know, of the big economic recession that we went through.

And there was a lot of those factors in play. I think a large factor is my personal culture and personality combined with, you know, the one that is the Walmart culture and it just, wasn't a good match. And that's where I've kind of. Um, adopted a quote that I had heard once that culture eats strategy for lunch, and I just believe it's true and it wasn't, uh, it wasn't successful by any stretch of the imagination in terms of what you might read or see.

But I, I tend to be an optimist and I try to see the positive, despite it being a really painful experience, posts, post Walmart, you learn so much about yourself and if you can choose to learn from it and they put it that way and see where, who you are and what's important and what's important and how you define success.

I think there's, there's no greater gift. And as a result, I ended up with my own consulting firm for five years. I would never have done that. In a traditional sense, but never have planned that out. Um, but I had my own company for five years and then I went on to work at SAP again. Totally crazy. Didn't know when bill McDermott, who's a CEO then called and asked me to come over.

We talked for many years before I agreed and. To come over was that I didn't even know what ERP stood for. I was like, I don't even know what this is you're trying to sell or what, you know, and it took a long conversation and I really was a little reluctant, not only because maybe it wasn't a comfort zone in terms of the, what I always think you can figure that out, but because of just making sure it's like once bitten, twice shy, it was very much.

Being uncomfortable with not knowing enough about a culture and not being able to be a part of it because everybody through an interview process, it's, you know, everybody's on their best behavior. And so you never really get to see or feel the cultural until you're in it. And so I was just, I was just super guarded, but took on that and glad that I did and loved my, I spent five years at SAP.

Really it was chief storyteller and the SVP strategic relationships.

Adam Conner: [00:09:38] I couldn't help, but notice that role. It's very cool world, Chief Storyteller, almost like prescient, like before its time,

Julie Roehm: [00:09:44] I would love to take credit for the title, but bill McDermott, the CEO that he actually gave me the title when we were talking, I was consulting and I was flying back from California.

Reading the USA today. I always say I read the people's paper, cause that was like, you could tell, you know, kind of the beat of the world. And he was being interviewed by the USA today. And they had asked him the first question, which is normal question is what is it bill that SAP does? And he answered by saying, look, we are, you know, we are the technology behind some of your favorite brands, apple, Sony, Nike Disney.

And, you know, kind of went on and I remember emailing him right then in the plane and saying bill so great. Congratulations. Again, love that. You're on the front page of the money section of the USA today versus, you know, the vertical trades. I think it's really great to get your story out there. I said, but I'm super embarrassed to tell you that after five years of talking to you, I was kind of hoping that you were going to kind of give the seventh grade answer of what it is that SAP did.

And I would finally really truly understand it. I'm kind of embarrassed to say that, but you kind of left me hanging because I still don't know after reading this article, why my service product or experience is better because they run your technology. I said, I just feel like you're missing the opportunity to be the, the modern day Intel inside.

That's when he immediately wrote back and he was like, Julie, will you be my chief storyteller? And I thought he was kidding. And I said, you know, I'm here happy to chat with you anytime. And he said, no, no. When you land, please call. And I did. And he said, come consult. We've been talking a long time, just consult for a month and let's see what happens.

And we did. And by the end of that month, which was October, um, he asked me to come on full-time as chief storyteller. So I started January 1st of 12. And, um, like I said, did that for five years. Absolutely loved it. And then one of my great friends, best friends of all time from who'd she'd been with me in the auto industry.

And, you know, as auto women, we kind of stick together. There's a group of us. I went back there. Weren't a lot of us earlier in the day, but, um, she, she was CEO of another company and this one was called Abra auto body and glass, which is an automotive collision chain in the U S. And so she reached out and she's like, Hey, do you want to come BC?

COO? I was like, you know, absolutely. Cause what could be the next best step forward? Given my career path was about to go to a little known auto body collision shop and be their CMO.

Adam Conner: [00:12:00] That's a little bit of irony there in that, but I'm guessing there's more to it than that.

Julie Roehm: [00:12:05] Yeah. I say it tongue in cheek because it's it, you know, it wasn't about this goes back to my earlier point about that definition of success for me, the point of my life trails and trials and tribulations was less about success as being the title, you know, the fame of the articles or the being asked to be keynote here and there, or even the money.

Although I do. Like to be paid for what I do, but it was less about all those things and more about loving what you do and being able to feel like you make a difference. And maybe that just comes with age. Um, I don't know if I would have said that early on, but, um, I, you know, that was, it was really exciting because it felt like a Harvard business case in the making.

So, you know, the thing with the autobody collision, if anybody's had to get their car and I mean like body shop, not Pepboys or that kind of thing, but like a true body shop, that's what these were. And you know, if you think about it, it is the most, it's like one of the only industries. And I, I, I have put some thought into this that has totally been bypassed by the digital.

Revolution. I mean, totally. The only other industry I could think of that maybe was also bypassed was the dry cleaning chains. I mean, that was literally the end, even they might, but I mean, it's, it's really something because you've got, you're probably the second, most expensive, if not the most, for many people thing that they will ever own, that they're probably in some sort of traumatic event, right.

That they need this, you know, probably not in every case, but probably that they need to have. This body repair. And so what do we do to make that easy? Well, you have to call your insurance agent, your surgeon agent. Can't tell you where to go. They can only give you a list of companies. You have to then choose from one of those and call all of them because there is no way online to be able to make an appointment or get an estimate.

You must do this like analog. You have to then bring your car over and let them look at it. Wait for them to call you with an estimate. Then, if you drop it off, you leave it there. And then you sit by your phone in this traumatic time and waiting and hoping that the guy who you dropped this off with, who doesn't look like a guy, you might want to entrust your car to necessarily in many cases, I'm stereotyping a bit.

Um, and, and hoping that you get a call back. And it just seemed ridiculous to me that in this day and age, When I can know I can order my pizza online. I can know when they're applying the pepperoni, how many minutes are left in the oven when it's being boxed and watch it as the car is driving towards me via an app that I can't know anything digitally about a car repair.

And so this was what was exciting. I thought this was going to be like a really great opportunity to, to just make a major impact, even if in an industry that doesn't get a lot of attention or is as big as many others. And that's what we did. We kinda got a bunch of people together that we'd all worked with before that we knew.

And it was just the most joyous work experience of my life. I think up until this one that I'm in right now, frankly, and I don't say that I wouldn't, I wouldn't have said it if it wasn't true, I just would have glossed over and I promise you I'm not disingenuous that way, but. The truly, it was a wonderful experience.

And we were able to do such great things that were just none of a groundbreaking breaking. I mean, this technology has existed. This was off the shelf stuff. We just, we just took the time to put a customer experience, journey, map in place and to see how people went through, where people were falling off.

What kind of communication they wanted. When did they want it to, what depth did they want it? To be able to see the vehicle, those kinds of things. And we, you know, we, and the team that I was working with, we were helped to transform this company and we were able to turn it around and sell it in 18 months.

And I was asked to stay on as, um, one of the team members to help to integrate the companies. And we were the original team from Ambra as we were, um, selling to caliber and integrating. We were out to dinner, kind of having a celebration dinner. And we were with our board as well. And one of our board members, one of he was an independent board member, his name's nor Matthews.

He pulled me aside and said, Hey, would you be interested in going to a. Public company again. And I said, you know, I guess sure. And he's like, well, I'm chairman of Party City. And she liked to take a look. I don't know. So, um, you know, I had conversations with the CEO at the time. It was, they were all clear that he was, they were looking for his replacement.

He was intending to retire. He was going to join the board, but I wasn't, again, living true to my culture. Eats strategy for lunch was not about to jump into anything where I wasn't super sure that the CEO and the people that I was going to work with, that I had a strong chemistry with, and that we could again be really productive as a team and feel good about coming to work every day.

And so the new CEO started Brad Weston in August of 19, had many conversations. Um, kind of explain what a chief experience officer did. Uh, you know, from my experience and I started in December of 19 as the chief experience officer, uh, just before the pandemic, but the entire team is largely new, new CEO.

The chief new chief merchants started the month before me. I started, we had a new head of HR that started several months before Brad. We had a new CFO start in February. We then have a new CIO. Um, you know, so it's just, it's been a real. Transformation. And, um, but that's kinda got me here. And, and in April of last year, I was also made chief marketing officer.

So took on a lot of the digital and the website and all of that. And so we've been, we've been really working there. Our mission is to go from just being the seller party goods to the provider of the total experience, because most people don't know, we actually manufacture 80% of what we sell. And 50 to 60% of the party goods you'll buy and other party Isles we probably make.

And so we're just working to actually transform the company to be able to deliver on what we can deliver on, but also to truly integrate this company and unlock this potential that hasn't really been on lock. Cause we've really largely been, you know, integrated more on paper than in practice. And so that's, that's our goal.

Adam Conner: [00:17:51] I do want to ask about the experience side.

In just a second, one quick question. I do have on this most recent role, and by the way, a very rich history leading up to it is that now you're in a position where the team came together around you, or maybe you joined it, but all very new. Now it's my interpretation, just from what I saw in the market.

And whether it be from looking at it from the marketing side or otherwise that sometimes. It has historically been difficult for the CMO or the CEO or this new CEO role I'm talking to experience, uh, to get as strong a seat at the table when it comes to devising plans and having initiatives, when compared to let's say, uh, the realism and practicality from the CFOs share most of this exec team being new.

Do you think that makes your seat at the table stronger by default? And if not, Can you talk to me a little bit more about how strongly you scrutinized the culture before joining?

Julie Roehm: [00:18:49] Wow, it's super. I love the question. Um, and I, you know, as many podcasts interviews that I've done, I don't think I've been asked that one.

So kudos.

Adam Conner: [00:18:57] Let's go! Okay. Got to put that in. I'll put that in my cap. Thank you.

Julie Roehm: [00:19:01] I love that question. Actually. It's a super interesting question. Um, so, you know, interestingly enough, I think part of it comes. Uh, so the C this, the role that I play, not CEO, but I called them. We'd do the CXO. So it was not to be confused with, so I'm the CXO and CMO is I think because Brad, in this case, Brad being our CEO, he is so.

Customer first, he has a great marketing sensibility about him, but not trying to be, he's not a micromanager by any suggestion. Um, he's, he's very, you know, he's very interested. He's super inquisitive. He's curious. He has questions, but he's also really supportive. Um, and I, and I think because of his real appreciation, love of marketing, I think particularly he's, he's got a real bent for CRM, which is much more the quantitative like sex, less sexy version, but yet.

The super important version of marketing that kind of is the fuel for everything else. The success of the rest of the marketing platforms. He has been a massive, like, you know, I don't think, you know, I don't want to speak too much for him, but free my, like really pushing the sort of CXO role and what we do.

I think he would have told you absolutely understood that the customer journey mapping, but the, the extent that, which we brought it here and the quantitative mapping of the journey versus the emotional mapping only. Um, I think has been a new, has been new for him and for actually everybody in the company and one that has really paid dividends in terms of helping to shift the culture, to be more customer first, to be more, can be done and to help us truly focus in the areas that are most relevant to our customer.

And are going to have the biggest bang for the buck, because we know it in the process of a transformation. One of the kisses of death is that is just trying to do everything all at once. And so a journey mapping exercise really allows you to yes. See all of the ugly, ugly warts, but find where the biggest ones are, and really then hone in on those and tackle those before you move on.

And so I think it's because of. The quantitative and look in the retail world, the two retail worlds that I've lived in largely merchants typically are the ones who rule the day and the merchandising team here historically had been definitely the defacto voice of the table, if you will. But in this case, I think because we were all relatively new, kind of going to your, your, you know, point, we all kind of came in and were in support of one another.

And I think because of the personalities and that sort of culture, There was nobody who felt like they were more than the other. Like every, there there's no doubt in every one of our mind that none of us can be successful without the support and help of the other. So everything that I would like to say that is my purview to help, to, to manage and to drive and to lead marketing, digital call center, customer experience CRM.

Like you can all media, you pick all of those. The web, none of it is possible if I don't have the proper it support. If our supply chain isn't working, if the merchant team doesn't have a great merchandising plan so that we can be successful with the pricing with our CFO, allowing me to, you know, to try to make different changes in terms of our media and, and.

You know, finance plan, um, and budgeting plan that our CFO then has to help to manage, you know, for our overall earnings and expectations. And it, you know, it goes our legal, my God, you know, nothing, you know, thank God for legal right. Keeps that our contracts clean. I could go on and on literally throughout the organization, operationally in the store.

What we do affects every employee in the store and employee experience is paramount because if you don't have a strong employee experience, there's almost no chance you're going to have a great customer experience. And so that knowledge and just me sort of rattling that off from my chair is I think the same thing that whether you were.

The, you know, in this case, John who is running, you know, the, he's the chief commercial officer now with the merchants and the wholesale and the operations or Jason who's running supply chain or mark who's running it. I, all of them would say, I think the same thing, but just mentioned my team in the way that I've mentioned there's in terms of ensuring success.

And I think that that is, that's sort of the beautiful thing that Brad has, should take credit for in terms of finding the right people and the right cultural fit first. In terms of personalities and how you work together as a strong and knowledgeable, but also not. So, um, you know, not so blinded by your own abilities that you're, you're not open to other points of view or collaboration or partnership.

And so we, it is a Yugo Wego type of culture. And so we're very much, you know, we even like, if things go wrong and it's like, oh, this isn't happening in the store. Well, that's not just the store's problem. That's all of our issue. What are we all doing to help make that easier for the store? Um, and so that whole cultural piece is very much, I think a driver of a, none of us having a greater, you know, to your point chair at the table, there's no head of that.

It's a round table. And in, in practice, um, as, you know, in practice as much as, as from a physical perspective and, um, you know, I think the other is that there's, there is a great willingness for us to win and for us to see the opportunity and the unlock here. That we're also excited that we're just to, to be able to unleash joy because our mission is to make joy easy.

Um, that we're we're, we, it is really just jump in and help the others win. And it's again, I was being very genuine when I said that this has been the best working relationship so far of my career, and I didn't think he was going to get better than the last one, because it was people that I knew. And it was just so easy.

This has been really positive and collaborative.

Adam Conner: [00:24:40] I'm glad. I do have one more brief question on the culture, but I'll hold it because of something that you just said. Of course, the mission today, as you've just noted is to make joy easy. I want to ask a little bit about that CXO role in combination with the C M O a role.

And you've talked a little bit to date about how a Party City manages the manufacturing, uh, and the sell-through, uh, the majority of it. So I guess to boil this question, cause I could go on for like a minute or more explaining it. How does one really make joy easy in your

Julie Roehm: [00:25:12] world, hopefully easily. Um, um, let me tell you how we're not making it easy right now to show you kind of what we're doing to make it easy.

And I think it'll make sense. Okay. So first of all, balloons, we are the largest manufacturer of Mylar balloons. So those foil balloons that you see, um, we are the largest seller of them, but, you know, grocery stores sell them and most of them are probably purchasing from us as well. But. There are anagram, which is the company that makes them.

But one of the truisms, I think that we could all agree. Anybody who's purchased balloons is that one, there's a lot of complexity because unlike flowers, you know, you typically want a number. If it's a birthday or to say happy anniversary or congratulations or what, like, so there's very personalizable elements to a balloon bouquet that's maybe different than a flower bouquet.

So you've got that. Already that complexity of needing to have take, you know, many people will take something off the shelf, like a bungled balloons or a single balloon, but the majority of people want that plus that sort of customizable unique component. Right. And so you think about the need to, you're adding complexity now because AI got a ton of choices.

How do I make it easy to be able to, to see the select, the one maybe bundle of the, sort of the generic happy birthday grouping. But then I want that one special thing. That's either got the initials of my friend or the number of their birth date or whatever that thing is. That's going to make it unique and stand out.

How do I make it easy for them to find that, to put it together, to visualize it, especially when you think about whether you've gone to a Party City store and you see that wall, I mean, and it is a massive wall. The balloons, like from floor to ceiling, basically, or on the website pages and pages of choices, it becomes a little like the.

I always say like the cheesecake factory menu, which is almost overwhelming, it's almost too much realizing, um, how do, how do we take that away so that it's not that hard. It does become easy to see what you want to understand what you want to pull that forward, to make it easy for you to bundle it together, to visualize it, to choose if you want helium or not.

And then to not only check out, but to get it to you because there's the kicker. You think about delivery in our world and you can get almost everything delivered, especially, gosh, especially pandemic. Now, everything is truly being delivered. And we were no exception. We actually started same day delivery during the pandemic.

Um, actually in late April, I called my old, old auto days called Hertz. Knew some people there were like, Hey, you guys are probably not renting a lot of cars during the pandemic. Would you like to join this? Uh, Join us in, in a new business case and help us deliver parties is particularly balloons. And they jumped in.

They're not doing it anymore, but they did for like the first 10 months, which is super fantastic. But delivering balloons is not only convenient. It's kind of essential because if you have ever gone and tried to get a big group of balloons, a big bunk bouquet, a bundle of balloons, and if you've got something short of a, my case, a Jeep or a minivan or some big SUV, it's kind of a struggle to get those balloons in your car.

God bless them. People with the Prius's who are trying to jam a bunch of okays in there, because it is a, it is no easy feat. And so what we're talking about with the easy is not just the actual shopping experience. It is. But it's also that delivery. Um, when you think about mom for birthday, she's got so many pieces.

And again, this comes to us wanting to provide the entire experience and not just the individual skews or items, she's thinking about the whole thing, but not only is she thinking and shopping for the whole party experience, she's then having to plan out how to get those things to the location she's having the party.

So you've got the, you know, you've got the balloons, you've got the cake, you got the plates and the favors and all those things. But the thing is that the cake and the balloons are perishable goods, right. They don't last forever. A plate might, but the others won't. And so you have to time everything out.

And so that kind of making it easy component is one understanding that journey that she's on from the inspiration of the, I know there's something coming up. What is it that I want to do for how many people. Helping her imagine it, which by the way, we're not doing great right now, but we're building it.

And I'm very excited about what's coming this year, by the way, I'm visualizing it. And then thinking through how to get it to her, even if it's not all at once, if you breaking it down in pieces in the way that she wants it with as little stress as possible again, in one click, one fell swoop where we think ahead for her, all of those, all of those components, the, the stuff, as well as the delivery.

The setup, in some cases we're doing, we've got a party planning team, so we can actually help you imagine and put it together all the way through to we are, we have a vision and we're working on it to be able to include a type of marketplace where we can have everything else, that things that even we don't sell directly, things like you need a bouncy castle or a magician or a caterer or a musician or a cleanup crew.

Um, those are the components that we're looking to truly get end to end. And if you could come in, one-stop shop this. Put it all together have helped have a professional party planner, you know, not, you don't have to be a millionaire to have, you don't have to have a lot of money. In most cases, it's free to you to help you put it together and visualize it, and then to get it to your door without you ever having to leave or make another phone, call that in my definition would be easy.

And that's what we're seeing the customers saying is what easy would look like too. And so that is our quest.

Adam Conner: [00:30:42] Gosh, when you think about that future state of making it easy, I mean, you you've laid it out really clearly here that making it's sort of like you had to write a novel to get to the poem. You know what I mean?

Where you had to do a lot to get there, but I'm glad that you're putting in the groundwork. So that ultimately when we get into later in this year, which I'll ask about in a second people start to reflect that. Um, so I'm glad that you started that with like, well, here's how it's not easy because I think.

That there's value in talking about that. Um,

Julie Roehm: [00:31:13] for sure. A long way to go look, it, wouldn't it be a transformation if we'd already had that figured out. So, and I'm a sucker for transformation and that, so it wouldn't have been any fun if it would have been all figured out already.

Adam Conner: [00:31:23] True. Very true. Before I ask about '21, I want to ask the first of two questions, um, around advice.

The first one is probably a little more tangible than the second. The second is one that I tend to do every episode, but the first one is about. Going back to culture for just a second, because you've told me even off this call, but I think it's clear through it that if you don't like the culture somewhere, you walk culture, eats strategy for lunch, all that we've said here, and you've even noted in your history to this point, there'd been some times where it's been a great, great, great fit, and sometimes where it's been not so great.

Well, people just, as they are looking to carve out their own avenues to authenticity, you're also trying to find those fits and cut from those when they aren't the best fit, how. Do you find those red flags or rather, maybe I should ask, how can somebody look out for those kinds of things? Are there sort of markers that you have assessed over time?

Which have let you know that, Hey, I bet this isn't going to be the best fit a little bit down.

Julie Roehm: [00:32:22] Yeah. You know, I have a lot of it. I have taken from the knowledge and I've benefited from the experience of others, but, you know, there's the, there's the. Do you remember the Malcolm? I'm sure you've met the Malcolm Gladwell books and it was like, of course tipping point was the big one, but the third one was Blink.

Adam Conner: [00:32:42] I have read. Thank you. Let's talk about it.

Julie Roehm: [00:32:46] When you think about blame for those people on the, who are listening, who haven't read it, it's all of his books by the way, are very easy to read and they're short. So they're, you know, I recommend them, um, especially if you've got a little downtime in this pandemic, but blink is kind of about those blink moments and it reflects on.

Um, I'm not going to do it. Justice in Malcolm Gladwell probably would spend just to know that I'm just going to try this paraphrase in a sentence, what he put together in that book. But what I took away from it, my takeaway was the blink moments. Are those moments when you, you feel something you kind of are sure of it, even on a subconscious level before you start to analyze it in your brain, those moments are the ones that are probably correct.

We tend to have those blink moments. And then we let our, you know, our higher level brains sort of manipulate and analyze and tear it apart. And we, we, you know, especially, I know I can convince yourselves to do something the complete opposite of where your instinct was. And I find that the blink moments when it comes to culture are the ones that I have learned.

To rely on most. And what I say that is, it's not sometimes it's profound and sometimes not, but if you, if you wake up in the morning and you've got anxiety and I look that doesn't mean that there's, I look, it's not for me to say, even though I love my job and I love being here in everything I do that I don't wake up with anxiety periodically about something.

Look, we're presenting to the board I'm anxious about, of course, I'm not suggesting that. But anxiety because of you, you feel fear or you're, you know, is something more in Nate that is less about trying to be the best you can and do the best you can and more about feeling sort of, you know, I don't want to make it to Machiavelli, but to feel sort of, as though things are closing in on you that you, you, you don't know where you stand, you don't know how you feel like there's.

That for me is a blink moment. And I'm not suggesting that if you have that you should turn and cut and run, but I'm suggesting that you should not ignore that. And that, that, that feeling is something that you should explore. And my, my best advice that I didn't take myself early on that I, I take now and I try to give to others is when I say don't ignore it.

I don't mean just, just don't think about it and acknowledge it to yourself. I mean, talk to your. Talk to others about it. Talk to your significant other, your spouse or whoever, talk to your best friend. You know, somebody that you can kind of talk to your mentor. If you have one and then go talk to your boss.

I just find the direct path is often the best path, because in some cases that anxiety is founded and in most cases it's not most cases. It's not, you will go and you will find that there's a totally different reason, but we, we out of wanting to not be difficult or. You know, wanting to be professional or not trying to cause it be, you know, be the one who sounds like they're complaining or whatever, or hard to deal with that we end up holding that back and those things fester and they fester not only within you, but there is a, there's an intangible sort of, uh, you know, or that comes about that.

Other people see whether it's in just the slightest facial tic or expression or energy level in a meeting. And it becomes. Real. And it creates a tension that eventually can be large and create a lot of negativity, whereas it could have been nipped in the bud early and addressed immediately. And again, like I said, my, I believe probably 85 to 90% can be dealt with quickly and you will end up being able to find a happy place, but in those 10%, maybe I, you know, and I'm making that up.

I have no statistical guide for this, but I'm going to call it 10% of the cases where it's real and it's true. That gives you a chance to address and deal with it in an amicable positive way before things get so negative where it becomes contentious and there's hard feelings and, you know, arguments and, you know, lawyers, all the rest of those kinds of things.

Um, that's, that's, that's kind of what I mean by culture is that you've in a workplace. And I think especially now in this pandemic, I just think it's more relevant now than ever. It's so much harder to have that. I think we'll put it this way. I think it's much easier to have that feeling of uncertainty in a zoom, um, work culture than in a personal work culture, because you aren't able to be around people.

You pick up on things because they're the only clues that you can pick up on and it's easy to take and absorb them in a way maybe that they weren't necessarily intended. Um, and partially because we're all living in a more stressful world, I think anyway, but. Um, that that is where it's most important, I think to have open dialogue.

And if it's, by the way, in an environment where open dialogue, isn't really something that's encouraged or, you know, appreciated. That might be a signal for you as well. I mean, some people like they would prefer to lock that down and that's fine, but I think the majority of us, it's a healthier place to be able to talk about it's like any relationship, marriage or children or whatever friends, like you let those things, like don't go to sleep angry with your spouse.

I think that kind of the same is true for work. You can't let it Buster too long, you know, you just got to, and you can talk about it in a very civil, like, you know what I was feeling this. Is there something I'm missing. I'm just, it's such an easy thing to say for me to say, but if you can actually do it a it's a lift off of the person's shoulders and B, you're going to get a real answer that I think is going to give you clarity.

I'm not necessarily sure. It will always give you a peace of mind because you may not like the answer, but at least you'll have clarity and clarity, I think is the thing that we, we need to get in that really helps to define culture. It's that unknown that we let sort of rift that creates that, that not only hurts your personal culture, but actually can bring an entire corporate culture down.

If that's led to kind of grow.

Adam Conner: [00:38:46] That's really thoughtful feedback. And by the way, listeners, if you're interested in books like that, like Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I also read Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow similar. Um, although slightly longer, I believe in length. Got two more questions for you, Julie.

Uh, both quick, actually the first one quick, maybe the first one's fast and the second one, a slow first 1, 20 21 is that the year the parties make a comeback,

Julie Roehm: [00:39:08] Baby, I'm hoping it pent up. Party's the term of the year party demand. Let's hope this summer. That's my plan. So I'm, I'm hopeful and positive and.

I think I'm onto something by saying we've all got a lot of pent up party in us.

Adam Conner: [00:39:22] Looking forward to seeing what comes of that. Uh, hopefully you will as well, both from what's around you as well as how the business performance, which I'm sure will be great. Secondly, here's the other advice, questions when I ask most of my guests, but, uh, it's because you guys have knowledge that others really don't in this specific area, which is that our listeners are always on the hunt to figure out ways to eliminate their brands or their own.

Personal truth. I call this on the show, their avenues to authenticity. What are they for any given person or any given business? Now you've been able to do that for a number of businesses, at least over the last 20 years. Have we talked about from Dodge all the way through to today, and even prior to that, and I'm curious what advice you might have to those who might be at the beginning of that sort of journey, somebody who might emulate your story, um, what advice you might be able to give to them on how to find their own personal truth and their own avenues to authenticity.

I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say about that.

Julie Roehm: [00:40:15] Yeah. It kind of goes back to that culture piece that I was saying that blink moment a little bit out of my guess is, you know, we always, and I, now I've got a 22 year old or 19 year old, so you can see it in them. And, um, it it's that it's that the belief that you can do anything in some cases.

And then the other is then the. The letting too much information come in and God knows we have too much information flowing into us and available to us now, um, that can kind of stop and Steiny you, and you know, to some extent, and this is by no, I had no intention of bringing this up, but it's a little bit of why I do my own, my own podcast.

It's called the conversational. I think I shared with you. What I do is I interview other people that I have met through my career who are super successful. And I interview them because I want them to share their story, not, not their business story so much, but their personal story, because I've never met a person who laid out a plan for their future and their career.

And they are where they are, because the plan that they laid out the 20 years before went accordingly and got them exactly where they are. Boom, like Mike dropped just how I set it up. They worked is fine. I'm not there probably are people like that. I have never met them and I've met a lot of great successful people.

And the point is, is that every one of us run into these holy ship moments or Hashimoto's in our lives. And it is those moments kind of blink moments, right. That where we, we can then say we pack it in. Like, okay. I failed. It's horrible. I sh you know, I'm a failure, I guess that's not meant to be, I should do something totally different, or you look at it and you're like, okay, I'm gonna take this and I'm gonna learn from it.

And I'm like pivot slightly, but I'm not giving up. And I'd like people to hear those stories so that they're inspired to not give up. And I, I say that because it is your, you just asked me this question about your culture. It is that it is the, you know, Using, like having a point of view in a drink, it doesn't mean that you're going to like, you know, I got the dream to be whatever president, if you don't under being president, what is it that motivated you to get there?

It's that sort of self-introspection of what is, why was I wanting to do that? I wanted to be serviced. I'm going to be of service to people. What kind of people for doing what kind of thing? Like you can start to peel that back and then find out kind of what is your true self and what really inspires you and makes you happy.

And listening to that feedback from others and not listening so much to the negativity to pull you back. Um, but instead of using that to ask new questions, to be able to explore perhaps a slightly different adjunct, you know, tributary to that river, if you will, versus assuming that you have to flow down the main path and that's the that's that's for me, the, the culture.

And that's, that's why, you know, from my perspective, I always had a belief that I could, I could do what I could do. What I learned over time is I can't do it well and be happy if I'm not in a culture that works for me. And I also know that I can do a lot of things in a lot of different industries. Um, again, as long as culture is there and the right kind of support structure and infrastructure is there and that I love a transformation.

I thrive on that challenge. And I've got people in friends I know who hate that they absolutely hate that sort of uncertainty and that, and that's the, that those are the things that I think you just have to start, stop, take time and do self-assessments on, and then move accordingly. Not to just be compare lies and stop in your tracks, but to really take every success and every failure and to really be introspective for a minute.

And I'm not suggesting a race to go into deep therapy. But let's take a minute, you know, and think about it and really understand yourself, what is this? And what is it that I liked? What is it that I learned? And then, and then try again, because you know, it is true that we, the failures are where we learn the most in life.

And so I use them as a gift and an opportunity to be able to, to understand my personal culture and then, you know, kind of getting to my earlier point, my own definition of success, because I think the idea that success is defined as stature and power and money. Is a bad definition

Adam Conner: [00:44:28] Listeners: hear these words, and then go tune into some more, the conversational podcast by Julie Ram available on apple and all other major directories.

You can find more stories just like this from people who have walked paths similar to Juul. Although there are plenty there that have their own twists and turns and for sharing some of those twists and turns in your story today, Julie, thank you for briefly bringing the party to us and I can't wait to see what happens this year.

Hopefully many parties to come, but for now I appreciate the time.

Julie Roehm: [00:44:58] Thank you. Appreciated being here.

Adam Conner: [00:45:00] Man. Oh man. Am I hoping for any parties this year? And I know we're all stopped when I need to stock up for. Julie, in the meantime,, thank you for your story. And for telling us a little bit more about your life and especially about your thoughts on culture.

I thought that was great. Of course you, the listener, I hope you enjoyed what you heard and that you enjoy listening to this podcast in general. If you do, here's what you can do next subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen to leave a rating and review. That's great, but also follow me on social.

LinkedIn, mostly Authentic Avenue where we're just over 200 followers and myself as well. Adam Conner. And you can email me to If your business is thinking about getting in to audio content for any purpose, I know a heck of a lot about that, and I can help you out for now.

I'll let you go until next week. And until then, this is your host, Adam Conner saying until I get real again with you. Thanks for taking a walk with me. Down Authentic Avenue.


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