My Time In India

If you have been following us on FB you know that I was invited by Working Mother Magazine to come to India and stage the first ever Best Companies for Woman in India award ceremony.

I’m back, still a bit jet lagged, still taking my malaria pills and still sorting through my experiences.  That sort has become an interesting journey, particularly in light of the situation in which our own nation finds itself.  I’d like to share some thoughts.

 As I met and worked with my Indian counterparts I began to think about my definition of an emerging nation.  What did that really mean?  At its most basic, I have come to believe it is not about industry and finance, but about the heart of a people, their industry, their ingenuity, their will to move forward.  No country can emerge, with a stable base, without the support of the people.  In a country with such a dense population the people are indeed the greatest resource and it works best when the people themselves understand that and know how to use it.

In India this is no where more in evidence than in the laundry people who collect, wash, dry, iron and return 150 lbs. of laundry per person a day.   They do all this without using traditional reading or writing.  The same is true of the lunchbox people, (I want to recommend the movie, The Lunchbox) who are part of a delivery system that collects hot food in lunch boxes from the residences of workers (in many cases several hours away from the city) in the late morning, delivers the lunches to the workplace, using bicycles and the railway trains, and returns the empty boxes to the worker's residence that afternoon.   It is estimated that 175,000 to 220,000 lunches a day are moved by 4,500 people with seldom a mistake – and no help from technology!

I began to wonder.   Are we not still a developing nation ourselves and have we lost sight of that?  I look at our inability to pass equal pay for equal work and I wonder what that is really about?  We have been fighting this battle for as long as I can remember – literally and I’m old!  As I look at India’s entrepreneurial spirit I am reminded of the thousands of us that went to work to create work for ourselves and others when we were “downsized” from the corporate world in the 1990’s.  Rea and I are proud of the work we have created not only for ourselves but many others.  Have we lost sight of the impact one person (or in our case two) can have on the lives of others and a nation?   That brings me to the second Indian lesson I learned.

You may not be aware that 8 of the most influential people in banking in India are women.  I recently heard the story of five of them.  They were mentored by one man who decided that when he retired as head of one of India’s top banks a woman should be given the opportunity to replace him.  He set out to mentor 5 women he felt capable of achieving that level of expertise.  When the time came to retire his successor was one of those 5 women.  Eventually the other four were named heads of other banks.  One man’s action is helping change the face of a nation.  I’m still thinking about that one.  A shout out to the men who have joined the Men as Allies movement in our country.

The Journey

Part of maturing and expanding a business is realizing when your image doesn’t quite reflect you anymore and it’s time to reinvent. How do great businesses build a better brand while maintaining the core values and mission that reflect their past and look ahead to the future? As we took a good long look at where LilyGild came from, we realized that a fresh brand, including a new website is the next stage in the evolution of our business. As we reviewed our former website we realized it wasn’t us anymore. How did we get here? That’s a GREAT question…

Every great journey starts somewhere and LilyGild is no different. Our friendship started over, what else? An unforgettable event. We were both in a mutual friend’s wedding and ended up sitting next to each other at the reception dinner. Five years later we realized our friendship also made for a great partnership. Rea already had a successful Murder Mystery Troupe, Foul Play Players but together both of us had a greater vision. Over Labor Day weekend in 1990, we formed a business plan for what would be the beginnings of LilyGild LTD. Combining our theatrical and corporate backgrounds, we designed three products that we labeled “Business Theatre.”

We kicked Murder Mysteries up a notch by making them interactive with participants playing roles and interacting with the characters. All the action took place on stage and they were solvable if you watched, listened and asked the right questions. The only time they were completely successfully solved with all the clues was by a team of Army MPs. That was pretty exciting! We reached into our backyard and put together a team of writers who were able to integrate corporate messaging in an entertaining and memorable way: “Comedy To Go.” Two of our most memorable experiences were writing safety briefings for DuPont and a “Who’s On First” sketch introducing the new CEO for KPMG. Our third product was centered on team building: “Treasure Hunts and Truck Murders.”

In 1991 LilyGild rebranded, and we both committed to the long haul of opening our doors for not only creative and dramatic content but technical support as well. We focused on promoting a unified brand, strong customer service, while promoting a unique identity in the meeting space. We cut our teeth in the financial industry working with Chase Manhattan Bank through three mergers and Schwab Capital Markets. We became masters at innovative Town Halls and producing Meetings In A Box. We moved on to work all over the US staging client and C-level meetings where we became instrumental in helping present content in new and fresh ways. The result? LilyGild stepped up to be a full-scale creative communication and event production company that did what few other companies do. Listen.

Over the years we have developed a diverse client base, both corporate and non-profit, and built many strategic alliances. Those partners share the same ethical and professional values that are the core of our business philosophy. We embrace a flexible work schedule that allows for family time, client time and even beat a crushing cancer diagnosis long before companies embraced these trends. We wanted a business that not only do we love owning, but a place people would love being an employee at. We built a company that reflects our personal business philosophy: always treat people the way we wanted to be treated, find exciting and challenging projects and to continually grow personally and professionally. Those rules stand today in both our mission and hiring guidelines.

Here at LilyGild we don’t just build events; we create enterprising experiences. We like to think what makes us different is not necessarily how we started, but where we’ve been and where we’re going. Because we know that experience is what drives change. And people are what drive your business.