If you can dream it, you can build it. You can build a business, a new skill, and a new partnership.
As the founder and principal of JHL Solutions in Minneapolis, Juli Lassow is responsible for helping businesses evaluate and redefine their sourcing structures. She is committed to the belief that to truly thrive, product businesses must be powered by amazing supplier partnerships, which share their business values. Lassow is passionate about developing partnerships and is known for delivering sourcing strategies that enhance profit, execution and collaboration.
Prior to launching JHL Solutions, Juli gained a deep understanding of merchandising, sourcing, and analytics – both locally and abroad – through 17 years in progressive leadership roles at the Target Corporation, the second largest retailer in the U.S.
Her extensive experience and proven track record has allowed her to cultivate a unique approach to developing sustainable strategies and innovative solutions, through consulting or coaching engagements, as well as seminars and training sessions.
When not supporting her clients, you can find Juli exploring the Twin Cities and Minnesota with her family – enjoying the lake, a great campsite, just-opened eatery or nearest trail. She loves to be out and about, enjoying all that MN has to offer.
Where did the idea for JHL Solutions come from?
I’ve grown up in the retail industry. Right now, there is a lot of change going on in retail. Retailers are incredibly focused on navigating that change and developing amazing products and experiences for their customers. They have less time to dedicate to their supplier partners – existing and potential. As a result, fewer great partnerships are being formed, and the ones that are often do not get off to a smooth start.
I saw an opportunity to help get retailers and suppliers back on the same page and speaking the same language. I help retailers find, interview, and partner with the best supplier partners. Also, I help suppliers prepare and be ready to work with retailers that are the best partners for them.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I set an intention for each day: The work I’ll be doing. The clients I’ll be meeting. The skills I’ll be building. Every day starts with focusing on the key goals I have for the day and how I want to show up to achieve them.
Throughout the day, I’ve prioritized the activities that will most serve my clients and my business, as part of my weekly, 30- and 90-day plans.
Beyond that – every day is different. I like to say that I ‘office out of my backpack’ and work where I can have the most impact – on site with a client, at the library, coffee shop or out of my home.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I strike a balance between going after the ideas that I feel passionate about supporting and what I hear from my partners as their top pain points. If I can make life easier for the clients that I love to serve, I want to do that.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Bringing in the right support, for the right opportunity, for the right length of time. Call it the ‘gig economy,’ the ‘Hollywood economy,’ or something else. I love the idea of providing the maximum amount of value to my clients and then moving on to the next big challenge.
This concept also applies to the production of consumer goods. I love the trend towards local and just-in-time production. The potential benefits to the retailer’s bottom line and the environment are striking.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am doing an incredible amount of writing, which I enjoy. However, I found that I am not a fast copy-editor. My first draft comes together quickly, but I take a ton of time to polish and refine. So I use the Hemingway app and Grammarly to proof for content, readability, and grammar. It gets me from the ‘draft’ phase to ‘published’ in about 10% of the time.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If you can dream it, you can build it. You can build a business, a new skill, and a new partnership. The filter that I use now is that if something resonates with me and is of value to my clients and their customers, I’ll find a way to make it happen.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The US will triple its domestic production of consumer goods in the next two years.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
As part of my annual goal setting, I set goals for my development. I focus on what growth in my skill set will best serve my clients and my business.
This year, my goals are all about communicating more effectively. I am investing in courses, coaching, and technology that make me a stronger written and spoken communicator.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Getting clear on whom I wanted to support and how I wanted to help them was vital to launching my business. I needed to make it easy for someone to hear my pitch and respond to it by saying, “I need that” or “I know someone that needs that.”
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I started, I had an idea of the business that I wanted to build and the value that I wanted to deliver. When I first started networking, I was so focused on developing credibility and sharing my idea, that I didn’t seek out insights from prospective clients. Now, I focus on learning more about what challenges that my ideal partners are facing and then I find ways that I can support them.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I have two school-age children. I am continually updating our virtual family calendar with reminders and appointments that are sent to me from teachers, coaches, school leadership, and others.
I would love a one-stop-shop social media calendar service for the school that allows me to forward reminders to our calendar about what the kids need to bring to school/practice that day, as well as necessary details about the time and location of activities.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The registration fee for an annual business forum, organized by some fantastic female founders in my area. Great opportunities for networking, development, and learning.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
In addition to the copy-editing tools I mentioned above, I’d say Quick Books Online. I hear so many small business owners lament that managing their bookkeeping and invoicing is so painful. QBO makes managing my finances a breeze.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Brain Audit, By Sean D’Souza – it’s an excellent overview of how to build and turbo-charge your sales and marketing strategies.
What is your favorite quote?
“Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.”
- Set business and development goals. Measure your progress against them.
- Know the pain points of your ideal customers. Find ways to fix them.
- Validate your assumptions and ask for feedback.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.