For a Miami entrepreneur, uniform describes both a product line and a lifestyle.
Lely Barea, owner of Ibiley Uniforms, achieves efficiency by demanding uniformity in everything in her life, including her wardrobe, communications with employees, and store design. Here's how she does it:
1. KEEP IT UNIFORM. What sounds like a slogan for Ibiley Uniforms is also the watchword on which Barea orders her life. She's an apostle of standardization (her corporate idols are Walt Disney and McDonald's), so the Bareas have designed their stores to be identical, right down to the location of the pink highlighter pen on each cash register. Barea has also equipped all 24 of her reports with identical cell phones. (Her children use one too.) That way, when she has something to tell more than one person, she snatches up the device, presses a preprogrammed button, and broadcasts her message to her warehouse managers or her retail managers or the entire staff. The phones, which cost about $200 a pop, have also improved communication among Ibiley's managers.
Barea's passion for uniformity extends to her personal life: she dresses her three girls identically and thus cuts down on time spent shopping and rummaging through closets in the morning. That tactic also makes it easier to spot the kids from a ski lift in Aspen or in a crowd at Disney World.
2. TRAVEL LIGHT. Barea refuses to waste time looking for things, so she's minimized the number of places those things can be. She has no home office; and since she spends so much time tooling around Miami, she keeps the files she needs each day in the car. A master delegator, she is proud of her ability to push much of the paperwork off her plate. And everything that can be stored electronically goes into her Zaurus, which she sometimes takes to bed with her to catch up on the day's activities.
Barea doesn't even carry a briefcase (although for Mother's Day, Eddy bought her one, a subject of some contention), opting instead for an astonishingly small purse that she tucks under her arm "like a schoolgirl." The cell phone is either stuffed into the purse or hooked to her belt, depending on the day's outfit.
3. DO IT NOW. One reason Barea is able to travel light is that she refuses to let things accumulate. The file holder on her desk is labeled "Do It Now." It begins filling up at 8 a.m. but is almost always empty again by the end of the day.
The minute something occurs to Barea, she gets on the radio or the cell phone. On a store visit, Barea notices that one employee is not wearing the uniform (white polo shirt, checkered apron, blue shorts) mandated for temporary help. After a brief discussion with the store manager, she's back in the car and on the radio with Nuñez, asking him to remind the other managers about the dress code. "Don't ever leave things for later," Barea says.
This story was adapted from "A Wise Consistency," an article in the September 1998 issue of Inc. Technology Magazine.