Meet Lisa Tanzer, President of Life Is Good, Boston’s Happiest $100 Million Brand

After one year at the helm, Tanzer talks about the power and profitability of optimism in today’s uncertain economy.
lisa tanzer life is good

Courtesy of Life Is Good

The most important business lesson I’ve learned is how to pick your battles. Sharon Hartley was a senior leader at Hasbro when I was a marketing manager in the early 1990s. I was very driven to do my best, and also a bit of a perfectionist. Sharon told me to pretend that I had a jar with 10 marbles for the year, and to pick the issues that I wanted to take a stand on carefully. Is that issue worth a marble?

The best part of running a company based in Boston is the collaborative spirit of the business leaders here. The people we meet in the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds choose to work together for the common good as opposed to competing with each other. Ultimately, we feel that the people we work with are true friends. We will do what it takes to support each other, even if it doesn’t benefit us directly.

Every executive should know how to focus on the most important things. There are so many competing demands on time, and being able to sift through it all and take action on the critical items is key. It’s also important to forgive yourself for the things you can’t get to on a daily basis.

The toughest decision I have ever made was that when my kids were little, I decided to step back in my career. I always worked, but took positions that weren’t as demanding on my time and my travel, as opposed to ones that would have challenged me more. Now that my kids are in their late teens, I am so grateful that I made that decision. If you are doing things from your heart, you will never look back with regret.

Most people know the brand Life Is Good, but you’d be surprised to learn that we’re heading into our 25th anniversary and our cofounders are still very hands-on with the art and message of our products. You can often find them passionately sketching and writing on a daily basis.

My favorite place to grab lunch in Boston is Pastoral. It’s right around the corner and always delicious. I go there often for working lunches, and they cater lots of our events at the Life Is Good Tavern.

The best way to unwind after a long day of work is to hang out with family and friends without distractions.

If I could have dinner with any three people from history, living or dead, they would be Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, and Gloria Steinem. I would want to learn what drove them to be agents for change and what advice they would have for the next generation.

Honestly, there is nothing I would change about the city. I was born in Boston, went to college and grad school in Boston, and never moved. I love it here!

Life Is Good at a Glance

Founded in: 1994
Annual global sales: $100 million
Number of employees: 125
Number of kids benefited annually by the Life Is Good Kids Foundation: 1 million


Chris Sweeney Chris Sweeney, Senior Editor at Boston Magazine csweeney@bostonmagazine.com