Honor Our Innovators and Nominate Them for Our Nation’s Highest Honor

February 4, 2012

Innovation is a key characteristic of our nation and critical to our current and future global leadership.  These days it is rare to attend a speech or symposium where innovation does not figure prominently in the conversation.   It’s so easy to talk about innovation.  It’s not so easy to actually develop a new product or service, commercialize it and gain the acceptance that defines the transition from invention to innovation.

Recognizing these leaders and honoring their efforts and achievements is the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Read the rest of this entry »


Making your mark on the wall

July 10, 2011

I spend a quite a bit of my time with with innovators and entrepreneurs these days.  As CEO of the Arizona BioIndustry Association or AZBio as we say, I get to connect with teams that are researching and developing products for a better world… Sustainable Health (and health care) , more plentiful food, greener energy… pretty heady stuff.  My job’s not nearly as sexy.  Here at AZBio our job is ground support, providing opportunities for them to connect and engage with each other, pulling together educational and support resources and sharing their stories.  Our job is not to change the world.  Our job at AZBIO is to support them so that they can.

 

Cartoon #5806 - 'First off, it's not a cave wall.  Secondly, I doubt any future researchers will be interested in your sister or Gozilla.'
An Andertoons Cartoon

Read the rest of this entry »


Sometimes you need that extra edge

May 31, 2011

Whether you are a beginner or a pro, when it comes to winning in the innovation game, sometimes you need that extra edge.

Sales Cartoon #5506 by Andertoons
Andertoons Sales Cartoons

Most  innovators can tell you that success is tied to a number of factors.  When they come together in the right order and with the right combinations, it can lead to a winning run.  It’s a bit like a game of pool.  Read the rest of this entry »


Success Tip: Check out the BIG Game

February 6, 2011

Today is the big day, Super Bowl XLV.  Folks will be donning green and gold or gold and black.  Friends will gather around TV sets across the country gobbling up things they know that should not eat and for this one day of the year the DVR is set not to skip the commercials, but to catch them for instant replay.

Teams have sweated and toiled.  Investing  millions for their time in the global spotlight.

Closed door meetings, strategy sessions, the big chase, and surprising twists… all come together on Super Bowl Sunday.

 

Chevy provides a behind the scenes look at the drama and strategy of creating a 2011 Super Bowl commercial.

Oh yeah, there is a football game too.

In business, every day is Game Day.

Most of us will never field a team in the world’s most  famous grid iron match up or take the leap to bet around $3 million for a 30 second spot in its commercials although GoDaddy’s Bob Parsons will gleefully tell you what they have done for his team’s business.

It’s not a bet if you know the outcome ~ Bob Parsons

As entrepreneurs, investors, leaders or teammates, success in the BIG game means that every day is game day.  Here are a few things to keep in mind as you watch from the stands or from the couch…

It starts with a coin toss – it does not end there.

Success always has en element of luck to it. Good luck may move you forward faster just as bad luck might slow you down.  But being lucky early does not ensure success. Here is a bit of Super Bowl Trivia:

The team that has won the coin toss is 19-22 all time in the Super Bowl and has lost the past 4 straight and 9 of the last 11. (source)

To win in the big game you need a great team

Don’t kid yourself.  The team with strong players, that plays well together has a definite advantage.  Great teams are balanced.  In football you can have a great quarterback, but if you have no offensive line it is unlikely that you will spend a lot of time in the end  zone and if your defense is weak, the other team will.  Successful teams have the right mix to do the whole job, not just one or two super stars intent on carrying the day.

Give the fans something to talk about.

Winning the big game is about the experience.  In football it is the thrill of the win, the roar of the  crowd and the play that fans will talk about for years to come.  In business it is the achievement of goals inside your company, the praise of customers when you deliver on your promises, and the great results  you deliver to your employees, customers, investors, and partners that keep you ahead in the game.

Innovation = Improvement

Don’t confuse flash and showmanship with innovation.  The victory dance in the end zone is not nearly as important as the fact that you got there and need to get there again to win.  Commercials are entertaining at the break, but the real win will be measured when customers walk through your door or visit your website to buy your products and services.  A bit of flash may bring them in once, but products and services that are new, different, and create value for the  customer are what will bring them back again and again.

Success is not built on just one game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers are playing in Super Bowl XLV because they won a series of games and more importantly they won when it counted.  Winning at the right time matters, just ask the Jets and the Bears. 

Football is more that a game, it’s a big business. And winning in the world of business is a game where the points are measured in value created.  Take a look at this ranking by Forbes of the most valuable NFL Teams.  You’ll need to keep searching all the way down to #14 for Green Bay and #17 to find  the stats for the Steelers.   Sustained value is a combination of smart investments, the right resources plus  a strong team in the front office, on the bench and on the field that creates long-term, sustainable value together.  Interestingly, the Redskins have one of the best track records for value creation in recent years yet they have LOST 55% of the games they played on the field. It’s not just about winning under the lights, everything matters.

So sit back and enjoy the game…

The Super Bowl is an American tradition.  You may watch it for the game, for the commercials,  or simply as a way to spend time  with family and friends.  But as you dig into that pile of chicken wings, tray of nachos or bowl of chili, keep a look out for the big game changers.  You might have something new to talk about at the office come Monday morning when all the “quarterbacks” come out.

So place your bets, rally your team, and enjoy the game.  It’s almost time for the coin toss whether the Big Game starts at 6:30pm ET on FOX or come Monday morning when you and your team take the field once again.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker


Leading by Example: Intel and us

January 27, 2011

On January 26, 2011, Intel Labs announced a $100 million cash investment in U.S. university research over the next 5 years, marking a new model of collaboration for the organization. The Funding will support a number of Intel Science and Technology Centers; the first such center will be led by Stanford University and focus on next-generation visual computing. According to the Intel Labs press release, this new model of university-lead research is expected to provide U.S. researchers with up to 5 times more funding from Intel Labs compared to the previous approach, and enable engagements across a broader set of universities.

In the video below, Justin Rattner, Intel’s chief technology officer, explains the “what” and the “why”.  For  information click here

Intel’s CTO Justin Rattner shares the vision for Intel’s new investment on science and technology with U.S. Universities.

On the same day,  Intel announced that forty high school seniors from across the country were named finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search 2011, a program of Society for Science & the Public.   You can see  more about people sharing their stories with the hope of becoming a catalyst for action and a voice for change in global education at www.inspiredbyeducation.com.

Leaders by Example

Intel has long been a strong voice in the choir of U.S. technology companies calling for a greater focus on science and technology in our schools and universities.  They are doing more that talk about it.  They put their resources behind it.   “Intel has sponsored the Intel Science Talent Search and the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair for 13 and 14 years, respectively. Because Intel views education as the foundation for innovation, over the past decade, Intel and the Intel Foundation have invested more than $1 billion and Intel employees have donated close to 3 million hours toward improving education in more than 60 countries.”photo via  AvnetTechGames.com

Here in Arizona, Avnet, Inc., the worlds largest technology distributor, sponsors the The Avnet Tech Games (ATG) an annual college technology competition that provides students with an opportunity to apply what they learn in school to real-world scenarios and compete for scholarships.

Great Examples, but I’m not a multi billion dollar company…

Most of us don’t have the luxury of billion dollar wallets and thousands of employees who can volunteer their time and talents, but that does not mean that our leading by example is any less important.  We each have skills, knowledge, and experiences we can share in the areas where we passionately lead.  Here are some more examples:

Francine Hardaway of Stealthmode Partners combined her passion and experience in entrepreneurship with a desire to help at-risk individuals find economic self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship.  By rolling up her sleeves, and recruiting many others (including me) to help both The Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation and the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conferences were created and continue to make a difference year after year.

Lon Safko’s passion is innovation.  A celebrated inventor whose work appears in the Smithsonian, Lon’s study of the evolution and innovation in social media lead to the bestselling book The Social Media Bible was volunteering his time and sharing what he knew with a gathering of Arizona teachers, so that they in turn could share with their students.

Patti Blackstaffe has a talent for helping businesses grow and a passion for helping children.  She combines these things as a volunteer to support Providence an very special place in Calgary with a mission to enhance the health and development of preschool children with disabilities & their families with early intervention and high quality health, education and therapy services within their community

Morris Callaman is an engineer,attorney, venture capitalist and  entrepreneur.  There was a time in his youth when as a teen runaway he dealt with the harsh realities of living on the street.  Today he has quietly donated his time and talents to local organizations like OTEF and St. Mary’s Food Bank as well as providing legal assistance pro bono to those who really need a hand and could never afford his services.  It’s his way of being the change he would like to see in our societies.

Gloria Feldt and Alex Barbanell believe in the power of women in changing our world.  They created and sponsor the Women of the World lecture series at Arizona State University to inspire current and future women leaders.  In addition, Gloria shared her experiences as part of a multi generational group of women leaders who took their show on the road to college campuses around the country to do the very same thing.  Today, her new book: No Excuses inspires women of all ages to use their power to lead.

See, it’s not just companies like Intel.  We can lead by example too.

Leading by example means putting your time, talent, and money where your mouth is.  It’s not just something for “them” to do.  It’s an opportunity for all of us.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

About the Joan:

Koerber-Walker-056 An entrepreneur, author, speaker and corporate advisor, Joan Koerber-Walker’s journey has spanned from corporate America to entrepreneurship and non-profits as well as to community leadership and into the halls of Washington D.C.  Her past career includes two decades on the team at  Avnet, Inc. and service as Chairman of the Board of Advisors to Parenting Arizona.  Today, she serves her community as the Chairman of the Board of the Opportunity  through  Entrepreneurship Foundation.  To learn more about how CorePurpose and the CoreAlliance can help you grow your business in 2011, you can contact her by clicking here.

CorePurpose  is a registered trademark of CorePurpose, Inc.  CoreAlliance is a  service mark of CorePurpose Inc.  All rights reserved

Dear President Obama, since you asked…

November 10, 2010

In his recent remarks on the October Jobs Report, President Obama said…

“I am open to any idea, any proposal, any way we can get the economy growing faster…”

(If you can not see the video, you can find it here on YouTube.)

Thank you for asking Mr. President, here is my list:

First and foremost, focus on the sectors that are proven job creators.

Research from the Kauffman Foundation shows that newly created and young companies are the primary drivers of job creation in the United States. Added to this, data from the Edward Lowe Foundation and their research on Second Stage Companies that shows that establishments with 10 – 100 employees and $1 million to $100 million in revenue have created the vast majority of the net new jobs over time.  (Take a look at the data at www.youreconomy.org)

So if you are looking for job growth, focus on providing early stage and second stage companies what they need – and the American people will get what they need – more jobs.

These businesses need access to capital to grow and to create jobs.

The fuel that drives job growth in these growth sectors is capital.  When there is a steady supply of capital, there is a steady supply of new jobs.  It is capital that funds innovation, that purchases resources for manufacturing and supplies the catalyst for future growth.

Where does the money come from?

The capital that fuels growth in  early stage and second stage businesses comes from the following areas – the life savings of the business owner (including IRA’s and 401K’s with penalties), credit cards of the business owner (personal or business issue), F&F (Friends and Family), Angel Investors, Private Equity/Venture Capital, SBA Loans, Traditional Lending, Public Equity Markets and most important of all CUSTOMERS. 

In addition, the capital for growth often comes from operational cut backs and efficiencies inside the business, and more often than many would think, a business owner that is forgoing a paycheck while working 60 – 70 hours a week to keep things growing until the cash flow problem gets fixed.  

So if we need capital to grow these businesses and create jobs here are some suggestions:

Life Savings and 401K’s

Forgive penalties on withdrawals from IRA’s, 401K’s, and the like made by business owners for the business or to feed their families while they personally went without wages to keep the business alive AND allow them to put the money back in when things get better again.

Credit Cards

Extend the protections in the CONSUMER CREDIT PROTECTION ACT to include credit cards and charge cards that are issued to a business IF the card is personally guaranteed by the individual card holder.  These “business cards” are actively marketed to small business owners yet do not carry the same protections as those issued to “consumers”.

Friends, Family, and Angels

After the business owner, the most common form of early stage capital infusion comes from friends, family and Angel investors.  Interestingly these are the same people that will be adversely affected if the Bush Tax cuts are not renewed AND these are often the same people that are paying the lion’s share of taxes already.  It is critically important the that Bush Tax Cuts be made permanent.  The goal should not be to have a few people pay more – the goal needs to be stimulate job growth so that more people can pay something!

Private Equity and Venture Capital

Private Equity and Venture Capital have played major roles in the growth spurts of high growth and high potential companies.  These American businesses and private investors invest in American businesses and can be a supercharger on our growth engine.  Lynn Tilton, chairman  and founder of Patriarch Partners, traveled to Washington with a plan to help companies and spur job growth based on a proven model that she uses in her own companies.  This process is so unique that the US Patent Office issued a patent for it.  (Click to view Lynn Tilton’s patent.)

Administrator Karen Mills and her team at the SBA are making real progress with the expansion of the SBIC program but wouldn’t it be great to have more leaders and investors involved in this effort to create a lasting solution? Perhaps it time to take another look at her proposed SME Rescue Loan Plan or perhaps give her a call.

Tax breaks for small businesses

Mr. President, you often speak of your support of tax breaks for small business. Any tax break that allows businesses of any size to reinvest in the business and create more jobs is a good thing.  BUT, it is important to remember the tax breaks only benefit companies that are making profits to pay taxes on.  Many of the companies that will grow and create jobs now and in the future are investing ahead of the curve and are not yet profitable.  For these companies, a tax break is an empty promise. 

Instead perhaps a good idea would be tax breaks, tax credits, or other incentives for private equity and angel investors to motivate more of them to get out of the “parking lot” they are currently in and put their money to work in businesses that are creating jobs.  The American people have invested in Wall Street Bailouts, Cash for Clunkers, and credits for energy efficient appliances.  Perhaps its time we invested in American investors who are putting their hard earned money into American businesses.

Promoting innovation

Innovation is my personal passion.  My definition of innovation is simple.  Innovation is doing something in a new way that makes life better.  Just as we as business owners, investors and innovators need to focus on changes that make things better – we need you to do the same in Washington.  This includes:

  • Reversing the provision in the Healthcare Bill that will require all businesses to file a 1099 for EVERY supplier over $600.   At a time when you need us to run faster, you are tying our ankles together with red tape.  I know that Congress is the team that needs to fix this problem – but could you whisper in their ear?
  • Cut down on the red tape in general.  From an ever growing list of regulations on how we get things done to a multitude of forms in triplicate or worse when we do business with government agencies, it is getting harder to do business when we need it to get easier. 
  • Work with Congress to fully support the SBIR program on an ongoing basis instead of continually placing Band-Aid on it to keep it going.  According to the NSBA,  “small R&D companies employ 38 percent of all scientists and engineers in America. This is more than all U.S. universities and more than all large businesses. Furthermore, these small companies produce five times as many patents per dollar as large companies and 20 times as many as universities—and more small-business innovations are commercialized. Yet small companies receive only 4.3 percent of the federal government’s R&D dollars. The SBIR program provides more than half of this amount.”  Here’s a suggested innovation – set a permanent requirement to allocate government innovation contacts and  SBIR awards to small business based on the proportionate share of innovators they employ.  If we generate results like these at just over 4%, just imagine what would happen if we had almost 40^% to work with. 
  • Create a fast track program for new technologies and innovations moving from Phase I to Phase II contracts with government agencies.   With today’s backlog, some very promising companies and the technologies they have created could disappear due to delays that in some cases have been more than a year.
  • Drive innovation within the US Patent Office to take the costs out of what we need to do to protect American innovation.  Many small businesses can not afford the cost, time and expense as it is.  And for many of them, a patent is a of little value since most small businesses can not afford the cost to defend it.  (Small business patents are being violated on a regular basis and the response from big business is “sue me” when they well know that the small business could never afford to go the distance or carry the burden hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in legal fees.)

So Mr. President, you asked for suggestions.  These are mine.  I don’t know if you will ever see them, but I truly hope that someone on your team is listening.  We’re all in this together after all.

Sincerely,

Joan Koerber-Walker

 

About the author:

Joan Koerber-Walker, MBA is a small business owner and an angel investor who makes her home in Phoenix, Arizona.  As a blogger she has personally interviewed Lynn Tilton on several occasions and has personally worked with Patriarch Partners and its portfolio companies and seen the results of what the Patriarch process can do first hand.  In addition she is a past CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association and  a past member of the board of trustees for the National Small Business Association. During that time she met with and shared ideas with hundreds of small businesses and second stage companies on key issues including health care, workforce development, regulation, taxation, and access to capital.  She currently serves the small business community as a volunteer ambassador for SCORE in Phoenix, Arizona, as chairman of the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation and as co-chair of the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conferences (AZEC10) which will gather together over 300 entrepreneurs, small business owners and investors together to share ideas, connect, and hit the “reset” button on their businesses on November 17, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.

To contact Joan Koerber-Walker, click here.


Health Care Legislation on the Brink. Maybe it’s time for … Innovation and Change We Can Agree On

January 20, 2010

Watching the Massachusetts Senatorial election results yesterday, started me thinking back to the Presidential campaign of not so long ago… 

back in the days when BOTH candidates campaigned on themes of CHANGE. 

If we look back on President Obama’s first year in office, few would argue that it has been a Year of Change.  But most would agree, that in one way or another, it was also a year fraught with disagreements across many sectors.  The election of Scott Brown on January 19, 2010 to the Senate seat long held by Senator Ted Kennedy underscores that. 

A Beltway Scramble

Beltway Warriors on both sides of the aisle are now scrambling to develop new strategies on key issues, especially the highly publicized Health Care legislation that is so lengthy, so complicated, and so contentious that if you asked anyone – anywhere  if they agreed with ALL of it,  you would be hard pressed to to find anyone who could answer with a resounding YES!  It’s so full of Promise and Compromise that what started out to be a race horse now looks like a camel.  Some fear it may never even make it to the finish line when most would agree that change is needed.  Others fear it might.

It’s time for Innovation in Washington D.C. not Change.

Innovation to me has a simple definition.  INNOVATION IS DOING SOMETHING IN A NEW WAY TO MAKE LIFE BETTER FOR THE PEOPLE THAT MATTER. 

So here’s my suggestion for a true innovation.  Let’s shift from change we can believe in to Change we can AGREE ON and get it done NOW.

This listing from the Wall Street Journal takes a look at the House and Senate Healthcare Proposals side by side.  In it there are some things that most of us can agree on like

  • removing the ability for the insurance industry to place restrictions on pre-exiting conditions
  • restricting insurance companies from dropping coverage when people actually get sick
  • extending the time period that young adults can be covered under their parents insurance policies
  • making healthcare accessible and affordable for a broader section of the population through incentives or subsidies. 

A REAL change could be HOW we get it done.

Now is the time when the House and Senate are tasked with bringing the two proposals together in a final form.  This is an opportunity to do something in a NEW WAY.  Instead of more horse trading, side deals, and compromises, SIMPLIFY THE PROCESS. 

Pull out each of the key items/issues one piece at a time, prioritize them based on the degree of agreement, and put them to a vote as a stand alone issue. 

Talk about transparency.  No more thousand page documents with hidden deals.  It’s all there nice and clear.  You agree or disagree then vote to decide, send  it over to the appropriate agency to implement if it passes, and move on to the next item.

This would be change the American people could believe in and a change that we could  agree on.  Who knows – we might just make life better for the people – remember us. 

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned.

Joan Koerber-Walker

[Joan Koerber-Walker is a wife, a mother, a small business person, and a voter who lives in Phoenix, Arizona.  Her journey includes executive roles in corporate America, as an entrepreneur, as a community volunteer, and as a non-profit leader.]


Free – Isn’t

January 12, 2010

There is a lot of talk about all of the things that you can get for FREE these days.  Not surprising in an era where budgets are stretched and we are all looking to get more for less.

Last week, I had the pleasure of listening to Lon Safko, co-author of the Social Media Bible speak to a group of counselors from SCORE and the SBDC as a prelude to Greater Phoenix SCORE’s Social Media Event this January 14th and 15th.

During his presentation, Lon kept emphasizing the reasons, excellent ones BTW, that businesses need to pay attention to and utilize social media.  And repeatedly he punctuated his message with a continuing theme…Oh Yes!  It’s FREE!

But is it?

While access to these new social media platforms is free or in the case of some emerging premium products relatively inexpensive, let’s look at some of the costs.

FUNDING and Economic costs

Based on reports from Tech Crunch, the four most prominent platforms in their categories (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google) raised over $1 Billion in equity funding to get to where they are today.

  • Twitter is free – $160M in funding to date according to this time line from TechCrunch
  • Facebook is free – $716M in in funding to date according to this time line from TechCrunch.  With over 350 MILLION active users worldwide (if you are a demographer an interesting side note is that if Facebook users were a nation, they would now have exceeded the population of the United States of America making the Facebook Nation the 3rd largest country in the world!) 
  • LinkedIn is free (although new premium features carry a price)  – $103M in funding to date according to this time line from Tech Crunch. With more than 45 million users representing 150 industries around the world, LinkedIn is a fast-growing professional networking site that allows members to create business contacts, search for jobs, and find potential clients.
  • Google Search and many applications are free.  The search engine activity has been estimated at over 2 Billion searches each day with a related estimate of 300 Million unique users daily.  Google received $25.1M in funding according to this time line from TechCrunch

And that does not take into account that these are simply mediums across which information is shared.  The platforms have no value without content creation – think people sharing information –  and that takes time.  If we estimate that a combined 1 Billion visitors spent just 1 hour on the platforms entering/sharing their content each year at MINIMUM wage of $7.25/hour – content creation across the platforms would cost $7.25 Billion dollars – and that is for only 1 hour per year at minimum wage!  Now think about what your time is worth?  How many hours have you actually spent?

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

We’ve all heard it.  Heaven knows who said first.  “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”  I’ll attribute this one to my Grandma, she may not have been the first to say it – but she was the first to say it to me.   Everything has a cost, whether in time, money, or the opportunity cost (what you could have gotten if you used your time and money in a different way.)   Until you truly understand costs, you can never calculate value since cost is a key component of the value equation.

Value = Benefit – Cost

The concept of a wanting a free lunch is pervasive today across our entrepreneurial and business communities – not to mention our society as a whole.  Whether the benefit is accurate information provided by media outlets, advice from thought leaders, time with business advisors, or creative content like books, films and movies – there is a growing perception that in the new information age, knowledge and content is free.  But if we continue along this line of thinking, we may begin to find it is just the opposite.

No need to buy the cow if you already have the milk.

This was another favorite “Grandma Quote.”  For those of you who are smirking, no this post is not going down THAT avenue.  This maxim took on an entirely new meaning when I moved from a salaried position in corporate America to the role of an entrepreneur whose livelihood and business was based on providing valuable information for a fee.

In the early years of my business, I was actively networking and sharing ideas.  Soon my calendar was filled with invitations for FREE coffee, FREE Lunches, FREE dinners where a new business friend wanted to ‘pick my brain’ or ‘share’ an idea.  But more often than not, all that came out of the exchange was a few more inches around my waistline.  Over those meet ups, I would answer their questions, offer contacts, help create solutions.  And more often that not, my potential new business evaporated.  They had gotten what they needed from me over lunch while all I got was a hamburger and a diet coke!

Then Grandpa, an attorney, came to my rescue with some simple advice.  “The first exploratory hour is FREE, after that you go on the clock. Your time and knowledge IS your business.  If you do not value it, no one else will either.”

I’ve gotten better over the years.  (Although, I have to admit that I still give away “gallons of milk” because I often share a lot of ideas in that first hour and enjoy connecting with new people or volunteering within organizations that help entrepreneurs.) But now, when someone asks to come back to the table for second, third or fourth helpings, I am a bit wiser about knowing when to graciously decline those invitations to just get together and ‘chat’ over lunch.

For as Grandpa helped me understand… if you can’t find a way to run a profitable business, the business won’t be around to help others profit.

Google has figured this out and is making money.  Eventually, the other social media giants will too.  Old media will need to learn to monetize their ventures in new ways and the new cadre of consultants emerging from the rolls of corporate layoffs will learn the same lessons I have.  There is no free lunch – especially when you are the one serving up all the free information.

Well enough of all this for now. I need to get to work.  Understanding how to use Google Apps for a new project is the next item on my To Do List today.  To quote my friend Lon… “and did I mention that – it’s free?”  Well except that it will probably take all my ‘free’ time for the rest of the week to figure it all out.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker


Are you a juggler? How to keep those balls in the air.

November 23, 2009

Are you a juggler? Do you always have at least three balls in the air at all times.  For me that is just the way I am made up.  Multiple businesses, family, writing projects, community involvement activities and other stuff are in constant motion.

Some people look at jugglers in awe.  Other’s shake their heads in dismay.  But for a juggler, it’s a natural state – there is no other way.

Recently I got to spend three days at Kolbe Corp with the wonderful Kathy Kolbe and her team. Together with others being certified to use the Kolbe Method, I learned about the instinctive talents that we all have and how the combination of those talents help us get things done as individuals and on teams.  I also learned another word for my juggling abilities – it turns out that my particular combination of talents is termed an Innovator. Go figure.

For me, getting that ball up in the air is as natural as breathing, but keeping it there, circling with all the others takes more.  It takes the discipline to make sure the balls don’t  drop.

So, if you are a juggler like me, here are some tips on the things I do to keep things moving in the right direction and avoid that embarrassing drop.

  • Make lists of what needs to be done for each project and check them off as they are completed and by whom.  (Your list may be on a piece of paper, a white board, a planner, or a PDA – but however you do it – record it, schedule it, and check it off when it is done.)
  • Do the annoying little ‘must do’ things first.  Get them out of the way and then reward yourself with the more exciting projects.
  • Build a great team and delegate.  Know what you are good at and what you are not.  Find others who compliment your natural abilities to get things moving with other who are great at gathering facts, creating systems, and implementing solutions. Work with them to create a team that can’t be beat.

Even though others may believe that you can not possibly handle one more thing – always be on the look out for the next great idea, project or opportunity.  It’s where your energy comes from.  Don’t let other people make you believe you can’t when you know you can. You are a juggler, it’s what you do.  So, do it well.  The stage is yours.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker


The Quest- In search of a transformational company

November 9, 2009

clip_image002In literature, as in legend, there have been many great quests. One in particular that has captured imaginations, for over two thousand years, is the search for a simple cup used in a great tale of transformation. Yes, The Quest for The Holy Grail.

This quest has been the inspiration that sparked great literature, epic poems, and motion pictures running the gamut from Monty Python to  Indiana Jones.

While my quest is not one of such mythical proportion, as I sat pondering how to share my plans with you, the legend of The Holy Grail leapt to mind. 

My Quest

I am, together with a valued group of friends, looking to acquire a controlling interest in a very particular company.  Our search and the legendary quest have more than a few things in common. In both cases they combine Innovation, Leadership, and Growth to create Lasting Value.  These are my personal passions. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you discover something with true potential and then do what it takes to Make It Great.

What’s been happening?

This year, I have been working with a small team of friends and advisors to search out really cool deals.  We’ve found some great ones, but not the right one. Not yet. 

Along the way, I have gotten much more active in connecting to friends old and new via a range of social media tools

However, it all came together when I was having lunch last week with Morris Callaman at a beautiful resort nestled against a mountain in Paradise Valley called Montelucia

Morris asked -

“Joan, what do you think about expanding this search and inviting your social media network to participate? You could literally ask for help crowd-sourcing this acquisition search.”

And that’s how it started.  So, here I am asking if you will help me locate the company I would like to lead next. If so, then what follows are some of the criteria we find necessary to successfully recognize our “grail” when we find it.  Ready? OK. Lets discuss a little detail around what this company is, and perhaps even more importantly, what it is not. An ideal company will be one where we can combine Innovation, Leadership, and Growth to create Lasting Value.

Innovation

Innovation in my book is doing something in a new way to make life better for the people who matter most to us – in this case employees, customers, investors, and strategic partners.  It is a company with a product or service that can transform an industry or niche.  For example, my friend Amilya Antonetti changed the way we look at soap in her quest to save the life of her son and now she is on a quest to help other entrepreneurs ask the right questions, get the right information and the things they need to succeed.

Criteria #1:  A product oriented company that will transform its market by creating new value through a better way of doing something(s). 

Unlikely Fits: Singing pop bottles, Presidential Pet Rocks, the corner store, or the next great social media tool.  While there may be lots of investors looking for these, I am not one of them.

Leadership

A great idea only gets you so far before it needs more.  In this case more is the ability to see the future direction of the company’s journey and to predict and obtain what it will need along the way.  Many a great new company has lost crucial momentum when the leader that led the way for the first stage of the journey is not ready for the next stage of that steep uphill path, which many entrepreneurs forecast and yet few would want to travel alone. 

The prize we seek on this quest will have a founder and a team that is looking for a new guide as they begin the climb to revenues and profitability so that everyone, employees, customers, investors and strategic partners alike, benefit from the next stage in the company’s growth.

Criteria #2: A dedicated team in search of experienced leadership and resources to help them successfully move along the growth path.

Unlikely Fits:

  • If ALL YOU NEED IS MONEY so that you can continue along the path you are already on.
  • If your goal is to maintain the status quo.
  • If, as the owner, you are not interested in passing the baton to the next runner in the growth relay.

 

Growth

The company must have solid growth potential and demonstrate how it could scale to provide a more than reasonable return to the investors.   

Growth curves come in all shapes and sizes.  There’s the steady incremental growth of a mature business, the graceful leaps of the Gazelles, and the inevitable ‘Hockey Stick” that appears over and over at every venture conference I have ever attended.  Yet, in the real world, it’s not the pretty charts and pictures that matter, it’s the foundational elements that make a transformational company stand out.  Some Gazelles grow to be great companies, while others rapidly run out of steam after the initial burst of growth.  Hockey Stick Growth Curves can be ‘the big pay day’ or they can simply be a sign of a business in danger of snapping under the pressure of too much, too fast.

Criteria #3:  The best true indicators of growth potential are not charts and graphs, but rather how does the company (or product) provide a solution that is usable by a large number of people and BETTER than substitutes (or lack thereof)?

Unlikely Fits:

  • One more “me too” solution in an already overcrowded market.
  • A terrific solution for a very small customer base (since these rarely can scale.)
  • Product or services that are not designed to fill a genuine customer need (since customers must ultimately be willing to pay and karma is important to me).
  • A ‘great idea’ that has not ever been built, tested, or sold to ANYONE (since I’d like it to already have at least one customer).

Lasting Value

And in the end, building a great company is more than just creating a widget, jobs, or shareholder value. 

Criteria #4:  It’s creating something to believe in, and be proud of, for the people who matter most to us (employees, customers, investors and strategic partners). 

Unlikely Fits:

  • Products or services you would be embarrassed to discuss with your parents.
  • Products or services that add no value to or potentially even harm the community, the environment, or others (since that just isn’t who I am). 
  • Any product or service that makes promises it cannot keep (since that certainly isn’t me either).

So that’s my list.  Have YOU seen this company?

Of course, there are at least two BIG differences between my quest and the search for The Grail of legend.  One, I know that I’m going to find what I am seeking, and Two, this is more than a personal journey, it is also an experiment in the power of social media.  So, if you’ve seen this company please let me know.   You can always leave me a note here, on my blog or, if you want to keep it confidential, you can also contact me by clicking here.

As long as we are on the subject, if you happen to be looking for a company too, just let me know what YOU are searching for and I’ll be happy to pass along what I may find for you along the way. Unlike the fabled Holy Grail, there is more than just one great opportunity out there.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

clip_image003P.S.  One of the best parts of this journey is connecting, engaging, and being inspired by fellow entrepreneurs.  On Thursday, November 12th in Phoenix Arizona I will be doing just that at AZEC09.  Who knows maybe I will see YOU there and we can chat.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 75 other followers