Success Tip: Lead–Grow–Volunteer

February 13, 2011

Often when I am speaking with an audience or sharing ideas with leaders and  entrepreneurs, I hear a question that starts like this: “How did you get people to give you a chance to …”

It’s a recurring theme.  We want to lead. We want to grow. We want to make a a difference.  So, how do we get people to give us a chance to do it?  In 2010, I had the opportunity to  share ideas with the Society of Women Engineers.  We we focused on the 5  C’s that build success. One of those C’s is Community.  Here is what happens when you get involved in your community and volunteer.

 

Keynote–Society of Women Engineers–2010–Joan Koerber-Walker, Chairman of CorePurpose, Inc.

Lead – Grow – Volunteer

We don’t need to be labeled “a leader” to lead.  Just as we don’t need someone else’s permission to develop our skills and grow.  What we do need are opportunities to showcase our leadership ability and talents.  Although are not many fairy godmothers out there who can wave a magic wand and make an opportunity materialize before our very eyes, there is something we can do that works like magic and makes us feel great too.  One simple word.  Volunteer.

Over the years, through a number of volunteer activities,  I have had the opportunity to share ideas on network television, land radio interviews, be profiled in newspapers and magazines and connect with key decision makers, customers and partners who I might otherwise have never met. By volunteering to do what I could do, I got the chance to do it.  People noticed and more opportunities followed.  Those opportunities created more opportunities.  Pretty soon, I was not just leading, I was doing it officially as “the leader.”   It all came about because of volunteer work done in my community or where I worked.  If it can work for me, it can work for you.  Just follow these two simple steps.

Establish yourself as a leader.

A leader is someone who stands out above the rest.  We all have talents that we can share that help us to stand out.  Perhaps your talent is organization, team building, networking, writing, or simply listening.  Maybe your gift is mentoring, speaking, or a special set of technical or business skills Think of ways that sharing these talents and gifts can help a nonprofit organization that you believe in.  Step up, stand out and lead in whatever role you are given.

Roll up your sleeves and show ’em what you can do.

In today’s economy, nonprofit budgets are stretched to the limit.  There is almost nothing they do not need.  Does your business have great consumer products or services?  Donate them to gift baskets, silent auctions or raffles.  Do you provide business services? Donate them to the nonprofit itself to help in reducing overhead costs. In each case you are getting yourself and your products or services in front of others who may want to work with  you in the future.  Often this is the supporters, board members, donors, or sponsors of the organization.  The nonprofit may not have the resources to pay for your donations and services, but these people do.  When you do a great job or deliver a great product, people notice and even better… they tell their friends.

Volunteering is not only a philanthropic activity.  In our workplace, there are lots of opportunities to step forward and volunteer.  Perhaps it is on a committee, in a new project that looks a little risky, or even to give a customer a hand on a project that they are not able to pay you for.  Sometimes when we take on one more project, we feel we keep giving and giving and nothing is happening.  But that is NOT the case.  

Here comes the magic…

While you are giving you are also growing both in experience and influence. The more you give, the more you get.

While you are sharing what you have of value, you are getting value too…

New skills you learn while working with others in your community or workplace.

Connections to other leaders who share the same passions and values that you do.

Recognition for your efforts and the value you contribute to the cause or project.

Visibility for yourself and your business

The opportunity to represent the organization in your community

The chance you thought someone needed to give you.  You did not need someone  to give it to you after all. You gave it to yourself. 

That’s the great thing about magic.  It makes anything possible.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Special Announcement: 

Please join me with Lolly Daskal and the gang on the #LeadFromWithin Tweet Chat this Tuesday (February 15, 2011) at 8 PM EST. 

This is my chance to volunteer and help lead the discussion with a group of wonderful people from around the Twitterverse on how to #LeadFromWithin.  Lolly and I talked about it and decided that exchanging ideas on what happens to us as leaders when we volunteer was a perfect topic for the day after Valentine’s day.  I hope you will volunteer to join us, roll up your sleeves and show us what YOU can do by adding your ideas to the tweet chat discussion.  It’s easy to do and free of charge.  Just sign in with your Twitter ID at www.TweetChat.com at 8PM EST on 2/27/2011.  Put in the #LeadFromWithin hashtag at the top and when I post a question – share an answer.  See you then.

 

Joan Koerber-Walker is a two time Stevie Award National Finalist and Chairman of the Board of CorePurpose, Inc. and the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation.  She also serves as Executive in Residence for Callaman Ventures and on the boards of for profit and nonprofit organizations.  As the former CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association and a past member of the Board of Trustees of the National Small Business Association she has worked with hundreds of small businesses and on behalf of thousands.  Chat with her on Twitter as @joankw, @JKWgrowth, @JKWinnovation, @JKWleadership and@CorePurpose or at her blog at www.JoanKoerber-Walker.com.


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


Talk of the Town – 2010 will be MY Year

January 9, 2010

j0426527[1]Each year in January, I try to plan my calendar to meet with friends in the first two weeks.  I have a diverse group of friends ranging from entrepreneurs to folks from corporate America, from local community volunteers to national leaders, and from neighbors to old school chums.

By reaching out, reconnecting, asking questions, and listening, I get a really good cross section of what is happening and what is on people’s minds.  It also gives me a pretty good feel for what to expect in the year to come.

It probably comes as no surprise that, when I did this is January of 2009, there were lots of rumblings of rough weather ahead.  People where battening down the hatches and preparing to hold on to investments, jobs, and businesses by sheer will.  Folks that I talked to did not know what to expect – but one thing was pretty consistent… they we not expecting it to be good.

Yet, this year, there is a different feeling in the conversations.  I don’t know  what it is  – the stars in alignment, something in the water, or just the impact of moving into a new decade, but once again a message is emerging from all of these conversations – a common statement and theme that  I am hearing from others…

2010 will be MY year!

The first time I heard it expressed by a friend with such confidence that I felt it too, I thought – ‘Wow, good for you.’  Then I heard it again – this time by a business owner – “This will be OUR year”.  And then again from an entrepreneur, then a scientist, then a developer, then a non profit leader, and so on.  The words were slightly different each time, but the theme kept repeating over and over again.  2010 was going to be the year when they made a break through, grew their business, did something new, made a difference.

So, will 2010 be YOUR year? 

We all have the chance to make 2010 our year.  Here are a few things you might want to put to work for you.

1.  Write down your goals and put them somewhere where you see them every day.  A series of small goals that build on one another are better that one great big one.  That way, as you achieve each small goal or milestone, the sense of accomplishment gives you more incentive and energy to tackle the next one.

2.  Gather Great People Around You.  Whether you call them a team, a posse, a workgroup or just friends, surround yourself  with people who share your values AND your goals. By working together – things happen faster.  The shared experiences of your team can also help you avoid pitfalls and mistakes that might shift you off course.

3.  Focus in on the things that will make the biggest impact.  It is too easy to be distracted by little things that can keep you from doing the important ones.  Take the time to understand how you are most productive and then work with others to delegate or off load non core activities.  Paying someone else to do the time consuming nuisance projects can save BIG money in the long run or free you up for more impactful or productive activities.

4. Use Processes and Systems to Your Advantage.  The best businesses, projects, and ideas are those you can replicate over and over again.  Figure out what works best, get it down on paper and integrate it into HOW you get things done.  By creating repeatable systems or processes, you save time, save money and often by analyzing the system – continue to improve it.

Never forget that “2010 will be MY year”. 

Stay positive and positive things happen.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently. 

Make 2010 your year.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned.

Joan Koerber-Walker


Promise and Compromise

January 5, 2010

You’ve probably had the  experience where through the diverse objectives and perspectives of the people on your team, what you set out to create and what you got where not exactly the same.   As concessions are made to reach a point of consensus, a completely different animal begins to takes shape.

It has been said that “a camel is horse designed by a committee.”

Interestingly, having researched this much quoted maxim, there is no true consensus on  WHO actually said it first. 

As leaders, be it in our home, in our business, or  in our community, we are often in a position requiring a promise or commitment.  In many cases, to keep that promise or commitment will require the help of others, and often to get that help, you face a compromise.

When you look at the definition of the words as indicated in the links above, I found something interesting. They both come from the same Latin root – promissus which means to send forth and compromissus which means to send forth mutually  or together.

Over the last two years, watching national and world events, I have seen many examples of this, but no better examples than what we have all watched unfold in Washington D.C.

Throughout 2008, we heard a lot of promises from candidates ranging from local offices up to the highest office in the land.  But, then that is to be expected.  We as a people have come to elect people based on what they say they will do as opposed to what they have done or what they can actually do.  Seem confusing? Here is an example…

On January 11, 2009, the New York Times published a list of Candidate Obama’s Campaign Promises.  They made a truly impressive list.  Yet for the most part, the list was a list of objectives that acting alone, no U.S. President could keep.  (To be fair, if you go back to the ‘promises’ made by the other side, the list was equally impressive and if acting alone, equally unsupported.)   For the reality is, in the United States, we have a system of checks and balances between the Executive Branch, Congress, and The Judiciary.  The Legislative branch makes the law. The Executive branch executes the law. The Judicial branch interprets the law. Each branch has an effect on the other and for any campaign promise to be kept, all three must be in agreement.

To reach that agreement, there often must be concessions and compromises before we can move forward together.  It can be challenging to get TWO people to agree on a contentious issue.  Imagine how much harder it becomes when you are looking at creating consensus among one President, 100 Senators, 435 Congressional Representatives, and ultimately if needed 9 Supreme Court Justices.  Add to that truly monumental challenges like access to affordable healthcare, a less than popular war, a financial collapse, a national deficit so large that the numbers can not be conceived by the average person, and some of our largest states on the verge of financial insolvency. 

Looking at it from that perspective, does it come as a surprise that concessions and trade offs are being made to get ANYTHING accomplished? 

Over lunch with a friend last week, we were discussing what it takes to get things done.  Not just in Washington, but in our businesses and in our communities.  Often, no matter what you do, no one is completely happy with the final result.  In life, just as in Washington, there are trade offs and compromises that must often be made to that we can move forward.  In one way or another, progress comes at a price.

The true challenge, as individuals and leaders, is to have a clear understanding, BEFORE you make a promise, of what will be needed to gain consensus and to get all the support you need to make it happen.  Otherwise, instead of ending up with a sleek and agile Horse, you just may end up spending your days with a Camel!

Thanks for stopping by…Stay Tuned.

Joan Koerber-Walker


Valuing a Company

October 18, 2009

From time to time, I get involved in answering a tricky question.  “What is this company worth?”  Sometimes the question comes up when speaking to a business owner or executive who is truly trying to increase the value of their organization.  At other times the question is raised from someone looking for investors or buyers.  And then most importantly – I ask it myself when the buyer or investor might be me.

Years ago, in business school, I had great professors at the W.P. Carey School of Business.  They taught me the science of financial valuation and how to look at the opportunities  and systematic business risks that lie buried behind the balance sheet.  There where times in the learning process when I might have cursed my teachers for being so exacting, but the lessons they taught combined with the insights I gained from my fellow students were worth more than a pot of gold.

Measuring a company’s value falls into 3 categories

What it has – it’s assets

Assets can be real and tangible.  We all know about these: property, plants, and equipment plus firm contracts and money in the bank.  We can see it, touch it, count it up.  Other assets are intangible.  We know that there is some level of value, but measurement is often subtle, involving an estimation of the worth.  This can be a patent, a trademark, or a customer or prospect list that in and of it self has no hard value, but when put to good use can be converted to tangible assets in the future, 

What it lacks or  owes – It’s liabilities

On the other side of the equation are the liabilities.  Some are easy to measure and take the form of debt, contractual obligations, or other factors that reduce the company’s assets.  But there are other more intangible liabilities to factor in like adverse economic conditions, holes in the team, or a lack in organizational bandwidth – you know – too much to do and not enough resources to do it with.

What It promises – Its brand as an organization

And most important of all, I look at what the company promises to its people, its customers, its partners and its investors through its brand as an organization, PLUS  its ABILITY to keep those promises.

We all make promises, and most up us do everything in our power to keep them.  The question I focus on most closely is can the company turn promise into reality with its unique combination of assets and liabilities. 

  • Does it have a clear and simple plan that the team can follow to keep the promises it makes? Are there clearly defined goals, strategies, tactics? Are there clear measurement milestones along the way?
  • Does it have a culture that supports its team in achieving shared objectives.  It’s sad but true.  Objectives and goals that are not shared by the team are rarely achieved.
  • Does it have the resources to give to that team so that they can execute on the plan? And if not – does it have the ability to get them?
  • Does it use its assets wisely?  Is it investing in its people and its product to take and hold a leadership position in its markets  in the future?
  • Does it look at its customers, supply chain, and investors as collaborative partners and treat them accordingly?
  • Is leadership committed to keeping the promises it makes to the team, the partners, the customers, and the investors.
  • Does every member of the team share that commitment?

The Value of the COMPANY

When I am done with the measuring, I add it all up.  What I then have is a valuation of the company in a form that they rarely teach in business school.  A clearer picture of whether the company can keep its organizational promise and create value as well as what it may to make that happen, and what I can do to help along the way.

Because, at the end of the day, the true value of any company is in the promises it makes, and its ability to keep them.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker


Times They are a Changing – A day of GM Goodbyes

October 1, 2009

This morning – October 1, 2009, a reminder popped up on my calendar.  Today was the day my brother Rick retired officially from General Motors after 30 years.  He started in the Newark, Delaware plant at the age of 18, the day after his birthday.  Over the past three decades, he saw many changes, slow downs, strikes, and lay offs; but, he also saw innovations in manufacturing and new automotive technologies evolve. 

Richard-J.-KoerberHe started at GM in a time when working as a GM employee was a safe bet for the future and retires in a time when many have to wonder what comes next.  But, through it all, he was a hard working and dedicated employee, who delivered value, and through his working years at GM, bought a home, raised a family, and now in his ‘retirement’ years plans to focus his energies on building another business – his own. 

I’m proud of him.  He’s a great example of what it means to grow up in a GM Family.  And I know that his own business will prosper because he brings to it a dedication to customer service and quality  that will make his customers keep coming back and even more important – tell their friends about him.

Also today, I saw an article pop up from AdAge with another footnote to the GM Story.  This one too was another goodbye – After Talks to Sell Fall Through, GM Says Goodbye to Saturn.  The story chronicles Saturn’s story through it’s ads.  It’s dedication to innovation and service, the commitment it had to its customers and in many ways the feeling of engagement it’s employees, dealers and customers had in turn with Saturn.     Now with the Penske deal falling through, soon Saturn will be no more.

Saturn was once the shining star of General Motors, yet through years of corporate in-fighting and internal politics between the GM car divisions and the resulting challenges created for Sayurn, the fledgling brand could not grow to fulfill its promise.  Now Saturn is becoming ‘GM’s orphaned child’ – with no opportunity for a new homecoming on the horizon. 

Saturn employees and dealers put together a valiant fight to save something they believed in – a quality product, a new way of doing business, and commitment to giving the customer what they want through partnerships as shown in this – one of the last Saturn commercials.  Unfortunately, it looks like this time, they could not win the battle.

2009 Saturn SkyIn kind of an odd twist -

the last car my brother ever built at the GM Newark Delaware plant,

was a Saturn SKY. 

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker


One Twitter User’s Guide to House Cleaning

September 17, 2009

Is your Twitter account starting to look like the house of that little old man down the road who never weeds his yard and never throws anything out?

Is it full of clutter, empty boxes, things that are broken, or that you never use.

Do you still have people on your Christmas Card List that  sent you a card in 1995 and you have not heard from since?

Perhaps when you read this, you may think I have  taken a page from Oscar the Grouch, but there are times when you need to bite the bullet and Clean Your House.

For me, the whole point of Twitter is to build a community of people to exchange ideas with, keep in touch with, and engage in conversation.  If you follow one or more of my profiles on Twitter or follow my blogs you know that I believe that solid relationships – business or otherwise start with conversations.

If you are using Twitter for business, another important factor comes into play.  Understanding who you are talking to and trying to determine if they are even listening.

It’s like the newspaper.  They may have a million subscribers – but how many actually read it cover to cover every day.  For all you know your ad or letter to the editor is the happy pad for a new puppy, the bottom of the bird cage, or in a soggy pile at the bottom of the driveway.  If you do not take the time to understand who is actually reading the papers, your time and the money you money spent in putting your message there ends up where the paper eventually does – in the trash.

So a few months after starting to use Twitter, it was time to clean house. I set up a system for a clean up day once per month.  Here is what I do.

1.  Run my Twitter account through TwitChuck.  This free service will scan your follower base for known spammers and Chuck Them Out.  You can even WHACK them with a block if you are feeling particularly grouchy. (Pay attention when you do this – TwitChuck uses an algorithm and it is not perfect.  Look at the Avatars to see if you recognize real friends that may have gotten scooped up with the trash.)

2.  Run my Twitter account through Twitter Karma (another free service) and look at it with 2 different sorts:

First I sort by Only Following to see the people who are not interested in what I have to say.  These are people who I may have followed after a keyword search or who followed me and unfollowed later.  For what ever reason – my message is following on deaf ears.

Then I CHECK ALL using a convenient button, and then un check sources I want to follow anyway like news services or information sources that often do not follow back. Then another magic button – to unfollow – and they are gone.

I then wait a few minutes for the program to do its work and then do a sort again, this time looking at the last time tweeted.  Sorting this way I can see the people who are not there anymore.  Same process – check the boxes of anyone who has not been there for over 30 days and unfollow them.

After all – the lights may be on – but nobody’s home to visit with.

This is also a good time to do a quick scan of Avatars for folks with no clothes on, the same pic on multiple accounts – a BOT characteristic, or other disreputable folks you may not want to be associated with,

A FEW CAVEATS: 1) Twitter Karma works best with FireFox.  2)I have been told not to use this after you get to 8,000 friends as it can hang up. 3) When looking at last time Tweeted – pay attention to tweets that come up as a NEVER tweeted. Some of these are spammers – but others are people who protect your tweets.  Be careful not to WHACK your Great Aunt Sally.   She may cut you out of The Will.

Your first time can be painful

The first time you do a major cleaning, it can be a bit painful.  You just might find that you have quite a bit of clutter to throw away.  When you do, be prepared.   YOUR FOLLOWER COUNT WILL GO DOWN.  Many accounts will automatically unfollow you when you unfollow them.  So if this is important to you, please don’t call me screaming.

It also takes a little time at first; but after the first time, it goes much faster.  It only takes me about an hour total  to clean up all five of my accounts.

Plus – with a little daily dusting – BLOCKING spammers that send me DMs or @ replies, the process gets that much faster each month.

So what’s the ROI on cleaning house?

Remember my goal is sharing quality conversations with people.  Here are the benefits I have found…

  1. My twitter spam – that daily annoyance – has gone way down in my stream.
  2. When I talk to my publisher or marketing team, I can share with them our count of “ACTIVE Followers”.  They may not be listening all the time, but at least we know they are picking up the paper and MIGHT actually read   the message.
  3. My brand is less likely to be tarnished by porn or other garbage when others look at who I am following or who follows me – and PEOPLE do!

So if your goal is to engage in conversations that have value on Twitter – and to spend your time (which is money – don’t ever forget it) sharing your message with people who might actually listen and respond back, then it might be time to Clean Your House.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker


The greatest message will have no impact…

September 15, 2009

The greatest message in the world will have no impact if no one is listening.  This is not exactly a new concept.  But if you forget it, you can get into BIG trouble.

You may have heard the famous riddle:j0438604[1]

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

While often attributed to Irish Philosopher George Berkeley, this is more likely a paraphrase of Berkeley’s writings from his musings in A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, that delved into knowledge and perception.

From Berkeley’s perspective,

“To be is to be perceived” .

In the language of the great philosophers if his day, the maxim was “Esse est percipi“.

In the language of today’s business we might say …

If you are not perceived to exist, you do not exist.

But what does this have to do with business and messaging?

Actually quite a bit.  Berkeley may have been writing in a time before any of our businesses where even a glimmer, but when you apply his words to the goal of growing a business, they are profound.

“If you have a great MESSAGE and no one is around to hear it – does your message matter?

The answer is Probably Not.  Too often I have seen companies fail.  It was not because they did not have a great product or service – they did.  They failed for the simple reason that the right audience NEVER GOT THE MESSAGE.  Since the message never reached the customer. employee, partner, or investor, the perception of value was not created – and the company did not get what they needed – more sales, more productive employees, better partnerships, or investment dollars.  Eventually, the companies failed to achieve their goals or in some cases disappeared completely.

In business, perception IS reality

Equally important is how your target audience perceives your message or business.  You may have the best service or widget in the  world, but if aren’t aware of it and perceive the value to THEM, you are just whistling into the wind.

So if Audience and Perception are that important …

Here are some tips for finding an audience and helping to shape perception.

  1. Know who your audience is. Unless you have universal product – EVERYONE is not your market.  Define them first!
  2. Understand where they hang out. This is the first rule of both messaging and networking.  If you are singing like a bird in an empty forest.  You will have very little impact.  No one will hear you. Use media – both social and traditional wisely.  Unless you have unlimited funds, look at the demographics of the audience BEFORE you invest your time and money there.
  3. Share a message that provides value to the listener. Do your homework on what your target audience is hoping to learn, to solve, to fix.  Build your message around how your product or service will do just that.
  4. Never forget – the perceptions AND words of others will always be more powerful than your own. You can spend millions and have your reputation destroyed when unhappy customers, employees, or partners raise their voice, just as your fame can be assured when enthusiastic customers, employees, or partners spread the word.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker


The Power of Building a Community

September 14, 2009

There are few things as powerful in this world as when people come together as a community to make something happen.People's mandala - 12 hands

In it’s simplest form, a community is defined as a unified body of individuals.  In it’s most powerful, it is a force that can accomplish  almost any goal.

In the world of business, our professional communities are where we go to exchange ideas, to study, to learn, and  to bond together to address major issues.

Our customer communities can give us insight into how our products work,or how they should.  If we take the time to listen, user communities can light the way along the path to innovation.

Without community there can be no innovation.  It is our community that accepts our invention, validates it, accepts it and adopts it.  Then and only then is innovation truly real.

But the power of community is not limited to business – it is around us in every corner of our lives.  Community can be family. For many it is the congregation of those who share beliefs and faith in something greater than themselves.

And today, in our evolving technology world, we are seeing new communities emerge across social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, connecting people – many who have never met or may never meet in real life -but yet hold common interests, form bonds, and support each other in a myriad of ways.

Sometimes community relationships last a life time, and in others they form and disband quickly after the need or project has has passed.  But while the community exists, it can be a powerful force and a source of inspiration.

For me, great examples of the power of what communities can do are all around.  Here are just a few:

The Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation

OTEF started when Francine Hardaway set out on a mission to help at risk populations find self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship.  She reached out to her community of friends and to the greater community of entrepreneurs for help.  Projects like this need funding – so in the true spirit of entrepreneurs – they created a product and took it to the marketplace.  In this case that product was the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conferences.  Each year entrepreneurs gather to hear ideas from others on what it takes to build a community, to launch businesses, and to realize goals.  ALL of the speakers donate  their time and talents, and ALL of the conference proceeds go to support OTEF’s mission.  Now going into it’s fourth year, entrepreneurial leaders like Michael Gerber, Pat Sullivan, Gary Vaynerchuck, Robert Scoble, and Matt Mullenwig have shared the stage with over 100 local CEOS, all sharing ideas while supporting OTEF in making a difference.

#BeOriginal

Some late night musings, evolved into a blog post on how to be original.  With an  idea that it would be fun to share original ideas with friends in a place where we could all find them,  I blogged it as Why #BeOriginal to let my friends know.  Over time a community formed across the broader Twitter community made up of people who love to share their own ideas with others.  Just look at all the insights that have been shared to date and with more and more coming every day.  Another friend helped set up a TWUB so we could make the sharing even easier.

Communities lend a hand

Not long ago, a friend  experienced one of the deepest of tragedies – the loss of his son at a time when on top of the emotional burden, the financial one was more that he could handle.   Members of his community came together – not just to offer friendship -  but to offer dollars to help with the funeral expenses.  The call went out across Twitter and Facebook, and the community responded.

But it is not just in times of sorrow.  Communities can gather to celebrate wonderful events, the birth of a child, an anniversary, or a wedding.

It was a converging of communities that inspired this blog post.

I read a story, written by a young Mom, that I had come to know through our exchanges on BloggersBase.  Her name is Kathryn and she writes as Kaytii or RMS Snowdrop.  On   9/11 she shared a story – Open Your Hearts to a Stranger. In it she told the story of a young couple who were planning to get married.    They had two other special people in their lives – their best man and maid of honor.  The couple wanted to share their joy and special day with these two important people.

Then came the news that the best man would be deploying to Afghanistan.  To have him at the wedding, they would have to move up the date by almost a year!  Financially, they were not ready.  Good friends decided to help.  Through online communities, people have come together to offer little things, small donations of money, a topper for the wedding cake, help with flowers, and simple things to help make the young couple’s dream come true.  The wonder of it is that many of these people have never met each other, and maybe never will.

But together they are a community – people bonding together at a place in time – to make a  difference.

I think I like that definition of community best of all.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Author’s Note:  After reading’s Kaytii’s story about Shauna and Derrick, I sent her a tweet with my phone number and suggested we talk.  We got together on the phone and shared ideas on how we could help make a dream come true.  One of the ideas was to share her message with my community – adding it to hers.  And that is what I just did.

Oh, and I also DID make a contribution to the wedding fund.  If you would like to share in a little piece of the community that is trying to grant a very simple wish – here is the link.


Is Twitter part of your business strategy? Should it be?

September 3, 2009

Earlier this summer, I was asked by my friend, Dr. Julie Smith David of the Arizona State University Center for Advancing Business through Information Technology (CABIT) to present on Twitter Applications for Business.  I will be speaking there on Tuesday September 8th.  If you read this in time and would like to attend, the contact information is provided below. Best of all it’s free.

0809 Showcase Invitation Restart Fall_web

I was incredibly honored to be asked, but I had to wonder… why would they want ME?

I am not a social media expert let alone a twitter expert.  I’m simply a business executive and corporate strategist trying to figure out where all this stuff fits.

I have yet to find all the answers, but one thing has become very clear.

Social media is simply a tool.

Think about your social media tool kit like a set of screw drivers.  You have different types of screw drivers for different needs.  Sometimes you use them alone or sometimes you use them together.  We use screw drivers as tools to help us…

  • Build things
  • Take things apart
  • Make adjustments
  • Fix what’s broken

The same screwdriver can be used to fix a broken electrical socket or to build a nuclear power plant.  It all depends on the the goal you set, the plan you develop, and how you go about executing.

The same can be said about social media.  Websites, Video like YouTube and Vimeo, Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are simply tools we use to create conversations, build communities, listen to our customers, and deliver our message.  These tools can help us as business people to do the very same things that the handy screwdriver can do – Build, Disassemble, Adjust, and Fix what’s broken.

Just remember – the tool is NOT the strategy.  It’s simply something you can use to achieve the goals you set.  Your message however IS a key component in any strategy.  It’s how you share what you are trying to accomplish.  That’s where social media fits for business – as a community building messaging tool.

You simply need to choose the right combination of tools to drive your message home.

Since Tuesday’s talk will be focused on Twitter – here are some tips for using Twitter as a tool for what it is best at:  Community Building, Customer/Audience Interaction, and Message Delivery.

In any good strategy you start with a goal, develop specific tactics, choose your tools and people resources, establish metrics or milestones, and execute while adjusting as needed.

Twitter, like the screw driver, works best when combined with other tools for more complex projects.  Here is a listing of tools and tips you can use with Twitter to make it more effective.

Community Building:

Twellow is a great tool for finding people with shared interests.  You can search by key words like Information Technology, CEO, Entrepreneur, Leadership…you get the picture.  You can also search by locations (City, State, etc) if you are trying to build community in a specific region.  You can find people you want to follow and if you are offering good content in return, many will follow you back.

Conversely, for the people you might want to avoid – TwitChuck is a good resource.  In a matter of minutes, it can scan your friends and followers to identify known spammers and other inappropriate tweeters like porn sites and bots.  (You can also check your own reputation to ensure that you are considered a ‘Good” person to follow.

As you are getting started, and even after you are well established, Twitter imposes follow limits. These are important to know and understand.  You can read them here.

Be Friendly! When someone follows you, I believe it is common courtesy to give them a follow back.  If they then abuse the courtesy with spam or inappropriate content – you can unfollow them or even block them so they can not come back later.  To save time you can automate this process using SocialOomph (formerly known as TweetLater.)  This service will automatically follow people that follow you – a BIG time saver.  The service also has a feature for auto replies when people follow you.  This I highly recommend NOT doing.  It is a common practice of spammers and by veteran twitter users is considered very uncool!

And whatever you do – DO NOT SPAM your followers.  The point is to offer helpful information, share ideas, and create value to your followers.  If all you do is talk about your products, your blog, your ideas and never interact with others – people will stop reading your posts very quickly! Even worse, people can block you – ruining your online reputation.

Also, unless you are intentionally forming a closed group – DO NOT protect your tweets.  This is counter to the whole principle of building a community.  Plus for many third party tools, they will not be able  to see them and people will not find or follow you!

Customer/Audience Interaction

OK – you may be thinking – I am looking at this as a BUSINESS tool.  What do you mean it’s not all about me and my product or service!

Think about twitter as a giant focus group.  As you build a community you have an opportunity to listen to what current or potential customers are tweeting/talking about.  People who follow you have shown some level of interest -  their opinions count!

You can even use Twitter Search to find people who are talking about your company or your product – or your competitors.  Talk about a great market research tool!  Then you can choose to follow them and join the conversation.

Interacting with customers means listening, starting a conversation, and engaging them.  To do this – think about what you want your Twitter brand to be before you start.  It may be that you need multiple profiles for different customer groups, products, or for you corporate message as opposed to that of your CEO for instance.  That was appropriate for me over time and in the end I developed FIVE different Twitter profiles based on the type of information I choose to share.  This post helps explain it.

The first rule of interaction is always – You get what you give.  Follow people, share interesting content, and offer value, and that’s what you will get in return.

Message Delivery

Now we get to the important part – message delivery.  The point of Twitter for business is that you want to START a conversation that can be continued.  Sometimes you can do that exclusively in the twitterverse, but more often that not, you want to be more expansive – that’s where your website, blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn Group, or other social media tools come into play.  You can use Twitter to invite people to view your other content platforms.  Does it work – Absolutely.  Here is an example.

I have two blog sites for my company.  One on TypePad and one on WordPress.  They have exactly the same content and have been around for the same amount of time.  The TypePad Blog gets promoted on Twitter.  The WordPress blog using simple SEO.  Now the real test.  Does Twitter make a difference?  YES!  The TypePad blog has 100 times more RSS subscribers and 500 times more visitors after only 9 months! Oh and my website – CorePurpose.com gets more traffic today that it ever did with managed SEO alone.

How much time does all this take?  I can’t be on  Twitter ALL day!

This sounds like a lot of work and  a lot of time.  But after you get things set up efficiently, it does not have to be.  Personally – my ‘Twitter Time – is less than 2 hours total each day – and that includes all of the reading of the articles and other tidbits I share that I would be accessing anyway.

Here are some of the tools that help me be more efficient.

Twitter itself is not the most user friendly interface for day to day management of large communities.  If you are managing multiple profiles – Seesmic is my tool of choice.  For single profile users, TweetDeck is also a popular alternative.

Going to be away from the computer and want to schedule tweets for a different date or time?  Both SocialOomph and my favorite HootSuite can allow you to put your tweets on autopilot cleanly and professionally.

It’s up to you to determine how much time you give to Twitter.  Just remember you get back what you put into it.

Lastly – if it turns out that Twitter is a key tool for executing your strategy, there are lots of professional out there that can be hired as in house community managers or outside consultants.  These people can help you fast track your Twitter experience and in the long run save you time and hopefully get you towards your goal  faster – plus they can help you stay on top of the latest developments.

This may be one of the longest posts I have written to date- but now you have what you need to get started.  If you want to learn more about my personal journey in trying to figure out how  all this stuff  fits, visit the category section of this blog.  You will find a section on social media and more musings  there.

So does this work for business?  You decide.

For me, my community – between my five Twitter profiles is over 22,000 after 9 months.  My followers are focused on the areas I want to focus on.  My website and blog traffic is up and so is my business.  And, I have made new partnering contacts I could only have dreamed of before.  So for me – It’s been worth the ride.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 75 other followers