Got a Problem? Get Creative!

March 21, 2010

As entrepreneurs, business owners, employees, or just as people, we all face challenges.  And often those challenges involve the BIG M – money.  When it comes to growth, you need resources.  Money for marketing, for inventories, for systems, and oh yeah, groceries.

When I started my business in 2002, I went from the world of leveraging the corporate pocketbook to dipping into my own pocket – and let me tell you – it was NOT anywhere as deep.  It was a problem.  So I had to get creative.

  Here’s an example I shared with the Society of Women Engineers last month.

 

There are lots of things we can do to find or develop the resources we need to help our businesses grow – even when times are tight. 

Here are a few ideas…

  • Talented Friends and Family may be just the thing you need to help you through a rough spot.  Don’t hit them up for cash.  Ask for a little help with something they are good at. (I’m not sure I would have survived in those early days without access to a talented IT Guy.  Lucky for me I was MARRIED to him.  ūüôā  Just remember – exchanging favors means that there is an equal balance in the relationship.  If you are all take and no give…you might end up with no friends to call on.
  • Barter –  True bartering is a much more formal exchange of products or services.  Sometime they are arranged one-on-one or they my occur through a more formal process using a Barter Exchange.  But just so you know, formal barter exchanges do get reported to the IRS via for 1099’s – so it is important to keep track.  You can learn more here.
  • Leverage existing resources in a creative way.  Think of a skill, some excess space,  or a  resource you might have that is more than what you need.  Instead of letting it sit unused, leverage it into something someone else can use in exchange for something that you might need.
  • Take your show on the road.  Get out there and talk to people.  It might be in free presentations to local groups and organizations or like I did on the speakers circuit.  Not comfortable speaking in front of a crowd?  Join your local Toastmasters group and tune up your skills.  Get to be good at delivering your message – you never know who might be in that audience.
  • Utilize Social MediaTwitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and many other tools can help you get your message out to potential  customers.  Compared to traditional advertising this is a much less expensive way to get the word out and the business in.  Most of the tools are free or close to it – but remember it is NOT free – you are simply choosing to invest your time instead of your dollars.  Watch for the return on investment or ROI just as you would if you were investing cash,

The Time Money Continuum

To be very clear, there is great value in being able to go to the experts to get the products and services that you need and PAY for them.  Very often this will move you faster.  They do what they do best while you are out doing what YOU do best.  There is a time/money continuum.  You can invest your dollars to get things done and often get it done FASTER than if you go the Do it Yourself or DIY route.  But, if you do not have the money, some creativity, a bit of elbow grease, and a network of talented friends can make a BIG difference. 

So if you’ve got a problem, get creative.  You just may find you have “created” your solution.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

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Get Your Business on the Fast Track to Success

January 30, 2010

As I make my way around the business and investment communities, too often I see and hear examples  of businesses that have terrific potential but just need a boost to turn potential into reality.  More often than not, what they need MOST is a plan to move from concept to commercial success.

Getting Your Business on the Fast Track to Success Takes…

Capital

I can’t recall a conversation with an entrepreneur where the subject of money or Capital has not come up.  It usually goes something like this…

“If we had the money we could…”

“If you invest in our company we will…”

“We would have hit our goals if we had the capital for …”

Yet when I ask to see the business plan and the other information that is REQUIRED for access to capital by almost any bank or investor, the conversation suddenly goes a different direction. 

So hint #1 – If you need CAPITAL to Fast Track your business, you need a SOLID plan to demonstrate that you know how to not just grow your business, but also how to PAY BACK the investor or bank.

You need that thought process in place and you need it written down so others can see it.

Cognition

The next step in the process is the cognitive step.  Cognition is the process of perceiving, thinking, reasoning and analyzing.  This forms the foundation of ANY plan.

As my friend Francine Hardaway says:

“It’s not enough to know just  technology or science. To be successful, you need to understand the business behind it. “

Here in Arizona, a great example of a tool to move your business forward is a program for business plan training that  includes the FastTrac¬ģ programs of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, cosponsored locally by Stealthmode Partners.

Ed  Nusbaum of Stealthmode Partners

Francine Hardaway of Stealthmode Partners

Phillip Blackerby, M.P.Aff. 

 

 

 

FastTrac

You can find the

 Arizona Winter 2010 Schedule here!

 

Some of the areas this program covers include: How do you generate interest? How much is it worth? How do you profit from it? How do you sustain ongoing growth? How do you get the needed financing?   That’s where FastTrac¬ģ TechVenture‚ĄĘ makes a difference.   Here’s what Francine had to share…

“Just as you thrive on the frontier of technology and life sciences, we operate on the cutting edge of business and entrepreneurship. During FastTrac TechVenture, this knowledge is shared with you. Learn how to determine the best way to apply it to your situation to produce a product, build your company, and fulfill your vision.

This program will be offered by Stealthmode Partners under the auspices of the City of Tempe, and best of all, thanks to the City of Tempe, Arizona, the course is free to Tempe based companies or other local companies who commit to create jobs fro Tempe residents(except for the cost of materials $150) . Begins March 8 at 5:30 PM. Register at http://www.tempeft.com

Collaboration

Last but not least – you need to get others on board.  Collaboration is key to fast tracking ANY business.  Whether it it effectively building high performance teams inside your business, or finding other businesses or community resources to partner with, NO ONE succeeds alone.    When it comes to moving a business along the growth path you have to collaborate to get things done.  Don’t just take my word for it … ask ANY successful entrepreneur.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Resource Links:

http://www.fasttrac.org/

http://arizonaft.com

 


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 Рwe might just make life better for the people Рremember 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 Рnot 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 Рthere 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 Рespecially 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 Рthings 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 Рcontinue 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 Рpromissus 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


Just a bit of Auld Lang Syne – Farewell 2009

December 31, 2009

The year 2009 will be a year to remember- fondly by some and less by others.¬† But however you feel about this year soon past – 2010 is just around the corner. (Or as my Aussie friends remind me – It’s already here!)

As the clock strikes Twelve – New Years tradition is to gather with friends and family to wish them well – sing a song and exchange an embrace.¬† We’ve all heard the song and probably sung it – most of us badly – at least I have.¬†

It is believed Robert Burns wrote the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne in the 1700’s. (Most say in¬† 1788.)¬† The 1700’s were¬† challenging years for the Scots – and in January of 1788 – it was the passing of an era with the death at 68 of the long exiled Bonnie Prince Charlie.

This video has Auld Lang Syne as sung by Dougie MacLean on his album Tribute.  

As we sing Auld Lang Syne to this challenging decade of zero years,¬† let’s take a page from from the song and put it behind us with fond memories of what was good and focus in on where and why we might raise our ‘cup of kindness’ to the decade to come.

Looking Back on the Big Zero

The decade of the Big Zero was not all bad – it had it’s highs and it’s lows.¬† But the highs for me included starting my own company (CorePurpose turns 8 in July), publishing my first book, leading an inspiring team at ASBA for two years, working with the team at Parenting Arizona and OTEF to make a lasting difference in our community, helping RiboMed move forward in it’s quest for new methods of early cancer detection so we can catch it early and stop the spread before it harms the ones we love, and watching my sons grow from boys into men that their Dad and I can be very proud if.¬†¬† All in all, not a bad list.

Looking forward to the Big One

As I look towards 2010¬† and beyond – let’s call it the Decade of the BIG ONE – I’m starting a To Do List – not resolutions to break – just actions to take.

  • Help someone find a job they love.
  • Have lunch with a¬† friend to share ideas on a regular basis
  • Pick an OLD Problem and Solve at it in a NEW way at least every other day.
  • Recognize someone’s leadership potential and commit to be their mentor
  • Accomplish¬† ‘Small Things” as suggested by Rebel Brown in this post at Phoenix Rising.
  • Dust off that Five Year Plan and Refine it for 2010 and beyond
  • Identify What We Do Best – Focus our energies there and outsource the rest
  • Zero in on finding my QUEST company and get it growing.
  • Help my son Nick (he’s 18) write his business plan for HIS dream business so that when he writes his¬† 2019 Look Back List he can say – “The Decade of the Big One was when I launched my business – and look what we have achieved.”

So, there you have it Рmy Look Back List and my To Do List going forward.  Have you started yours?

Thanks for stopping Рbest wishes for a Safe and Happy New Years and a record breaking 2010 and beyond.  Get ready Рthis decade will be the BIG ONE. 

Joan Koerber-Walker