Success Tip: Taking the First Step

March 6, 2011

If you are like most entrepreneurs, you have BIG plans.  The success journey can be a long one and you are eager to take that first step.  The question is…which one should it be?  Like a toddler who is taking those first tentative steps, some will be met with words of encouragement and applause and others many have you landing on your backside with a thud.  Either way, if you don’t pull yourself up and step forward, you will never get anywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

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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.


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.