Thursday, December 31, 2009

Karen Handel for Governor

Do not mistake me for a Republican!

But I am, as Founder and Principal of Atlanta Women in Business, walking the walk, by expressing my support of Karen Handel’s candidacy for Governor of Georgia. It’s time, in this state, that we take another crack at breaking up the Good Old Boys Network under the Capitol dome.

I know first-hand, because she spoke about this at the 2006 conference of Atlanta Women in Business, that Karen supports business and the role of women in the business world; I know she is smart and committed, I regret that she is a “politician”, frankly, and I don’t care that she is a Republican (as long as no one thinks I am one!). Most of all, I am confident that she is the right person for the job!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Are You Ready For Christmas?"

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a dozen times this week. “Are you ready for Christmas?” I don’t even know what that means. Does it mean that I’ve done all my gift-shopping, baked all my Christmas cookies, prepared my contribution to Christmas dinner – or at least bought the ingredients for it – decorated my home . . .? I don’t know.

Monday, at the supermarket, when I answered “no” in response to the young man who was at the cash register, he retorted with a: “Great; I’m not either and I don’t know if I will be before it’s come and gone.” That’s about the way I felt.

What I do know is this: tomorrow is Christmas -- the day Christians around the globe observe as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (even though ample evidence exists that December 25 is NOT his birthday). It’s a religious holiday. Somewhere along the way, it became a gift-giving day. Not in the culture in which I grew up. We did not have a “Santa Claus”; we had a Saint Nicholas, and he came on the night on December 5, bearing gifts and oranges (because he came from Spain, the ‘country of oranges’, much as my native country, The Netherlands, is ‘the country of tulips’). Those were terrifying evenings, because Saint Nicholas was accompanied by an “admin”, named Zwarte Piet (“Black Peter”), a Moor (remember, Spain . . .!) who carried a bunch of twigs (to punish ‘bad’ boys and girls) and a satchel of coal (a ‘bad’ child’s dread of a substitute for a longed-for doll or train set or book or jigsaw puzzle).

Christmas’s meaning to me today is midnight mass, real candles on real Christmas trees, mulled wine, stollen or panettone, hot chocolate, family, no commercial gifts, friends like Sally, who just brought me a jar of red pepper jelly, and the young man at the grocery store who wasn’t any more “ready for Christmas” a few days ago than I was. I hope there is peace in his heart, and reflection on a historic event, as much as there is in mine. And yours.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

“Nice” is the Winner!

Natalie won and Russell did not, on Survivor Samoa. Good for her, and good for women everywhere who are often underestimated in their capabilities and overshadowed by overconfident men.

Russell’s strategy was to “do whatever it takes” to become the winner: betrayal, disloyalty, deceit, conniving. That’s how he figured he could not fail to win. Natalie, on the other hand, stuck to values of honesty and integrity, was thought of as a nice person, and beat the bully.

Russell’s strategy failed because he had apparently not taken into account that the people he had betrayed were going to be the ones casting the final votes. Oh, oh – if you are not nice to others, what incentive do you give them to support you when you are in a contest?

Sure, it was only a TV reality show, but here’s a lesson for us in the business world: treat others well, apply The Golden Rule.

You go, girl, Natalie!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Atlanta Politics

Lisa Borders, outgoing City Council Chair, endorsed Kasim Reed in the recent run-off to elect a new mayor, over Mary Norwood; she campaigned for him and stated in an interview that she thought her efforts had helped him get to victory. Fine. No problem.

But . . ., Ms. Borders sits on the Board of Directors of The White House Project, an organization that "aims to advance women’s leadership in all communities and sectors—up to the U.S. presidency—by filling the leadership pipeline with a richly diverse, critical mass of women."

If women do not want to support other women for leadership roles, I guess that's their business.

But if you don't want to walk the walk, I think you should refrain from talking the talk. Off that board, Ms. Borders!

Monday, December 14, 2009

American Women at the End of 2009

What a year it has been, and not just for women in general or in the business world in particular. If we look for THE story of the year, the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States must be among the most prominent ones to choose from.

But this is a woman’s blog, and, in the spirit of the season, when everyone is proclaiming “The Man (or Person) of the Year”, I have chosen four women to highlight here. All dwell in or near the house of politics; two are admirable, the other two belong in the category I would call “The Ditherers, the Self-Servers and the Beholden”.

The woman at the top of my list of Admirable Women of 2009 is Michelle Obama. Without her, I have no doubt, we would not today have the president we do have. And, much as I would have liked seeing a woman in the White House in the number one spot, I think the current president is the best for our time. More though, Mrs. Obama’s life, far more than her husband’s, tells the American story at the beginning of the 21st century. Descendent from African slaves in the American south, her family tree includes a white slave owner; migration to the north brought the family opportunities not available in the south and a slave’s great-granddaughter is now the First Lady of the United States. That’s got to impress everyone who pays attention to American social history.

My second woman on this list is Senator Olympia Snow (R. Maine).

It is shameful that the United States does not have universal health care for its citizens. It is shameful that the Republicans in Congress are en bloc opposed to providing universal health care; Senator Snow is to be applauded for at least trying. Whatever bill comes out of Congress in the coming weeks, it will fall woefully short and is likely not to please anyone (except “the special interests”) and there is plenty of shame to spread around. But at least Senator Snow, as the sole Republican, tried.

And that brings me to my two least admired women of 2009: Senators Mary Landrieu (D. Louisiana) and Blanche Lincoln (D. Arkansas), both of whom have spoken out against the bill currently being considered in Congress. Why do they hold this position? Louisiana and Arkansas are among the poorest states in the country. I don’t think I am going too far out on a limb when I say that every day someone dies in these states as a result of inadequate health care accessibility.

Ms. Landrieu, according to Open Secrets, has sponsored or co-sponsored 190 earmarks, totaling $395,199,063 in fiscal year 2009, ranking 6th out of 100 senators.

Ms. Lincoln, it seems, has been less greedy (she has also been in the Senate shorter than Ms. Landrieu has)’ she had sponsored or co-sponsored 115 earmarks totaling $221,902,125 in fiscal year 2009, ranking 26th out of 100 senators.

To whom are they beholden? From whom are they expecting the cash that will fund their re-election campaigns? According to a report from The Heritage Foundation, Congress has approved 11,914 earmarks for 2009, totaling $28.9 billion. What are earmarks anyway, if not a “prime the pump” kitty for re-election campaigns?

Maybe I should add a third woman to this list of least admired women of 2009: Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Isn’t she the one who promised “the cleanest, most transparent Congress ever”? Whatever happened to that idea?
As usual, there is plenty of shame to go around in Washington; I find it painful to see it personified by women who ought to know better.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tiger & The Tabloids

On November 30, it was just a minor blip on the PR radar screen: Tiger Woods had had a car crash – on his own or a neighbor’s property yet! – and instead of ‘fessing up to a row with his wife, he called it “a private matter”, thinking it would fool us all. Well, now we KNOW why he wanted to keep it “private”. Apart from feeling awful for his wife and their tiny children, I frankly don’t care how many affairs the man has had, but here we have yet another hero with feet of clay, thinking he is exempt from the laws of social behavior.

In today’s world, we all live in glass houses. Nothing is private anymore; any secrets you wish to keep will be revealed in cyberspace by someone else, at warp speed.

So, is Tiger naïve, arrogant, stupid, delusional? Yes.

Rarely before has the foundation of PR been more evident: if you don’t control the message, someone else will, and you may not like the result.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bombs in Baghdad

Yesterday’s report of more horrendous violence in Baghdad gave me a greater sense of dread than at any time before since a friend of mine returned home there more than a year and a half ago.

She and her family are physically O.K., but this one did come close. This is what she wrote:

"Simultaneously, five huge car bombings exploded at five different zones in Baghdad. One of these occurred in our neighborhood, just two hundred meters (650 feet) away from my house. I was cleaning the kitchen and all of the sudden I felt like the house collapsed on my head. The window's glasses were broken, etc.

There is a school very close to my house. At the moment the explosion occurred, many students were entering and others are leaving the main gate and you can imagine what happened to them.

Legs, arms, other parts of human bodies were thrown here and there. Hundreds of innocents faced their destiny yesterday and others are on the waiting list since the wheels of killing and death are moving very fast in Iraq.

I feel very bad, hopeless, and scared; not from the death itself because this is the normal end for everyone but from the way the Iraqis are loosing their lives.

How many students and kids killed or extremely injured? Why? Till this moment the total number of yesterday’s bloody events is around one thousand persons, still many lying beneath the collapsed buildings and others inside the burned cars……….. Wow, wow, it is unbelievable.

I wish if I can find a job faraway and get out of this hell. I am so sorry for this unpleasant news but I have nothing promising, this is the scenario of the daily life in Iraq since 2003."

Friday, December 4, 2009


Utah is, according to LiveScience, the happiest state in the country. Why? A dominant religion? A sparse population? Wonderful ski slopes? Breathtaking panoramas? Who is to say what is causing all this happiness?

Georgia comes in at 23 out of 50, not too bad, considering that only two Southern states (marginally "Southern"), Maryland and Virginia, do better at happiness than we do. Who would have thought that North and South Carolinians, Tennesseans and Floridians are less happy than we are? Alabamians - not a surprise!

If you had ever thought of leaving the peach state and moving to Oregon, check out Colorado instead. They, respectively, come in at 18 and 4 on this happiness scale. It must be those ski slopes! :-)

Check the list out for yourself:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tiger Woods & The Media – how not to make a PR crash after you’ve had a car crash.

Had Tiger Woods said: “Elin and I had a fight and I stormed out of the house”, instead of lambasting the media and saying: “this is a private matter”, everyone would have understood and carried on with their own business (after all, who among us has not ever had a spousal dispute?) and Woods’s accident would have been a forgotten minor incident by now.

If you find yourself in the media spotlight for less then perfect reasons, whether you are a celebrity or not, tell the truth, tell the whole story, tell it yourself (certainly not your lawyer, unless you face possible criminal charges) apologize, and ask forgiveness. Easy, and end of story.

Can Philosophy Change Your Life?

Everywhere you turn these days, it seems you are being introduced to someone who is described as a "Thought Leader", without much knowledge of what that means. Having only read a blurb so far of Marietta McCarty's new book, "How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: 10 Ideas That Matter Most", it appeals to me. So, Amazon, here comes my order . . .!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Smarter Cities – Smarter Planet

IBM tells us that in 1900, just over a hundred years ago, only 13% of the global population lived in cities; by 2050, 70% will. What are the ramifications of rapid urbanization and what solutions does technology offer?

Issues IBM addresses in its “Smarter Planet” initiative include transportation (Atlanta traffic being what it is in 2009, I’d sure hate to be on the downtown connector or I-285 in 2050!), healthcare, education (see “Education in Georgia”, below), energy, water (as a Certified Georgia Master Gardener this is a topic I have studied and that concerns me greatly), employment (with accountability and transparency) – and that is just a start!

Phil Guido, IBM Corporation’s General Manager, U.S. East, spoke last week of the world’s interconnectedness, economically, socially and technically, and identified a “new wave” with an infusion of intelligence – “Instrumented, Interconnected and Intelligent”. He gave his audience several examples of “smart” global solutions, e.g. traffic flow in Stockholm, and crime fighting in New York City.

Three metro counties’ heads of government also spoke at the event.

John Eaves of Fulton listed his priorities as crime, healthcare and transportation, highlighting the success of transforming Grady Hospital into an independent nonprofit institution and the need for MARTA to expand. Burrell Ellis of DeKalb read a nice speech without specifics (“2010 will present challenges; urbanization impacts our lifestyles”. DeKalb is recruiting new businesses in healthcare, technology and other industries, and he wants DeKalb to have “the greenest government in America”), and Sam Olens of Cobb mentioned that “education is key”, starting with “showing up for Kindergarten”.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named the Cobb County Water System its 2009 WaterSense partner of the year in the Large Utility category, and the county is # 17 on the EPA’s “certified green” list, prompting Olens to remark that “Cobb is already green” – a little swipe at the speaker who preceded him?

More provocative than the other two counties’ speakers, Olens advocated for (1) the arts, mentioning the Gwinnett Arena and the Cobb Energy Center as examples of bringing the arts to the people, for (2) light rail, proposing to connect the City of Atlanta with Kennesaw State University, for (3) buying up park land to expand green spaces, and for (4) redoing the old, dilapidated traffic corridors (“areas now only good for loitering”), such as Cobb Parkway and Memorial Drive (another swipe at DeKalb?) with mixed-use redevelopment, saying several times that he is tired of talking and wants to see “dirt moving”. Not leaving the state of Georgia unscathed in his comments, Olens said he opposes giving tax abatements to companies that do not bring high-tech jobs to the state.

So, how does all this tie into IBM and its technology solutions?

We can learn from Brisbane, Albuquerque, Malta, Sao Paolo, Masdar City and other places around the globe. The question is: are we willing to learn, or do we think we already know it all (like the south Georgia father who does not see a need for his son to have a college education), here in Atlanta, in Georgia, in the United States?

Education in Georgia

When I chose the “Education” breakout session as a recent IBM “Smarter Planet” event, my two topics of interest where professional development for women (having observed that women are interested in having it, but only if their employers pay for it) and global curiosity (having observed that not just Georgians but Americans in general are fiercely uncurious about other countries, cultures, languages, people, and global careers.

During the 2-hour discussion, the focus, however, was Georgia’s high school dropout rate; causes and possible remedies. In the process, I learned a few things.

In Atlanta schools, 65-70% of the teachers are “old”, have tenure and are not prepared for the 21st century, despite lots of training. Unions are to blame. Teachers want to be regarded as “professionals”, but unionization prohibits this image.

Top university graduates do not want to go into teaching; parental pressure: “We did not send you to college to become a teacher!” Teachers come out of the bottom 1/3 of college graduates.

Skills needed for the future: communications, how to think; today’s young people are on-line, but do not know how to communicate.

Inadequate education leads to crime, New York City, with a population of 8.8 million has 13,000 people in jail; Atlanta, with a population of 4 million, has 14,000 in jail. The recidivism rate is 40%. What can Georgia do better?

Young people’s attitudes need to change. Very few will become super athletes or rock stars. How about parental expectations? “Below the gnat line” (Augusta-Macon-Columbus), with the exception of Savannah, fathers still tell their sons that education beyond high school is not necessary: “I did well enough without going to college, and you can too!”

The topics I proposed? Professional education was barely touched on (only by a school system administrator, who said there is plenty of it, costs the system tons of money and delivers few if any noticeable results) and the necessity of educating our children so that they can compete for jobs with global counterparts was endorsed by only one of the other 15 or so people in the room. I had hoped to ask if the participants were aware of the “Two Million Minutes” documentary (, but the focus was so immediately local that the opportunity did not present itself.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where Does The Trash Go?

This is funny. Or, at least I thought so . . . .!

Yesterday’s BlogWell event was held at the headquarters of Newell Rubbermaid, a company that, among zillions of other products, makes trash cans in all shapes, sizes and colors. The event’s ”snack break” (a single-file table with cookies and brownies [and supermarket fruits that still had the scan stickers on them . . .] for 250!) was held in a lovely area, right next to a fabulous display of company products (including trash cans!), but there were no receptacles for plates, cups, utensils and napkins. We all had to go out to the security desk in the lobby to dispose of the disposables (in their paper waste basket). Funny!

But, while Newell Rubbermaid’s hospitality folks came up short, the marketing people sure did their stuff well – we all went home with a generous handful of Sharpie pens and markers, including the much-touted stainless steel variety apparently popular with sports and entertainment celebrities. I wouldn’t know – I don’t hang out at sports events or on red carpets!

New Media – Standards & Practices

Andy Sernovitz (author of “Word of Mouth Marketing”), speaking at a BlogWell event in Atlanta yesterday, said it has been clear that New Media needs standards because we are all suffering from the results of E-Mail having been launched without them, viz. mailboxes full of spam.

The Social Media Business Council that was established as a result of this awareness has published a “Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit” that we can all access ( My company is a few zeros short of the $1 billion annual revenue required for membership in the Social Media Business Council, but that does not mean we cannot all learn from what “the big boys” are doing in the New Media realm.

Two of my pet peeves: (1) people hiding behind a pseudonym (I recently met someone whose on-line name is “froggie” – what’s wrong with “Anne”?), and (2) endless promotions of products and services (New Media is about listening and building relationships, not selling). What are yours?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Top-down or Bottom-up

This year, when you designed and began implementing your marketing plan, did you decide to buy a list of prospects, slice-and-dice them, narrow them down, come up with X number of prospects, which you then began to contact at random in order to come up with Y number of clients?


This is what Rick McPartlin of The CEO Challenge ( means when he denounces the "top-down" marketing plans, which he names as one of the characteristics of a "Best of the Worst" type of company. I do not want my company to be a BOTW and hope you do not want that for yours, either.

Happy analyzing of your 2009 results, and continued success in 2010!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Business Growth Expo

Especially now that I know that Atlanta is not among the nation's "relative" boom towns, I am glad I'm going to the Atlanta Business Chronicle's "Business Growth Expo" next week, courtesy of Judi Adams Sanek, who, in a short span of time has positioned herself as a prominent member of Atlanta Women in Business. Way to go!

This will be an opportunity to "be among the first to get a glimpse into the local economy for 2010", thanks to Rajeev Dhawan of Georgia State University, Jeff Humphries of the University of Georgia and Roger Tutterow of Mercer University. I can hardly wait!

See you there?

Economic Recovery

In Maria Bartiromo's interview with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (BusinessWeek, November 2 issue), he comments that: "A recovery that's going to work requires a recovery led by private demand." (my emphasis).

So, it's up to us?

Certainly, we all know that for a long time -- more than half a century, I would guess -- the U.S. economy has floated on consumer spending. But, Mr. Secretary, I think we're spent out! Unemployment is hovering around 10% (17% if underemployment is taken into consideration), home mortgage foreclosures are not declining, health care costs continue to rise and an oil change that used to cost $26 is now $32.

I think you've got to look elsewhere - Wall Street, maybe? - and let us lick our financial wounds, shore up our tattered finances, strap on some optimistic gear and worry about ourselves before we worry about getting the country, much less the world, out of a recession by buying more computers, leasing a bigger office or going to international conferences. Frankly, as small business owners, we're a bit tired right now.

Not Exactly a "boomtown"

When BusinessWeek posted its list of 42 relative boom towns (I'm glad "relative" was part of the announcement), I excitedly searched for Atlanta's ranking. It's absent. So much for that.

Georgia is on the list, with Augusta (# 24) - the military, medicine - but having Jackson MS, Columbia SC and Memphis TN on the list and Atlanta not, that is not a good thing. We're in the midst of a Mayoral election campaign; let the best woman win - we need a little boost into national rankings here.

Faring best in the BusinessWeek rankings are cities in Texas and upstate New York - go figure! I wouldn't live in either place - for cultural reasons in the former and the weather in the latter.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Northeast Georgia Business Women

Last night, about 20 Northeast Georgia businesswomen got together for drinks and networking in Athens. These are the "early birds", arriving in time to get a picture taken. Top row, from left to right: Debra Helwig, Lori Randall, LuAnn Brown, Carol Whiteley, me; bottom row - Sue Lawrence on the left and Sharna Fulton on the right.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Do you prefer to communicate by phone or e-mail?

What you prefer is not so important. It’s what your customers/clients prefer that matters. But they have a responsibility also, not just a preference.

I have a client who clearly prefers telephone contact, but it’s not working very well. She will call and leave a message – not about the reason for her call, but simply: “This is Louise; please call me back.” I call her back. She does not answer the phone, so I leave a message: “Hi, Louise, this is Lya Sorano, returning your call. Do call me again!”

She does not call. I call her again the next day: “Louise, hi – this is Lya Sorano, still trying to return your call from yesterday. Do call again, or if e-mail works for you, please send me your question or information and I will respond to it.” She still does not call back and she does not send an e-mail. I do not return the call a third time. I may lose the client; she may fire me, because I am often unable to answer the phone when she calls, or I may fire her, because she never leaves a meaningful message, calls again or sends an e-mail.

How is this phone vs. e-mail practice working for you?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Smarter Planet

I am going to IBM's "Smarter Planet" event in November. One of the topic sections that caught my eye immediately was "Education in the 21st Century". It has long been a soapbox issue for me, especially when it comes to women in the workplace, that education and employment go hand-in-hand and that the minute we stop learning is the minute we become less employable.

So, IBM's attention to this will be of interest to me and I will share with you in due course what I learn about this topic at this event.

IBM = technology, of course, and the company has long been on the cutting edge. Perhaps no surprise, thus, that on October 7, President Barack Obama will award IBM the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for its work on the Blue Gene family of supercomputers. The award is the most prestigious of its kind in the United States, and IBM is the only company recognized this year.

Congratulations to IBM and all my friends and relatives who work there!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


If the President of the United States, in an off-the-record comment, wants to call a jackass a jackass, as he did the other day in a comment about Kanye West’s insult to Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards, he should be perfectly free to do that without some media jockey jumping all over him.

It used to be that Presidents could do all sorts of unacceptable things, such as carrying on extra-marital affairs (Kennedy), without the press uttering a peep. These days . . .? Even an insignificant, flip, off-the-record comment seems to be fair game - shamefully.

Reminder to the news media: even the President of the United States deserves to have a life and “off-the-record” is exactly that. Go find some real news to report.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Here, at home in the United Sates, friends often comment on my “European attitudes, while my European relatives and friends scold me for having become “so Americanized”. One can’t win for losing . . . .!

There have been times of impatience and embarrassment in the past several decades. I’ve been impatient with the European resistance to new marketing or management ideas, and demonstrated little tolerance for the business and career obstacles women in “The Old World” face. On the other side, however, I’ve suffered some moments of embarrassment. Such as when I tried to explain to a cousin how it was possible for my new home state to have a segregationist (Lester Maddox) as governor, years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Or when I traveled in Italy, Switzerland and France in 1998 and was confronted everywhere with questions about the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, each of them ending with: “Have you Americans all gone mad?”

I’m in another embarrassing moment now.

President Obama will deliver a speech about education tomorrow, directed to American K-12 students. Many parents have objected and told their school administration systems they do not wish their children to hear or see it; some are threatening to keep their children home. Why? Because they are afraid it will be a political speech, inconsistent with their “values”, they say. There is already talk in the blogosphere of an “opposition speech”, from the other side of the political divide. Who is opposed to education, studying more, working hard, turning the TV off and leaving the video games on the shelf?

Well, that’s not really the point here, is it? Those parents opposed to their children listening to President Obama’s speech tomorrow do not really quibble with the message. They just don’t like the messenger. Too bad; he is the perfect example of someone who did not have such a terrific start in life and made it to the top. That’s the American way.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Improving your LinkedIn profile and your e-mail address

How often do you review a LinkedIn profile of a colleague or a potential business partner or new hire and you see that he/she has the following under “Websites”:

My Website
My Company
My Blog
My Portfolio

Often, right?

It would so much better project a professional image, if this section instead revealed:

The web site’s name or expertise (e.g. orchids for every occasion)
The company’s name (e.g. Sailing for Fun, Inc.)
The blog’s name (e.g. The Accidental Gardener)
The portfolio’s focus (e.g. business coaching around the world)

This is easy to accomplish (just change the name, retain the URL) and the profile owner comes across as being more professional than most. If this is a tweak you should make, do it; it will set you apart from the competition.

Sort of the same thing with e-mail addresses.

If your e-mail address is, or your web site offers contact choices of info@, sales@, quotes@, etc., you may miss inquiries that could lead to sales. Business depends on personal relationships; people want to do business with people, not with characters. or is bound to generate more interest than

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Women's Equality Day

August 26 of each year is designated in the United States as Women's Equality Day.

The late Bella Savitzky Abzug, member of Congress from New York, is owed thanks for this day.

In 1971, her efforts resulted in a Joint Congressional Resolution, designating August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day. This, in recognition of the fact that in 1920 women in the United States had won the right to vote.

So, now we can vote.

Equality, meanwhile – it remains elusive!

I have seen proclamations from President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush; is President Obama forgetting?


Joint Resolution of Congress, 1971Designating August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and

WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as Women’s Equality Day, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.


Bella Abzug (1920-1998)

Friday, August 21, 2009

"What Happens to HR After this Recession?"

This is the headline of a recent Jobing blog post. I encourage you to read it - whether you are an employer or an employee.

My contribution to the conversation is this:

Top HR executives will be well-served by the use of Social Media to find suitable recruits and learn more about those candidates they decide to interview. "Confidentiality" has often been cited as a reason for HR lagging in Social Media applications; my sense of it, however, is that this is unfamiliar territory for many and an unwillingness to learn new technology stands in the way.

What do you think? Comments are welcome!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Finding Your Next Job

It puzzles me, when I learn from women how poorly they are "connected" in Social Networks, especially the network for professionals, LinkedIn, that they do not seem to realize how important this is for their careers.

Example One:
Connie shunned Social Networks and had no use at all for LinkedIn while she was (very well!) employed by a prominent, international brand in transportation. Then, her employer merged with another company, her postion was eliminated and she was laid off. She then decided to create a LinkedIn profile, where all her listed positions were "past". Even though mergers and lay-offs are not an employee's fault, did Connie realize that recruiters might not favor someone who is not currently employed?

Example Two:
Kathleen has a very busy job with a hip global consumer goods company. When asked why she has no LinkedIn profile, her response was that her employer does not allow it and that she does not want to start one on her own time, because "I work 55 or more hours a week and when I get home I want to do other things". Her absence from LinkedIn makes her invisible to recruiters who may be searching for candidates to fill a position even better than the one she has now.

Example Three:
Doreen's situation is similar to Kathleen's, although, unlike her, she complains a lot about her workload and the menial tasks the CEO of this high-profile membership organization expects her and her direct-reports to perform for him (such as picking up his dry cleaning or having his car washed - can you believe it, in 2009?). She knows she should expand her skimpy LinkedIn profile and update it regularly, but she says she has no time during the day and is too tired in the evenings, while her week-ends are spent shopping or with friends. How will she find her next job, if she ever decides she is tired of her current employer, or he of her?

It is my hope that women in "Corporate America" will begin to think of themselves more as entrepreneurs, responsible for their own careers, and in doing so employ all the necessary tools at their disposal. Among these, a LinkedIn profile is at the top - effective and free!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Getting a Pay Increase

Congratulations to nearly 7% of Georgia workers - you are getting a pay increase on Friday, when the minimum wage goes up from $6.55 to $7.25 an hour.


Beverly Johnson, legislative chair of Kansas Business and Professional Women said, "We are all in this together. People working hard and responsibly should be paid an amount valuing their personal human dignity. For example, we need 'ditch diggers.' I don't want to dig ditches. If I want my ditches to be dug, then I should not be paying the least amount that a 'desperate' person will work for. I must pay fairly in a way that will assure he can afford necessities and preserve his human dignity -- even if it means I earn a little less." More than 8% of Kansas workers will receive a raise.

"It's a myth that a minimum wage increase kills job development," said Lya Sorano, founder of Atlanta Women in Business. "To get out of this recession, we need more money to circulate. That happens when people get bigger paychecks, who today can't afford to buy the goods and services they need -- goods and services from some of the same people who seem to be opposed to the increase."

"The stress of poverty puts the mind in a place of worry instead of work," said Nancy Denker, owner of Focus Ink in Albuquerque, NM. "Living on a shoestring is not the best incentive for workers. Business owners must realize that as our community prospers, so will business."

Monday, July 20, 2009

News - the way it used to be

Following today’s noon news on TV, which was perhaps a minute or two shorter than usual, and which I had turned on while preparing lunch, there was a “news interview” by one of the station’s on-air talents of a local car dealership owner. Unless one paid close attention or knew “how these things work”, it was indistinguishable from the “news” that had preceded it – a murder, a boating accident, the imminent minimum wage increase, the 40th anniversary of the lunar landing – but the interview actually was a disguised advertisement. The car dealership owner advertises heavily on TV, in spots that are readily recognized as ads, and I guess he was “owed one” . . . .

Then I sat down with my lunch, opened this morning’s paper (The Financial Times) and read Walter Cronkite’s obituary.

Wow! Just as the differences between planet earth and the moon are amazing, without comparables, so is the difference between the news of 40 years ago and today’s news.

My first memory of Walter Cronkite’s broadcast genius was the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, then the 1969 lunar landing and all throughout, his coverage of the Vietnam war – as horrendously ill-considered then as the Iraq war of more recent vintage.

Television newscasts certainly have changed in the past half-century, and not for the better.

And that’s the way it is, July 20, 2009.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Minimum Wage Increase

I support a minimum wage increase and hope you do also.

Do not allow yourself to be persuaded that a minimum wage increase kills job development. Who can live on a minimum wage anyway? Can those who oppose the increase? I dare them to try!

WASHINGTON - July 16 - When the federal minimum wage rises from $6.55 to $7.25 an hour on July 24, the national Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign will celebrate - and call for another increase to $10 in 2010. (read more.....)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Politeness Gone Too Far – Way Too Far

So, the evening had started off horribly (Read: “Phoenix & Dragon Flames Out”, below), but now we were in the event room, where I took it upon myself to tell the organizer and the presenter what had just occurred next door (the organizer excused it by saying that “Candace has just hired a few new people; I will speak with her about this"), and ready to hear the presentation, which both my colleague and I had been looking forward to.

First, though, we had to sit through an introduction by the event’s organizer, who started with a “brief meditation, so that you will feel your power” and then went on with a misplaced etiquette lesson. Misplaced, because my colleague and I are international businesswomen, who have traveled the world, are completely at home in culturally diverse environments on several continents, are respected in our professions and have excellent relationships with our clients. Nevertheless, we were told how important it is that we always make a good impression and make sure that people we meet like us. Neither my colleague nor I are particularly hung up on being “liked” by our clients and prospects. “Respected”, yes, but “liked” is not a prerequisite. As if that were not already – what shall I say? “unnecessary”? – yes, let’s keep it polite: it was “unnecessary”! – she then went on to lecture us on the importance of always using “please” and “thank you” in our interactions with others, giving as an example appropriate restaurant conduct. We should never order something by saying: “I’m going to have . . .”, or “I want . . .”. Rather, we must always say: “Please, may I have . . . .”, to show our respect for the waiter.

What the bloody hell!

In order not to embarrass my colleague, and out of respect for the program presenter, I stayed in my seat (good thing I did, the program was excellent!), but I had had it “up to here” with this nonsense and told the woman that when I am in a restaurant, I conduct a business transaction. “They have a piece of meat for sale that I want to buy; they deliver the piece of meat to my table and I pay for it. There is no ‘please, may I?’ involved in the process.”

That is a principle. But there’s more to it. These days, in many restaurants, wait staff is poorly trained and has no clue about appropriate interaction with clientele. I will not go back to places where I am addressed as “sweetie”, which recently happened, or where a colleague and I are addressed as “you girls”, which also happened a few weeks ago. So, according to our evening’s “etiquette trainer”, I should say: “please, may I have . . .?” to a waitress who calls me “sweetie”, just so that she will like me and recommend me to her friends who may want to hire me as a writer or publicist?

Not bloody likely!

Finally, the presenter came on, and, without blinking an eye, delivered a superb program. As the only two attendees (if you wonder about that, yes, so do I!), my colleague and I received fabulous personal attention and enjoyed the interactions that took place over the next hour. Evening saved, but who needs the hassles?

Phoenix & Dragon Flames Out

Last night, a colleague and I went to an event at Phoenix & Dragon in Sandy Springs, I at the invitation of the event’s organizer, my colleague at my suggestion.

When we walked in, the cashiers at the counter – one male, one female – asked us if they could help us. I said we were there for the event and the male cashier decided to assist us, while his female colleague attended the store’s customers who were beginning to line up behind us.

“It will start in 20 minutes; they are just setting up”, the man said, “so you will have time to look around the store”, which is exactly the reason why we had arrived early. I’ve been to at least half a dozen events at Phoenix & Dragon, going back to the time when it was still located on Hammond Drive, and bought things there on almost every occasion. For my colleague, it was her first visit; I had told her lots of good things about the store.

The man then asked if we would like to pay. Yes, fine, of course. We had not known beforehand what the arrangement would be (I had imagined we would pay the event’s organizer, but never mind). We pulled out our coupon, provided by the organizer. If two people were to come to the event together, each got $5 off the attendance fee (in these dire economic times, every little $5 helps!). He looked at the coupon with suspicion, saying he had never seen such a thing before, and didn’t it look like someone had just printed it from their computer? Yes, someone had (“jerk”)! His female colleague leaned over to inspect this ‘suspicious’ coupon also and confirmed she had never seen such a thing either. So, the guy picked up the phone and called Candace Apple, the owner. Long conversation, glances of suspicion in my and my colleague’s direction, but finally he hung up and said he would accept the coupon. My colleague handed him cash, I wrote a check – a business check, with name, address and phone number printed on it. He looked at it, turning it over a few times – more suspicion! Then he wanted my driver’s license and I told him, untruthfully, that I did not think I had it with me. Asking to see a driver’s license when a personal check is presented is common; for a business check, it makes no sense.

Another phone call to the owner. I told him: “Candace knows me and she knows my business”, which seemed to make him even more suspicious, so he came away from behind the counter and started walking in the direction of where I suppose Candace’s office is. “You know what”, I said to him, “never mind the check; I’ll just give you cash.” So, he game me the check back, I handed him the cash and he handed me a receipt. He asked for my name, which I gave him. Then he accepted my colleague’s cash and asked her of she needed a receipt. Stupid question to ask when you are paying for a business event in cash! She told him “yes”, he gave it to her and then asked for her name. “Why?”, she challenged him, “I’ve paid in cash”. He told her they “just like to keep a list”, so she gave him her name as well and we were told where the event was taking place (next door, in a different building). We could not get out of the store fast enough, I, speaking just for myself, never to return again!

Oh, the event? My colleague and I were the only two in attendance! The presentation was excellent, the introduction was another disaster. Read: “Politeness Gone Too Far – Way Too Far” – next post.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Americans Have Discovered Saving

We are not exactly turning from a Consumer Society into a Savings Society, but there may be a trend developing.

“Saving” has, of course, for decades been an ubiquity in our vocabulary. If we could buy a pair of shoes for $50, we were encouraged to buy two pair for $75 and “save” $25. It worked! Splendidly! So well, in fact, that we have “saved” ourselves almost to the brink of disaster. But, the trend is turning (if “trend” is the right word – it could just be an anomaly); James C. Cooper reports in the June 29 issue of BusinessWeek that we “socked away 5.7% of [our] earnings [In April of this year], the most in 14 years.” So, Americans are spending less. Not just individuals, but businesses also. Mine is one of them. I go to fewer luncheons, seminars and conferences, I have not upgraded my computer in almost two years, and I do not go driving all over town to meet a prospect for coffee unless we have had at least one serious, qualifying telephone conversation. I was a bit more liberal in this when gas was under $2 a gallon.

Have your spending habits changed this year? Are you saving more? Comments are welcome!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Until you have a better plan of your own, do not reject mine.

I watched the first hour of President Obama’s healthcare “town hall” on ABC last night and found it mostly a waste of time.

I did not learn anything I had not already heard.

The dynamic and visuals were all wrong. Diane Sawyer is too old (she worked in the NIXON White House for crying out loud!) and too prominent a “news” personality to be audience-hopping with a microphone. It made me think that ABC had not been able to make up its mind who (Charlie Gibson or Diane Sawyer) should take this gig and arrived at the convoluted solution we saw.

The substance (if we can call it that) of the program was annoying. It started with everyone in the room indicating (with a show of hands) that they believe the U.S. healthcare system needs to be overhauled and nobody believing the current system works. Then, almost every question or concern directed to the president was an attempt to shoot down his plan. I wish some people would have proposed some alternatives, but this was an hour full of criticisms and devoid of fresh ideas.

I think the president could have used his time better also.

A Very Interesting Job Applicant Screening Procedure

I read this on "The Personal Branding Blog" and thought it was a procedure that makes sense for the hiring company on two fronts: it saves time and it exhibits each candidate's clear and concise writing ability. Smart!

The company. . . . listed the top five qualifications for the job and wanted you to write a short paragraph explaining how you uniquely met each of the five qualifications. The catch -- you had a small box to list all the qualifications and how you met each of them in just a few thousand characters (not words).

In the meantime, I just had an e-mail from someone I've known for 3+ years now, employed in positions of increasing responsibility by a global company; her name is on the list of new lay-offs, just announced. My son Alex, laid off about 5 weeks ago, has been getting at least one interview a week, but the only job offers are part-time, with hourly pay, and do not require the college degree he has. He has decided to take one, because it's better, he believes, than being on unemployment, while he keeps looking for something more suitable.

It's not a pretty picture in the employment world!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


If you are using any of the following words or phrases in your press releases, web content, brochures or other communications tools, you are "communicating without meaning". Here they are:
Pleased to
Focused on
Leading provider
New and improved
120 percent
Cost effective

Who says so? David Meerman Scott, the author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, who did a Vocus webinar this afternoon, where I learned so much in one hour - for free! - that I now have a whole lot of revising to do for my own company, and tons to teach my clients. I wouldn't bother if I had any doubts about the validity of the webinar's content.

Do you know who Cindy Gordon is?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Press Releases

For several days I have been in a "discussion" with some of a client's employees, about press releases. I wrote a press release for the client in February, when it had important, hot news to announce. One of the employees wanted to send it out again now, a little reworded, but about the same "news". And not only to the media, but also to others - community organizations mainly. This prompted me to send the client the following:

"Coming from someone who has dealt with the media for decades, permit me to point out the difference between a press release and a bulletin (or "announcement", or "promo").

A press release is a news announcement; it is about something that is just now happening and it is sent to writers, assignment editors and all sort of good folk who sit around in newsrooms (newspaper, magazine, radio, TV) in an effort to get their attention, so that they will publish it and/or invite you in for an interview (the latter is preferred!).

Press releases should not be sent to bankers, retailers, customers, community organizations, your Board of Advisers, or your mother-in-law (you get the picture!); their sole target is the news media.

Everyone else gets a bulletin (or announcement, etc. - whatever it is called, as long as it's not called a "press release") -- the content can be the same, it should, however, be written specifically for its target(s), and it does not have to be about "new news". In other words, a press release that was written in February can be repackaged as a bulletin in May and sent to non-media targets."

If you ever receive a "press release" and you are not a member of the press, return it to its sender and point out the above difference! You would be doing a favor.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I've Been Blogged!

Toby Bloomberg, she of the Diva Marketing Blog, recently did a survey of Atlanta women who use social media for marketing purposes - their own and their clients'. Delicious results. Go and check them out!

Monday, May 18, 2009

National Small Business Week

Does anyone care? I asked the PR person at the Atlanta office of the U.S. Small Business Administration a month or so ago if they were planning any Atlanta events and he said: "not that I am aware of". There is a conference and awards event in Washington, D.C. this week, and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce has an event, also with awards, on the 21st, but that seems to be about it. I guess we're all just too busy doing business, to do much celebrating . . .!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Grammar, spelling - esoteric niceties or compelling necessities?

In on-line communications (e-mail, blogs, tweets certainly!), syntax and punctuation have already fallen by the wayside, but how about grammar and spelling? Do they still matter?

Frankly, when I receive an e-mail that starts with "Hey their", my finger is on the "delete" key in a split second. Am I missing an important business opportunity because I cannot get past that "Hey their"? Or how can I keep from feeling less positive than before about the blogger who habitually writes "it's" instead of "its" -- as in 'the house and its rooms', 'the proposal and its goals' - or uses 'criteria' when it should be 'criterion'?

So, this is my question today: do grammar and spelling still matter or have they become esoteric niceties?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

LinkedIn Profile Updated

I updated my LinkedIn profile today, including an edgier explanation of my specialties:

"Clear and concise communications; when a communication is to be written, it deserves to have impeccable grammar, spelling, punctuation and syntax, and verbosity, cliches and hype must be banned. Language, in its pristine form, is a beautiful thing. I write for people who cannot or will not write for themselves."

What's your specialty in the business world?

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Value of LinkedIn

"Many professionals still don't understand how LinkedIn can be valuable on a daily or weekly basis." These are not my words. They are Reid Hoffman's. In an interview with Inc. magazine (May 2009 issue), LinkedIn's founder recounts his entrepreneurial career, ending with a tip on how to stay current as a professional - through the use of LinkedIn, of course.

I was not an early fan of this social network when I was first introduced to it about 5 years ago, but especially in the past 6 months or so, I have clearly seen its value and now I am a huge fan. If you're not already in LinkedIn and using all it has to offer, you are missing opportunities for your career or business.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

"I Can Do It!" Oh, really?

I met an extraordinary woman the other week. She owns a farm, with horses and goats, meadows, a pond and herbs. She grows incredible produce and handcrafts fragrant, organic soaps.

She does not have a business card (at least not at the event where I met her and we were two of more than a thousand people in attendance); her brochure is unattractive and lists “new” products for 2003 (I kid you not!) and her web site has that painful appearance of a home-made effort by someone who is not a designer, developer or writer; there is no mechanism for buying the soap.

Why do so many business people – women in particular – think they can do it all themselves? Making the product, keeping the books, finding the markets, selling products and collecting payments, cleaning out the manure, growing the herbs, mowing the meadows, tending to the livestock – and then designing and launching a web site that does nothing for the business?

It’s a puzzle to me. One I encounter frequently.

Another woman, owner of a professional services firm – with employees! -- with whom I had a telephone conversation a day or two ago, confessed that she is “not in love with writing”, even though she does it all the time – newsletters, promotional pieces, her web site and her blog. She’s got it figured out, though. Her passion, she has discovered, is mentoring and inspiring others. She is working towards having an office manager and a few more service providers in her growing business, so that she can go on the road for speaking engagements and workshops. And, she wants to hire a writer (that’s why we had that telephone conversation).

This is the idea: in your business, do what you love best and what you’re good at (“follow your passion”) and farm out the rest. It’s the only way to grow a business and achieve more than middling success.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Lightning Can Strike Twice in the Same Place"

Yesterday, SelfGrowth placed my "Gardening for Good Health" in the Top Self Improvement Articles, where nearly a million people can click on a link and read it.

Today, my second submission is in this "Top" . . . .; amazing, isn't it? Check it out at

Messages to my readers:
1. Listen to Barb Giamanco and act on what she tells you.
2. "Lightning" can - and does - strike twice in the same place.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SelfGrowth - a Powerful On-line Tool

Wow - I am impressed, and it takes a lot to get me to that point, believe me!

It was just yesterday that I became a contributor to SelfGrowth and submitted my first article (my second one was submitted today) and today . . . ., it ("Gardening for Good Health") is rated one of two (the first!) "Top Self Improvement Articles" in the site's Lifestyle section.

Who knew? Well, let me share this with you: Barbara Giamanco knew! She not only encouraged me onto SelfGrowth, but she is also an Expert and Official Guide there. Barb knows her stuff!

Almost every day I encounter people who have stories to tell and contributions to society to make, but they cannot write or don't have the time to write. Well, I can and I have. So, if you need help crafting your written communications, let's talk.

Monday, April 13, 2009

"Mel Gibson's wife files for divorce after 28 years"

And I should care? How does this affect my life? Or my business?

It's an amazing phenomenon that we live in a celebrity-obsessed society. If it's not Mel Gibson, then it's Paris Hilton or that Lindsey girl or Britney or Miley (wait till she outgrows Hannah Montana - the paparazzi will have a field day then).

In the meantime, unemployment is rising, the housing market has imploded, and the financial markets are in perpetual turmoil. The planet is in flames while the U.S. media fiddle.


Quick - put a name (of someone you know personally) behind the following words:






Web design

Web development







Now post your comment, and I will let you know if this "branding exercise" has worked!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Professional Development

Are women truly interested in professional development opportunities in the furtherance of their careers or enterprises? If they are, are they willing to make an investment in this - as in "paying money" . . .? I doubt it, but if you have a different opinion, I'd be interested in reading it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Finding Money for Your Small Business

In a live Internet broadcast last night, co-hosted by E.Factor and Profitability Channel, five funding experts described the financial landscape for small businesses and interactively engaged the audiences (in-studio and virtual) in their areas of expertise, dispensing information, insights and tips for the pursuit of capital.

Read more . . . . .

Friday, March 13, 2009

Aye, aye, aye . . .

It has often been observed that Gen X-ers care about nobody as much as themselves. Their writings are revelatory. Recently, I read a resume summary of a person looking for a new job. It consisted of eleven sentences; 8 started with “I” (the other three started with . . . “My . . .”., “If I . . .”, and “Although, I . . .”). Nothing in the summary addressed the reader and told prospective employers what would be in it for them, if they hired this person. It’s all aye, aye, aye . . .

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Announcing a New Client

Appalachian Community Enterprises (ACE) is a North Georgia microlender and has engaged my services as a writer and PR consultant.

If you don’t already know this non-profit, become acquainted with it! Its mission is to provide hope and opportunity for people to create financial freedom for themselves. This is accomplished by providing small business loans, financial education programs, coaching and connections so that people can fulfill their dreams, create economic security for their families and contribute to their communities.

Founded by Grace Fricks, MBA, ACE made its first loan in 2000. Since then, its lending portfolio has grown from just over a hundred thousand dollars to several million. And . . ., there is more to come!

The organization has recently launched a “Georgia Green Loan Fund” and is accepting applications from 34 Georgia Counties and Metro Atlanta from small businesses that want to start or expand green enterprises or engage in the “greening” of their existing operations. The first “green loan” was awarded to Alexander Plumbing & Backflow Services in Whitesburg.

Information about ACE’s lending criteria and procedures is accessible via its web site,

Monday, February 23, 2009

Phenomenal Women

KSU's Siegel Institute is holding its 2009 Phenomenal Women's conference on April 23. I was there last year, served on a panel, and had a very enjoyable day. Especially if you live in Cobb or Cherokee County, or North Fulton, you should go! Call 678-797-2000 for registration information.

DIY or Oursourcing - does gender set the path?

It has been my observation in the business world that men are far quicker to outsource than women, when it comes to business tasks (not, I will admit, when it comes to the home front, where every man fancies himself, it seems, a carpenter, a painter, a plumber and an electrician).

Women seem to think they can do it all themselves - business development, management, finances, taxes, advertising, marketing, sales, customer service, you name it! Men on the other hand, focus on what they do best (often, that is sales), and outsource the rest.

Do you agree or disagree with this observation?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Clueless in D.C.

The reason why Barack Obama was elected President of the United States is that Americans have been desperate for change. Even the Republicans distanced themselves from President Bush in the lead-up to the 2008 elections, and rejected John McCain’s bid to succeed him.

So, what happened?

“Change” has brought us nothing so far. O.K. – it’s only two weeks into the new administration and we ought to practice patience. We know that change does not come overnight and we are confident the new President is not taking his eye off the ball. Or is he? It was refreshing to hear him say the other day that he had “screwed up”, but how did it happen that he had nominated THREE cabinet/administration officials with tax troubles in their past?

Timothy Geithner, for Treasury, sailed by. It was believable that some Social Security and Medicare taxes he was supposed to have paid while he worked at the International Monetary Fund had been overlooked. He paid up (some $40 thousand dollars, it has been reported), got confirmed, assumed his position and that was that.

Then came Nancy Killefer, proposed as the White House Chief Performance Officer, who had some years ago apparently not paid about $900 in unemployment taxes for household help. She probably would have sailed through as well, if it had not been for number three in this sad saga: Tom Daschle, former Majority Leader in the United States Senate and recently nominated by President Obama to be the Health and Human Services Secretary. He, it turned out, had owed more than $120 thousand in taxes on consulting income and “goodies” he had received after losing his 2004 re-election campaign and becoming a consultant/lobbyist, on such perks as a car and chauffeur from a client, and then paid them after the President had tapped him for the HHS job.

Americans have a pretty good level of tolerance and are very forgiving when people “mess up and fess up”, but this was “one tax cheat too far”. The Geithner oversight was believable, the Killefer glitch was understandable, but the Daschle situation stretched people’s credulity. A man so smart that he was expected to overhaul and shape up the U.S. health care system did not know that there are taxes to be paid on gifts?

What this points to is that Washington is “different” from the rest of America. We work hard, we raise our families we pay our taxes and we hold out hope that the next generation will be better off than we have been. In D.C.? The tax saga indicates that a cluelessness exists there that Americans find rather disgusting. “Change” – it remains much needed!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

“Buy American” . . . .?

Judging from the comments heard on radio and TV call-in shows in recent days, one would think Americans have never bought a laptop made in China, a cell phone made in Korea or a tomato grown in Mexico. Now they do not want any money in the stimulus bill to be spent outside the United States. Not only is that a dangerous (protectionist, isolationist, nationalist) attitude, it is also totally impractical!

We have been international traders since Europeans first landed on these shores. “Here,” we said to the native tribes, “are some beads and mirrors; now we will take your land.”

Yesterday, on one of my rare shopping trips (I hate shopping!), I bought a skirt made in Vietnam, a T-shirt made in Cambodia, undies from Thailand and Honduras, a stir-fry pan made in Taiwan, and a Calvin Klein shirt made in China; even my new “Bass ‘American’ Jeans” were made in the Dominican Republic!

Had equivalent American-made products been available, my shopping trip would probably have been two or three times as expensive. That is the story of international trade! We should not ban buying from abroad (although, we do already have too much stuff in our homes and offices – but that’s another story); what we should do is sell more to other countries.

In November 2008 (the most recent month for which figures have been released by the U.S. government), we imported $183.2 billion worth of stuff, and exported $142.8 billion worth; in other words, a $40.4 billion deficit. In just one month! That’s not good, but we do like our “stuff”, don’t we?

As a business woman, I meet peers every day of the week who have products or services to sell that are perfect for international markets, but they don’t have the interest or confidence to pursue this.

So, this is your challenge for today: if you make soap, find a distributor in Dubai this year; if you are a business consultant, explore a partnership will a colleague in Australia; if you are an artist, reach out to seek exhibit opportunities in Geneva, Moscow or Brussels. It can be done, and for the sake of the American economy, it should be done. And quit talking about “Buy American” – it’s counterproductive.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

President Obama has signed Congress's first bill of 2009 into law: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In his comments, in the East Room of the White House, the president mentioned that this is a first step on the way to "closing the pay gap".

The new law allows for legal action to be pursued within 180 days of the last paycheck. Previously, legal action had to be pursued within 180 days of the first instance of pay discrimination. Lilly Ledbetter did not know until her retirement that for 20+ years her employer had paid her less than her male colleagues who had been doing the same work. This meant, over the course of her employment, more than $200,000 in lost salary, and even more, as the president reminded us, in social security and pension benefits.

The symbolism of this "first" illustrates President Obama's commitment to the issue of equality. For women in the workplace, however, this is far more than a symbol: it's an economic reality.

In the Senate, by the way, both of Georgia's Senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, voted against the bill, as did other Southern Senators. In some ways, we still have a long way to go.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Money, money, money . . .

If you missed Vicki Robin last night, at the Atlanta Women in Business “After Hours”, you can still catch her – any time! – well, for a limited time, anyway – on Internet TV, free of charge!

Go to The Profitability Channel, click on “Library”, scroll down to Biz Buzz and click on “Your Money or Your Life”.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Women & Money

Vicki Robin, one of the authors of "Your Money or Your Life" will be at the Atlanta Women in Business "After Hours" Monday evening. Come and join us there!

Women & Business Capital

From the web site of the Obama/Biden transition team:

"Women are majority owners of more than 28 percent of U.S. businesses, but head less than 4 percent of venture-capital-backed firms. Women business owners are more likely than white male business owners to have their loan applications denied. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will encourage investing in women-owned businesses, providing more support to women business owners, and reducing discrimination in lending."

Question: How will this encouragement manifest itself?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Doing Business in 2009

Here’s a new year, filled with exciting opportunities for Small Business. “Small Business Week” will come along in May and you will hear more about this from me in a later communication. For now, a reminder of a basic tenet for success in the business world – no matter what year it is! - People do business with people they know, like and trust.

Only you know for sure whether you’re trustworthy or not. How do you convey your trustworthiness to your clients and prospects? By always speaking the truth, by never promising more than you can deliver, and by always trying to deliver more than you have promised. Bernie Madoff’s clients trusted him for decades; then he ran off with their money. There is a lesson in that for all of us.

Likeability is a ‘biggie’ in our society and is probably too much relied upon (Bernie Madoff was very well liked!). Perhaps, as is the case in European and Asian business cultures, we should focus more on respect than on likeability, but I’m not holding my breath on such a shift. So, make sure you are thought of as a likeable person in your contacts with clients and prospect.

Does your market know you? Even expert communicators often hear something like: “Oh, you are a graphic designer; I thought you were a web developer!” Reach out to your market – constantly – make sure they understand what you offer, and use technology to your advantage. Make sure your web site is up to date, send out a monthly newsletter, start a blog if you don’t have one already and post to it regularly.

Finally, people! Believe me, your clients and prospects do not want to do business with your business; they want to do business with you! I have no statistics to share with you, but experientially, I can tell you that your outreach is far more likely to get a response if it comes from, e.g. Cindy Alsop than from Alsop Real Estate, or from Jack Brower than from Brower Art Gallery.

Happy New Year, with abundant business success!